Every establishment has faced challenges during the off-season, when things are quieter and the steady stream of tourists holidaying on our shores slow down to a trickle. You’ve identified when your slow season is, but how do you fix it and prevent reservations from drying up completely? Preparation is key!
With careful marketing planning and strategic ideas, there are ways of preventing disaster. We’ve put together a few basic tips that will help you on your way.
Improve your online presence
Now is the perfect time to consider your online marketing strategy, low season gives you a great time to catch up and prepare. Take advantage of the quieter months to address any issues you might have with the day to day running of your business, guest service, staff training etc.
Catch up with your team. Ask them to report on the difficulties they encountered while handling guests’ online requests. Keep a record of all the aspects you could improve upon to make the online experience as positive as possible. Were there any missed conversions because of flaws in the booking process? Was your website friendly enough to make the guest stay on your site?
Know your Guests and reward them
Throughout the year, it’s imperative to keep an updated database of all your guests. The easiest way to do that if you don’t have an online booking system that retains guest information, is to keep a document which you are constantly updating with new guest details.
You can contact these guests directly and offer them exclusive deals for a certain period of time and reward them further if they provide you with a referral. Repeat customers are a great source of additional sales at any time, but prove invaluable during off-season.
Start a loyalty program where you offer your repeat guests significant discounts on their next visit, all guests love a good discount.
We often forget about the local market and that many South Africans travel in the winter months. Guests who cannot afford to travel in peak season often take advantage of special offers and lowered rates. Our hard earned Rands stretch a little further during the off season Make sure you market directly to the local market at good prices to ensure more bookings. It’s also a good idea to keep a seperate database of local guests so you can define your offer according to your target audience.
Get more social than ever
Along with your website and blog, be sure to update your establishment’s social media pages. Increase your social presence. Create photo or other competitions where guests can win a free stay or a significant discount on their next booking. Or use the advertising and promotion services social media platforms offer. If you manage a business page on Facebook it is especially important to know that even though you might have a significant following, you really do need to spend money to reach them. The last few years have seen a drastic decline in organic reach on the platform. Using Facebook advertising has become increasingly important.
Reach out and strengthen your relationship with your existing followers, check for comments or questions you might have missed when you were too busy. It’s all about engagement. Make time to create new photos and incorporate seasonal images A hot tip is to increase the use of video in your posts. Organic reach on video is significantly higher than posts using only pictures.
Offer Exciting Packages
Guests like to explore destinations during off-season as it is less crowded and very often, more affordable compared to peak season.
Create special packages that include things like a safari, sightseeing, mini tours or tickets to a local, exciting event. You can even collaborate with local restaurants for dinner vouchers, local businesses for promotional material or include room extras like wine, speciality pamper products etc.
Hold Events / Seminars
If your establishment allows and you have the space, we recommend marketing your venue to corporate guests and businesses. You can also arrange your own events, like a wine tasting evening, special dinners, informative talks by locals about the area etc, the ideas are endless.
Update your OTA’s
Make sure that all your OTA’s are 100 % updated with low season rates and include all your specials where possible. This should generate some additional interest and allow guests booking through OTA’s to also take advantage of the special rates.
Focus on your unique environment and shape your special packages and events around that, this way ensuring that you differentiate from your competitors. It’s important to identify who your target market is and who you would like to market these packages and specials too. You can even have more than one running at the same time to ensure you cover all your bases. It’s also a good idea to highlight the benefits of travelling during off season to steadily increase occupancy.
The challenge of dealing with declining occupancy during the slow season is a hard reality within hospitality. Overall the best advice is to be ready, proactive and creative with your marketing efforts before the cold slump sets in.