It’s very tempting to fall into the trap of believing that everyone books online these days and that simply placing your hotel or resort with major Online Travel Agents (OTAs) will achieve the best possible occupancy and revenue for your property. As we have previously illustrated, business through traditional travel agents and online and offline tour operators is actually growing and set to continue that way. If your hotel or resort is with the major OTA’s, is running at 75% occupancy and is not targeting other business sources that means that money is being left on the table.
Major OTA’s bring your hotel or resort mainstream business but opportunities you may not be exploiting to the full is niche business, which is often not booked this way. What is niche business ? Our friends at Xotels highlighted such still wide areas for niche marketing as leisure guests travelling with pets or opportunities to target women. The mature market – typically leisure guests aged 55 and plus – is another fairly wide niche that is really worth targeting as these guests often have a lot of flexibility as to exactly when they travel. They will generally actively avoid European school holidays, for example, when many hotels and resorts will be very busy with families. But there are many tighter niches, many of which could also come to you outside your traditional peak periods.
As an example, my sister travels to different places around the world 2 to 3 times a year to take part in walking holidays and never during school and other holiday periods. These are highly organised groups of around 20-25 people each time who enjoy walking in hills, mountains and national parks with accommodation arranged at a base hotel by a specialised tour operator here in the U.K. and, of course, also in other European countries.
Many of the resorts that we have visited recently have great facilities and opportunities to really tap into the very lucrative overseas weddings market. This brings not only the hosting of the event itself but all of the wedding guests, as well as the bridge and groom, of course, in addition to the honeymoon. To appeal to this market demands a very special kind of location, which assures the bridge and groom from the U.K., Europe or North America, primarily, of a very special day to remember. If you have that, as so many resorts we have visited recently have, it’s well worth investing some time and effort into developing this business, which similarly is generally arranged by highly specialised tour operators or by very specialised arms of mainstream tour operators for times of year which may well be off-peak for your resort.
Wedding business can also, in part, be stimulated through targeted social media marketing. Strong images that will have impact on Facebook or, best of all, in Pinterest, where many frequent users are collecting details on potential wedding venues can lead very quickly to enquiries that you can then turn into business direct, or through the specialised operators.
Resorts can appeal to other niche markets: eco-tourism, scuba diving, canoeing, surfing and many more are all niche holiday activities and markets that your hotel or resort may be able to appeal directly or indirectly to for business at times away from your peaks to boost occupancy and revenue across the year.
Nobody knows your hotel or resort as well as you do and the first priority is to identify the niche markets that are relevant to your property. You should definitely create specific landing pages on your hotel or resort web site to reach out to each of those niches – one for each because you are trying to get away from the business of being all things to all men and because you will then be able to focus on optimising each page for keywords appropriate to that market as well as provide links from your Facebook page, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter direct to the relevant pages on your web site. Additionally, it’s very well worth talking to your tourist board or a local destination marketing company as they may well be able to identify niche markets relevant to your location that you were not aware of.
However, the potential clients from many niche market niche markets do not book online but book through specialised tour operators and you need to find the best way to reach out to them. Given that face to face meetings and relationships are always the most effective, this may well mean having a sales representative pushing your hotel or resort forward to the decision maker in that company. Choose a company that understands your property, its full potential and which wants to help you realise that. If you want to develop business from the weddings market, for example, does your sales representative have the flexibility to employ team members locally in the U.K. and Europe to look after the all-important liaison over fine details between the bride and her family and your property ?
If your hotel or resort runs at 75% occupancy year round, wouldn’t you want to start making progress into reducing the 25% of your rooms that are vacant and, crucially, grow your revenue by tackling or growing niche markets appropriate to your property ? What niche markets have you identified for your hotel or resort? Please comment below.