Success Stories: Engage Your Ideal Guests with Hotel Marketing

by:
on July 24, 2017

The growing hospitality industry holds great opportunities for smaller independent hotels, but also a great challenge.

Hotels need to stand out among big brands and attract their most valuable guests, but hotel marketing requires many considerations: How do you reach your ideal guests? How do you establish your brand identity to attract them?

On the small Caribbean island of Anguilla, one couple took the reigns of their family-operated resort but struggled to differentiate their property and reach a new base of travelers.

“When we got here, we began thinking, ‘Who are we? What are we? What what is our brand in the market?'”

Scott and Shannon Kircher, owners of the Frangipani Resort in Anguilla

We’ll see how the Kirchers used strategic marketing and technology to position themselves as the island’s exclusive luxury brand that attracts younger, more diverse guests and drives more direct online bookings.

Why Your Hotel Marketing Doesn’t Reach New Travelers

The competition among hotels is fierce, even more so if yours is small and independent. Travelers know Hawaii and the Maldives, and they know Four Seasons and Hilton. But you want them to find your location and property in a list of thousands.

Without hotel marketing technology, hotels are susceptible to the following pain points:

  • It’s hard to convey identity and value through marketing. A hotel with a distinct personality stands out, but that brand identity is difficult to build without strategic marketing campaigns designed to establish a sense of luxury, value or exclusivity.
  • Managing multiple sales channels takes a lot of time. Hotels, especially smaller ones, need to reach people on various channels, like online travel agency (OTA) sites. New statistics reveal that travelers only visit an average of 4.4 sites before making a booking, so hotels need to maximize their visibility across every available channel.
  • Lack of convenient booking excludes potential guests. This can be the case if travelers do find your listing and go directly to your website. Hotels benefit from direct bookings, so you want that experience to be as smooth as possible.

The Frangipani Resort Story: The Challenges


Scott Kircher remembers vacationing in Anguilla with his family as a kid. Twelve years ago, his parents decided they’d buy a vacation home there. Instead, they ended up buying an entire 19-room hotel, and Scott became inspired.

“What did we just do? We just bought a hotel in Anguilla!” he recalls. “I was an undergraduate at the time and and wanted to understand the business, as this is an asset that is now in the family.”

Scott went to school for hospitality management and tourism, and about five years ago, he and his wife Shannon Kircher took over the Frangipani Resort. While the resort had been physically updated, Scott and Shannon said the property needed a stronger brand identity to fit into the market of the island.

frangipani resort

The Frangipani Resort in Anguilla


More than half of their guests were repeat visitors, and most of them are older.

“Sixty-five could be on the younger end for some of them,” Shannon says. Younger, affluent honeymooners would be an ideal demographic in addition to regulars, they say. This would drive more sales and also help fill rooms during the slower summer months.

The challenge, however, is getting Anguilla and the Frangipani Resort on their radar.

Establish Your Identity Through Email Engagement


 THE PROBLEM:  It’s difficult to promote your best qualities to inspire new guests.

 THE SOLUTION:  Hotels can establish an identity through strategic engagement with old, new and potential guests. Consider beefing up your email marketing practices to convey specific themes aimed at your ideal guests.

Email marketing remains a critical engagement channel for hospitality companies, as it feels less invasive than texting and easier to obtain than phone numbers. And hotels have the ability to personalize their messaging to specific people or groups, designed to tap into their particular preferences.

As you can see in our Software Needs Cycle for Independent Hotels, we list guest relationship management as a technology that assists hotels in driving more bookings. Along with email management, these tools make it easy to identify preferences and personalize emails.

 THE RESULTS:  The Frangipani Resort has earned numerous awards—the hotel’s restaurant was ranked in the top 10 of the Caribbean by Fodor’s, it was voted “Best Boutique Hotel in the Caribbean” from Caribbean Journal and it earned a “TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award.”

They brought on public relations help and also hosted some parties in key cities. In Chicago, the couple invited repeat guests and asked them to bring friends. Instead of a sales pitch, the Kirchers used the exclusive event to spread awareness of both Anguilla and their resort as a luxurious destination.

poolside resort

A poolside view at the Frangipani Resort


These events helped the couple gather contact information for potential new guests, and the Kirchers begin engaging with them via occasional email blasts, personalizing them when possible to show that guests will receive a warm experience at the resort.

“We’re taking a more personalized approach to some of that marketing,” Shannon said. “Not just digitally, but doing personal events too.”

Our Recommendation:

  • Play up your property’s unique attributes in email marketing with high-quality photos and exclusive offers.
  • Use valuable data from a CRM to reveal how and why your guests make travel decisions and uncovering trends you can take advantage of with email messaging.

