ravelers head out of their homes and hit the road for a million and one reasons: to check destinations off their bucket list, to escape the everyday in search of solitude (or adventure), to attend their favorite band’s concert in a faraway state, and so much more.
As hotel marketers, understanding the reasons people travel is essential to honing your recommendations and packages to meet those needs. Here, we’ll focus on navigating your local event scene, and how becoming an expert in all things “to-do” can help you drive more bookings.
First, Establish Your Hotel as a Premier Event Partner
The first step to effectively promoting the events in your area is to be aware of everything that’s happening, from small weekend farmers markets to world tour concert stops. Your first instinct might be to take to the web or social media, and you can definitely find a wealth of information there. But to really have your finger on the pulse and put yourself out there as the go-to lodging for out-of-towners, here are some out-of-the-box ways to expand your networking:
Attend Local Events
Don’t just read about it, be about it. Actively participate in various local events to not only see first-hand what they’re about, but also to meet organizers, sponsors, and attendees. Engage in conversations as often as possible, be sure to bring business cards along, and enjoy the time spent connecting with your community.
Follow-through is essential after you’ve attended an event – it’s the time when you begin to establish partnerships with event organizers and other local businesses involved. Prepare a proposal that highlights the benefits of a partnership, like driving mutual traffic through hotel/ticket packages, room blocks, and more.
Consider Sponsorships or Hosting
Consider hosting an event on-property, which can greatly increase your visibility and brand exposure. A word of caution, though, is to be picky. Say “yes” to events that align with your target audience and brand values so attendees are more likely to pick your property for their overnight stay.
Use Social Media Wisely
Be sure to connect with your new contacts via social media – both business-to-business and on a personal level. Send follow-ups to any influencers you might meet, and be active on their pages to establish a bond. (Once you start linking up for events, you can also use social media to promote what’s happening locally on your pages.)
Utilize Local Directories
Make sure your property is listed in all of the local event directories (online and offline) as well as tourism websites and brochures. Having your name on the list – especially at the top of the list – makes it easy for visiting guests to find your hotel when seeking accommodations.
Network with Local Event Planners
Do a little digging to see if there are event-planning agencies or organizations in your area. Forge connections with them, consider a little public relations outreach to make your property top-of-mind, and ask them to have conversations on ways that you can help each other win.
Meet Local Influencers
Influencers can go a long way when it comes to getting the word out about your property. Collaborate with content creators who have a significant following in your area and routinely post about local happenings and events. Invite them to stay at your hotel during one of their upcoming events and ask them to share the experience with their audience.
Once you’ve established partnerships, have a full calendar of everything happening in your community, and understand clearly which events would be your best opportunities for partnership, you can get to the fun stuff – getting creative and planning!
Next, Promote, Promote, Promote
How (and how much) you harness the local event scene to promote your property will depend on a number of factors, including the type of event, time of year, number of expected guests, and whether it aligns with your property’s brand. It can be as simple as putting together your own list of local happenings that you share with guests or as detailed as hosting a themed event of your own that takes over the entire property. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Offer Event Packages and Promotions
One surefire way to drive event-related bookings at your property is to offer package deals, such as tickets to the event along with accommodations and maybe even transportation to the venue. You can promote these packages on your hotel website, social media channels, or targeted email marketing. And, with the right partnerships already established, you can ask your event partner to promote these deals on their channels as well.
Create Event-Themed Content
With or without established partnerships, you can write blog posts, social media posts, and email newsletters that include information about upcoming events. Be sure to provide all the basics – the who, what, when, and where – as well as the why your guests would love to attend. (Again, be sure the events you’re promoting are in line with your brand and values.) While not a direct package partnership, a well-placed “Book Now” CTA at the end of your posting lets guests know that your property is perfectly located for easy event access.
Promote Sponsorships or Partnerships
Collaborate with event organizers to cross-promote each other’s offerings. For example, your property can be mentioned in their event materials, and in return, you’ll pass out those event materials to all of your guests. Social media videos from each other’s locations could draw lots of attention (and mutual followers).
You can get creative here – complimentary breakfast for guests who show their event wristbands, free shuttle service to and from the event, early check-in or late check-out for eventgoers, or themed swag bags for guests who purchased a ticket package. The sky’s the limit, so think outside the box and give your guests something that will help them remember your property just as much as the event itself.
Event Information Desks
Here’s an idea that can work two ways – an event-managed info desk in your hotel lobby where guests can learn more and purchase tickets or a hotel-managed info desk on-site at the event where guests can sign up for loyalty programs or be entered for giveaways.
Post-Event Follow Up
Especially if you offer an event package, send follow-up emails to your guests and encourage them to write reviews on your property that include information about the event, too. It can help set the tone that your property is perfect for next year’s event.
Use online ad platforms to target potential guests who have also shown an interest in local events, attractions, or other related topics. Create ads that tailor to this audience’s interests and let them know that your property is the perfect place to rest their heads after an action-packed weekend.
At the end of the day, using local events to market your property is all about finding the right event at the right time that appeals to your typical guest profile and travel budget. Get creative, be bold in networking and asking for partnerships, and treat your guests to lodging plus adventure.
If you’d love to become a part of the local event scene but aren’t sure how to get started, Hawthorn Creative has an expert staff of digital strategists, creatives, and analysts who can work with you every step of the way.