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How to prepare for and attract holiday travelers — 2019 Version

The holidays are fast approaching and competition for direct bookings is likely to be as fierce as ever. Does your hotel have a plan to capture more bookings this Christmas and New Year?

To position your hotel as the most attractive option, you need to think beyond special deals and packages. In a season that’s so often entwined with memories and traditions, the savviest marketers use a variety of strategies to tap into the emotional reasons for travel.

With that in mind, here are six tips to inspire your guests and drive more bookings this Christmas and New Year.

1. Pay attention to the latest trends

From anti-government protests in Hong Kong and continued uncertainty over Brexit, to the recent collapse of Thomas Cook, the tourist industry is going through a turbulent time.

As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to consider any travel trends that might impact your own business. If usually profitable marketplaces are in decline, now’s the time to think about allocating your budget elsewhere.

In addition to looking at general trends, you should analyze your historic booking data. Are there certain regions or countries that have been flocking to your destination in recent years? Create geo-targeted campaigns with geo-specific pricing, messaging, and promotions that look to maximize bookings from these potentially profitable marketplaces.

Link each geo-targeted campaign to a dedicated landing page. This page should reinforce the offer and messaging, and include the relevant currency or language if you’re marketing to overseas territories.

Also take into account broader trends, such as the shift in consumer preferences and behaviors. For instance, you might want to tailor your Christmas menus to cater to the rise in plant-based eating. As more people seek sustainable travel options, it may be worth promoting your hotel’s eco-friendly credentials — a message that could have particular resonance at a time of indulgence.

2. Holiday special packages and deals

Everyone’s looking for a special deal over the holidays. So if you want to capture more bookings, you need to put extra thought into your marketing.

First, look at what your competitors are offering (including the OTAs) to ensure your own deals are attractive and compelling. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to offer the biggest discounts and deals — especially if it means your profit margins take a heavy hit.

Instead of focusing on price, offer a compelling perk or extra with every booking. At The Berkeley in London, their Christmas 2019 package includes a bottle of Champagne and in-room treats, Christmas Eve carol singing, stockings for kids and gifts for grown-ups, and a horse-drawn carriage ride with hot chocolate.

Think about the attention-grabbing extras your own hotel can offer. That might involve a complimentary spa treatment on Christmas Day, free tickets to a local festival, or vouchers for a vacation shopping spree.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve, city hotels with lots of NYE festivities will often find people trying to book for one night. You can help balance out the demand at this busy time by offering deals for a longer length of stay (shoulder dates) that encourage people to add additional days for their hotel stay.

3. Get active on social media

Gingerbread men photo on smartphone

People frequently use social media over the holidays to share their activities and see what everyone else is up to. Take full advantage of that fact by getting active on your own social channels.

Create some pre-Christmas excitement by posting photos or videos of your hotel preparing for the holidays. Show your staff putting up the Christmas tree, decorating guest rooms, or your chef preparing gourmet festive treats. Post content of your destination getting ready for the holidays too. Simple images such as fairy lights in shop windows and bustling street food markets can add a magical feel to your social feed.

Social media is also the perfect place to share behind-the-scenes stories about holiday preparation or drum up excitement by hosting a contest. For instance, you can show a video clip of your hotel staff decorating Christmas trees and guest rooms on Instagram Stories to create a festive and welcoming atmosphere.

Or you can host an Instagram contest that asks people to submit a cherished Christmas tradition or memory with an accompanying photo, then create a designated hashtag and offer a prize for your favorite entry.

Potential prizes could include a discount off their next stay with you, a complimentary meal at a high-end local restaurant, or maybe a Christmas baking masterclass with your head chef.

Marketing expert Jeff Bullas has some other great suggestions for social media marketing around the holiday season.

4. Create a themed digital guide

To inspire more customers over the holidays, why not put together a seasonal guide to your destination? Include the best things to see and do, from recommending local activities such as winter markets and open-air ice rinks to suggesting where guests can shop for special gifts or enjoy the best eggnog in town.

Given that Christmas is a hectic time of year, including tips for enjoying quieter experiences too. Mention local museums and art galleries, secluded hiking trails, or that tucked-away cafe that only the locals know about.

Similarly, you can produce themed guides for New Year’s Eve. Mention popular restaurants hosting NYE dinners, fireworks displays, or any bars/clubs holding parties with a toast at midnight. In the case of The New Yorker in Midtown Manhattan, its website features the best places to enjoy the end-of-year festivities in New York City. By featuring search terms related to New York City hotels and New Year’s Eve events, this is a great way to give their website an SEO boost and capture the attention of their target audience.

5. Add some Christmas sparkle

Wine glasses and fairy lights

Christmas is a magical time for kids. If you can make your hotel extra special for families, you’ll instantly make your property an attractive option to a valuable target market.

You don’t need to go to great expense. One option is to place a wish list kit in guest rooms with families. Simply provide pencils, an envelope, and a themed letter (there are plenty of free printable letters online) and invite little ones to post their wish list to Santa via a decorated letterbox in your lobby.

If budget allows, decorate your hotel as a winter wonderland — complete with tinsel, fairy lights, and artificial snow. Hook up a projector to play Christmas movies, lay on a selection of board games, or create a craft area for making cards and decorations.

Even the simplest gestures can have a huge impact on your guests’ overall perceptions and experience. Hand out warm mince pies and a glass of bubbly on arrival, or hang Christmas stockings in each guest room filled with a few complimentary treats. For New Year’s Eve, you could create gift bags (personalized with the name of each guest) that contain party extras, such as sparklers, hats, confetti shooters, or even miniature alcoholic drinks.

6. Offer holiday-themed tips with your emails

In addition to promotions and offers, your emails are a chance to dispense seasonal tips and advice. For example, send out a daily email with a specific holiday hack, from gift wrapping tips and shopping advice to a guide on how to cook a stress-free Christmas meal.

To help come up with the most compelling content, look for patterns in the topics and questions generating online buzz. Google Trends is a great place to see popular searches by topic. It’s also worth looking at Q&A sites such as Quora and Reddit for inspiration, or checking news articles or conversations on your social channels.

If a lot of people are talking about a particular subject, you can create a relevant email that provides helpful tips and recommendations.

Is your hotel preparing for the holiday season?

Christmas-themed gift bags

With the holidays fast approaching, your hotel needs a solid strategy to drive direct bookings. This requires a multi-faceted approach that goes beyond deals and discounts.

Attracting potential guests can also be achieved by creating your own festive experiences, promoting local events and activities, and building up the pre-holiday buzz with inspiring content across your website, email, and social channels.

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