Christmas is historically the busiest time to travel in the US. Last year, AAA predicted that a record-breaking 107 million Americans would travel over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. As guests prepare for the upcoming seasonal break, now is the time to plan how your property can capture a surge in demand for hotel rooms.
With fierce competition from OTAs and other properties, your hotel needs to fight for attention by devising unique offers, special on-property experiences, and innovative marketing campaigns that attract and incentivise your guests to book direct.
With that in mind, here are six ways that hoteliers can inspire vacationers and drive more bookings this holiday season.
1. Enticing email packages and offers
Consumers often get bombarded with marketing emails over the holidays. So your promotion needs to work even harder to demand attention. Getting your customers to open your emails is arguably the biggest battle, so put aside time to craft an irresistible email subject line.
Subject lines should be clear, catchy, and succinct. Communicating urgency is also a tried-and-tested tactic to generate clicks. A subject line like, “Today only: save up to 50% off your Christmas stay” gives your email subscribers’ a clear and compelling offer with a strict time limit to respond.
Fun visual emails and creative messaging can also help capture attention. As a simple example, style your emails around an event calendar. From December 1st, send a daily email with a seasonal tip behind each door, such as how to enjoy a stress-free flight, pack light for the holidays, or ensure Christmas gifts get through airport security.
When every other advertiser is bombarding your customers with deals, your helpful advice will feel like a breath of fresh air. Just remember to track your holiday offers so you can use the data to optimize for future dates.
2. Tap into seasonal spontaneity
The holidays are a time when people are likely to be more spontaneous and splurge on added luxuries. So once your guests have booked, be sure to send follow-up emails that promote added extras, such as room upgrades or ancillary products and services.
To increase the effectiveness of this approach, be sure to segment your audience. You can then send personalized offers that appeal to unique tastes and interests. For instance, target your foodie-loving guests with discounts off your festive menu, or offer spa lovers a discount off your most indulgent treatments.
Over the holidays, there’s also an opportunity to theme your offers with a little seasonal fun. Last year, Hotel Griffon in San Francisco rewarded guests that arrived in an ugly holiday sweater with a complimentary room upgrade or discounted rate on a room. The promotion was covered by NBC, and illustrates how thinking differently to your competitors can really help you stand out.
3. Showcase your festive side
The holidays are all about anticipation. So use your marketing to tap into the excitement of the year’s big events. In particular, video can be a great way to capture the festive mood and inspire your guests.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, why not post a daily video that reveals how your hotel is preparing? Show your staff putting up your Christmas tree and fairy lights, your chef cooking special dishes from your festive menu, or your housekeeping adding decorations to guest rooms.
Promote all the ways your destination is preparing for the celebrations, too. Scenes of Christmas markets, twinkling shopping malls, cozy coffee shops, and festive lights being switched on will add to the anticipation of visiting you. You could even interview local residents about their favorite local holiday traditions to further inspire your guests.
Be sure to post your videos on your hotel website, YouTube, and social channels to engage your audience and encourage bookings. Don’t forget to include a link to the video in your emails!
4. Holiday events
Staying in a hotel over the holidays offers a chance to enjoy a new experience in a different destination. But plenty of your guests will also want to enjoy familiar traditions and experiences. Especially those traveling with children.
To capture the atmosphere of the season, Congress Hall in Cape May offer numerous seasonal activities, including breakfast with Santa, and Gingerbread Decorating with Mrs. Claus. The Wentworth Mansion in Charleston hosts a four-course Dickens Dinner as a storyteller retells “A Christmas Carol”. And guests staying at One Aldwych in London can book a Festive Film & Fizz experience that involves sipping Champagne while watching a Christmas movie.
Think about the activities and events your hotel can offer. For example, you could host your own Christmas baking masterclass, a festive-themed treasure hunt, or invite your young guests to help put treats out for Santa and his reindeer in your lobby. The options are pretty much endless.
5. In-room extras
Special decorations and thoughtful gifts can all add a touch of magic to the moment a guest arrives in their room. Hang Christmas stockings beside their beds and fill them with traditional treats, such as fruits, nuts, oranges, and candy. Leave a personalized, handwritten greetings card on their pillow, or a wrapped gift if budget allows.
Perhaps take inspiration from Sunriver Resort in Oregon. Their elf tuck-in service involves Santa’s helpers reading a Christmas story to little ones and treating them to a special goodie bag. While parents staying at Montage Kapalua Bay in Hawaii can order a personalized holiday stocking for their kids that gets delivered to the room.
Added extras like these might involve extra time and expense, but the dusting of magic they provide can wow your guests, encourage them to rebook next year, and inspire them to share their experiences on social media.
6. Create a holiday-ready website
With the holidays fast approaching, now’s the time to give your hotel website some seasonal sparkle. Include plenty of festive images and messages on your homepage. Utilize your blog and Events page to promote upcoming events and festivals. And prominently promote amenities that holiday travelers are looking for, such as parking, luggage storage, and pet-friendliness.
To entice customers to book direct rather than through OTAs, it’s also worth promoting exclusive packages and deals that are only available on your hotel website.
WestHouse New York currently has a ‘shop in style’ winter deal on their website that includes a personal shopping appointment and a $100 gift card from luxury retailer Henri Bendel. This particular offer is perfectly pitched to attract travelers visiting New York for a Christmas shopping spree.
How to capture attention during the holiday season
Attracting holiday vacationers isn’t just about offering them a great deal. You also need to get them to fall in love with your brand and tap into the excitement of the season. The tips above can help you drive more direct bookings by offering enticing offers, hosting your own festive experiences, and building up the pre-holiday buzz with well-executed marketing across your website, email, and social channels.