hen vacation season officially ends and the kids head back to school, it may feel like your property goes from no vacancy to vacant in just a few weeks. Even if it’s been this way for years, you don’t have to resign yourself to the inevitable. With the help of some smart strategic planning, you can keep those bookings going all year long, even when your resort pools aren’t full of splashing, laughing kids and their families.
At Hawthorn Creative, we’re experts at finding creative solutions to our clients’ business challenges. Here are just a few of the ways we work with our destination marketing clients to think outside the box:
1. Craft Tailored Marketing Campaigns
For many family-oriented properties, the default setting for marketing is to focus on your all-ages amenities and activities. When those travelers can’t be on the road, however, shift your marketing efforts to target your other customer segments – or try to earn new ones.
During the off-season, for example, highlight the benefits of a quieter and more relaxed stay, such as couples getaways, business trips, or wellness retreats. Customize your promotional materials to speak to these specific groups, showcasing your hotel’s amenities and offerings that cater to their needs. (This tactic is No. 1 because it’s also essential to every other idea on this list. If your messaging doesn’t work, it’s possible that nothing else will, either.)
2. Offer Seasonal Packages and Special Offers
If marketing messages alone aren’t enough to grab their attention, up the ante with enticing seasonal packages that appeal to your various target audiences. Consider collaborating with local attractions, such as museums, theaters, or outdoor adventure companies, to offer incentives like bundled experiences, special offers, or discounts. Since many of your local businesses may also see a post-summer drop-off, this could truly be a win-win and lead to a mutually beneficial partnership.
3. Embrace Local Events
You’d be hard-pressed to find a community that doesn’t offer some version of a fall festival. Position your property as the home base for all of your area’s off-season happenings and partner with event organizers to offer special discounts or giveaways. For an out-of-the-box idea, you could also leverage any opportunities where your property is venue-adjacent. The right targeted marketing and messages could entice attendees to stay with you, rather than on-site.
4. Form Local Partnerships
As an extension of No. 3, you can greatly increase your visibility and reputation as the go-to property in town by forging partnerships with local businesses to create a network of mutual support. Consider reaching out to nearby restaurants, shops, or tour operators with ways to cross-promote each other’s offerings. We’ve written a lot lately about how hotels are becoming much more than just places to sleep, and this is one way to offer guests a fuller experience.
5. Enhance Your Guest Experience
A superior guest experience can lead to repeat bookings and positive word-of-mouth referrals. Invest in personalized services, impeccable cleanliness, and excellent customer service. Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere that encourages guests to return, regardless of the season. Offering a memorable experience will set your hotel apart and encourage guests to choose you even after the summer rush subsides.
6. Diversify Amenities
Continuing the guest experience ideas, another way to build loyalty and earn those five-star reviews is to include amenities that cater to interests beyond family activities. Features like a cozy lounge with board games, a spa and wellness center, or a themed bar can be attractive to people traveling without children (think: girls weekend getaways or business trips).
7. Capitalize on Business Travel
Would business travelers be interested in staying at a summer family resort? Yes – that is, if you create a smart strategy and messaging that speaks to their individual needs. Especially as conference season ramps up in the fall, your messaging could highlight amenities such as high-speed internet, business centers, and meeting rooms. Or, perhaps even more crucially, the ever-important hotel bar, which almost always serves as the meeting spot for coworkers and other business travelers.
8. Enhance Digital Presence and Online Booking
While a solid digital strategy is important all year, it’s a good idea to focus your efforts even more on the off-season, when fewer people are traveling. You can maintain your active online presence through a wide variety of channels, including social media, a user-friendly website, digital ad campaigns, and online travel agencies. To maximize your efforts, create content that’s engaging, visually stunning, and most importantly, speaks clearly to your non-family-vacation audience. Then, follow through with a seamless online booking process and spectacular customer service.
9. Offer Rain-or-Shine Activities
Curate a list of weather-independent activities and attractions in your area, and offer it to guests at several points along their customer journey. As a social media promotion, it can highlight all of your area’s options for entertainment, regardless of rain, sun, or snow. And, if sent digitally after booking or as a print piece upon check-in, this guide can serve as something a little extra that goes above and beyond. To get started, research local venues like museums, indoor galleries, cooking classes, and wine tastings.
10. Engage With the Local Community
This idea is indirectly related to booking, but it’s based on the notion that a good recommendation can be worth more than a targeted digital ad campaign. To have success here, it’s essential to become an integral part of your local community. Some ideas include sponsoring or participating in local events, supporting charitable causes, or hosting workshops and seminars. Being well-known in your area is a great way to strengthen your brand’s reputation and generate local interest in your hotel.
No matter which tactic you choose, remember that embracing creativity and adaptability is the key to sustaining bookings beyond the summer months, ensuring a thriving business and a memorable experience for every guest.
Are you ready to keep your hotel brimming with guests all year long? Hawthorn Creative has an expert staff of digital strategists, creatives, developers, and analysts who will help you craft, execute, and monitor smart off-season campaigns specifically tailored to your property.