Hotel sales and marketing departments have revised their strategies to win back guests, particularly business travelers and groups, which have lagged in the recovery of hotel demand from the pandemic.
In the spring and summer, Hotel News Now has reported on the various ways hotel marketing has evolved to meet higher demand and compete for business, including reestablishing relationships with corporate accounts, growing group bookings and more.
Hotels reliant on business-transient demand and group bookings have reevaluated how to bring corporate clients back for meetings, HNN contributor Laura Koss-Feder reports. Dan Surette, chief sales officer at Omni Hotels & Resorts, said his company made some adjustments in its sales department as business travel vastly decreased during the pandemic.
“Early on, there was very little business travel and we consolidated our transient global sales and our property sellers that were dedicated to this segment,” Surette said. “We kept a handful of seasoned sellers that could support the hotels and the customers as we headed into the next [request for proposal] season; we have slowly grown that team as business travel has started to return.”
Omni also offered special rates to corporate clients to entice them to extend their business trips to include vacation days.
“Our stance was that we wanted to reestablish as many relationships and agreements that we could, knowing that some markets would come back slower than others,” Surette said.
Similarly, Radisson Hotel Group Americas offered quicker ways to achieve higher loyalty statuses and bonus point plans to its Radisson Rewards Americas members. For example, corporate clients could be upgraded to silver status in the brand’s loyalty program and unlock benefits earlier, said Vice President of Sales and Distribution Ross Hosking.
“This is especially important, as pre-COVID road warriors head back to the road and sky and are looking to be quickly rewarded as they return to our hotels as our best customers,” he said.
Hotel News Now’s Dana Miller spoke with executives at hotel companies and several properties to learn how leisure and group bookings have trended in recent months.
For Main Street Hospitality — whose portfolio includes a collection of properties in the New England region of the U.S. — both leisure and group guests are still booking short-term. John Harrison, the company’s regional director of sales, said the booking window for groups is at about 90 days out, but because of such high demand causing a lack of available hotel space, some groups are now looking out a little bit further into the fall.
“We are seeing it mostly in the year for the year right now,” Harrison said. “There is some incentive business that’s coming back and that is a little bit more lead time, so we are seeing some early stages of 2023 bookings, which is new from the past couple of years.”
One challenge to hotel marketers is how hotels navigate property renovations and other capital improvement projects. As part of the 2022 HSMAI Marketing Strategy Summit, hotel marketing experts discussed how they realign their strategy when a hotel is ready to reopen to the public.
Betsy Haubert, director of digital client services for Marriott International, said investors need to be thinking about marketing from the beginning of the renovation process. That includes funding a “full-funnel campaign all the way up to opening.”
“One of the things we typically advise is hotels budget at least for some additional awareness-focused media spend within the capital allocations of their renovations or their build,” she said.
Then additional marketing spend might be necessary as different parts of the hotel open, such as its food-and-beverage outlets.
Any marketing strategy would be incomplete without some social media presence, and HNN’s Trevor Simpson reports hoteliers have found success engaging with guests on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
“It’s really about trying to blend it into being an omni-channel environment where you move people from various places … so they can get the full picture of your property or your business,” said Kathryn Barrett, vice president of revenue and digital strategy at Dream Hotel Group. “It’s been an instrumental tool for lifestyle hotels that really need to differentiate themselves from our branded competitors.”
Speakers at the 2022 HSMAI Marketing Strategy Summit shared some insights into what consumers want out of their travel experiences, HNN’s Sean McCracken reports.
Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute, said consumers are reevaluating their work-life balance and choosing remote work, which opens up more opportunities for hotel companies to market the mixing of business and leisure trips.
“That’s opening people’s minds to say, ‘Wow, it’s not just work from home. I can work from resorts. I can work from The Caribbean,'” he said. “That’s what’s changing people’s mindset.”
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