Can My Hotel Still Surf the Christmas Marketing Wave?

One of my favourite old-time movies is “Holiday Inn”, from where the famous hotel group took its name. The plot involves a typically convoluted love triangle however Bing Crosby plays a former vaudeville singer who retires to the country, only to miss the spotlight and so decides to open his farmhouse to the public, but only on holidays.

Famous for launching the second highest selling song of all time, “White Christmas”, the movie tapped in to all the simpler aspects of Christmas that people identify with – snow, music and holidays.

In Australia of course we followed the Northern Hemisphere example for many years consuming hams, turkeys, roast meats and delicious puddings – all of which meant we had to have a snooze afterwards! Eventually many people realized that it might be better to eat in accordance with the season and the weather so now we fresh prawns, oysters and crayfish, ripe fruits and crisp refreshing drinks. Most people will tell you the holidays are happier for it!

When it comes to promotional efforts in the hospitality industry though, much of the menu remains unchanged. Hotels roll out the same old discounts and campaigns, which, like traditional roasts and puddings, have become droll and unappetizing to properties and guests.

According to Tourism Research Australia, domestic travel by Australian citizens shows increasing growth patterns—overnight trips, nights spent, and total trip spend are all sharply on the rise. And, in addition, more people than ever are traveling from overseas to Australian cities and towns this holiday season. They’re booking more rooms, staying more nights and spending more cash. They’re on the prowl for good holiday deals.

So how can hotels refresh their tired promo efforts and cut themselves a bigger slice of this holiday pie? It may be as simple as understanding what makes eyes glaze over (“ho ho ho, click here to book now”) and what actually grabs the attention of the savvy customers who are responsible for this industry growth in the first place.

It’s Not Too Late

You might be tempted to believe that if you didn’t hit the ground running with fully-formed holiday promotions months ago, you’re too late and should focus on something more realistic. Valentine’s Day, perhaps.

Well, don’t dust off the candy and flowers just yet. More and more travelers are letting their travel dates get closer before they book. Why? Because they’re saving money on airfare. News.com.au recently dropped a post that encourages Australians to book only a few weeks or days ahead if they’re serious about saving money (for certain destinations, at least). Fares for many destinations are often slashed significantly in the days and weeks before departure. As more people seek to exploit this, more guests will need last minute hotel bookings to round out their daredevil plans. Don’t worry if it’s already December. Think of those couples and families who just scored a major deal on flights but have no place to stay. Think about getting a message across to them. Which brings us to our next point…

Focus on Social

These days, people are more difficult to reach through the mail, over the phone or face-to-face.

This is even more evident during the holiday season due to social functions and wrapping up at work. That’s why social media is all-important when it comes to holiday hotel promotions.

Now—if you haven’t bothered cultivating a Twitter or Facebook following until now, frantically opening an account and unleashing your holiday promotions will not bear fruit. OTAs and your own resources (web sites, mailing lists) are a better bet.

Partner Up

Some of the most effective holiday promotions in recent years tie in to local attractions. They involve packages or concepts that extend beyond an endlessly exciting 10% discount and actually engage the shopper. A holiday sweepstakes in partnership with an aquarium or zoo, for example. Tickets to well-publicized holiday events. Exclusive discounts for local residents on New Year’s Eve. Get a few ideas down. Make a few calls. See who you can bring on board. Don’t be content to lower your prices and force staff to wear Santa hats. Think about creating real value for guests who are smart not only with their money, but with their time and activities. And, just for the heck of it, why not even try providing real value to your customers that might cost you something, but engages them in real ways that may turn them into repeat customers. (Novel, right?)

Conclusion: You can still catch the Wave

Like the light and flavourful Australian Christmas lunch, let your holiday promotions be informed by the environment but try and tap into a genuine sentiment with which guests can identify, not a boring cliché . That means taking a moment to study how and when people are making bookings this year, and what kinds of ideas/packages will resonate with your target audience. Lots of hotels will be offering a traditional promo pudding this holiday season so use the opportunity to give people something with a little more snap. Oysters anyone?

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