Use Channel Management to Maintain Your Online Presence


 THE PROBLEM:  Your ideal guests can’t find your hotel online.

 THE SOLUTION:  We know that travelers have a wealth of options when planning trips, so the onus is on hotels to properly track and update the multiple sales channels, like OTAs and your direct site.

Managing these channels means ensuring the inventory and rates are consistent across all booking sites and updated as close to real-time as possible.

This is important for two key reasons:

  1. You can maximize sales and minimize the risk of overbooking, which can truly ruin a traveler’s experience.
  2. You’ll save significant time using software to automate much of the process.

Channel management is seen as a critical part of hospitality technology, especially for smaller hotels that need every advantage to compete in the crowded market.

 THE RESULTS:  The Frangipani Resort’s reservations manager struggled with managing the hotel’s various sales channels—a challenging but crucial task to boost their bookings.

They implemented a channel manager as a way to streamline the process for the small reservations team. Shannon says the new tools pull all the data from their hotel management system, including rates and inventory levels, and pushes it to each channel in near real-time.

“We can use Booking.com, Hotels.com and our own website in all of these channels for different markets, and be able to have people book online through different platforms without updating each one individually,” she says.

Improved channel management led to an increase in bookings, but also four to five times more weddings and special events than before using the technology, Shannon says.

frangipani newlyweds

Happy newlyweds at the Frangipani beachfront


“The majority of the awareness for these events stems from our website, social media marketing and using other online marketing channels such as Wedding Wire,” she says.

Our Recommendation:

  • Adopt channel management technology for your small team to easily manage the profiles, occupancy and rates across all OTAs.
  • Use this automation to free up time, so your team can tailor each profile based on your ideal audience—Upgrade photos and respond to reviews to further engage and strengthen your brand identity.

Ensure a Convenient Experience with Online Booking Capabilities


 THE PROBLEM:  Your ideal guests want to book online and, increasingly, by smartphone.

 THE SOLUTION:  An online booking engine (OBE) is invaluable for modern hotels to thrive: The number of online bookings continue to grow annually at more than eight times the rate of offline reservations. Mobile bookings are growing the same, with 52 percent of travel-related browsing occurring on mobile last year.

OBEs simply provide consumers a way to book directly through your website or social media accounts, like Facebook, and can be customized to match your website, with the same colors, logos and advertised deals, so your brand identity is carried through the booking experience.

 THE RESULTS:  You could say the resort gained 100 percent more online bookings since they didn’t have one before, but Shannon says many of those are the kind of younger travelers they hoped to reach.

“We’ve seen an increase in online bookings since we added the online booking engine—and I would say those tend to skew a little bit younger,” she says.

Millennials are much more likely to book online via mobile devices, so the Kircher’s move to online bookings likely drew more travelers who may have skipped over their website before.

“Some of those I think are probably people who would have booked online through Booking.com or Hotels.com, for example, but instead booked through our website,” Shannon says, “which is a savings of not having to pay those commissions for the online travel agent.”

frangipani booking page

The Frangipani Resort booking page is branded and easy-to-understand


Now with three powerful tools to reach new guests by email, manage all sales channels efficiently and offer easy online bookings, the couple aims to further diversify sales and drive occupancy during slower months.

“It’s continuing to evolve, and now I think we finally invested strategically and got to the level we want,” Scott says.

Our Recommendation:

  • Round out your marketing tools with an easy-to-use online booking engine to draw new, younger guests who prefer to book on their phones.
  • Craft a landing page tailored to the brand identity you’ve established, using your logos and photos, or offer an exclusive deal for booking direct.

How Your Hotel Can Reach the Ideal Audience

The tools the Kirchers used can help any small hospitality company—reaching out with strategic hotel marketing to cut through the competition has never been so important.

Putting your brand and location on the map doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, the solutions available today are affordable, flexible and easy-to-use for teams of all sizes. Here’s a recap of our advice:

Fleshing Out Hotel Marketing Strategies
hotel marketing strategies

Since so much of this advice hinges on technology, and many options exist to deliver hotel marketing tools, we’ve made it simple to help you find the right system:

  • Check out top hotel software vendors, screenshots and real user reviews
  • Review our Hotel Management Pricing Guide to get a sense of pricing models
  • Contact me at taylorshort@softwareadvice.com for any questions, and I can put you in touch with our advisors for a free software consultation. They’ll help you narrow down the list of software that meets your needs.

You may also like

Hotel Management Buyer Report – 2017

Software Needs Cycle: Must-Have Functionality for Hotel Management

How to Use Guest Data to Personalize Your Hotel Email Marketing

Review the Top Hotel Management Systems