‘Tis the season to be jolly, but for the hotelier it is also the season to be prepared for your busiest time of the year. No one can fail to notice that for all business, seasonal marketing is of course at its strongest around Christmas. In our trade we have to be savvy but there are some key points I would advise everyone to follow.
Stay on plan
Go into Christmas with a strong social media plan and stick to it. There will be many temptations to over-elaborate the message or react to external factors, such as what the competition are doing. A resolute, pre-planned social media schedule, across all channels but particularly Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, will stand you in good stead for guest engagement and keep them switched on to your posts for the rest of the year.
Build the bigger picture
There will be a ton of people in your hotel in the lead up to Christmas and New Year who will only see what’s in front of them – a party venue, an afternoon tea, a bar. Think about how you can build awareness of the rest of the hotel and inspire an additional experience from this crowd.
Forward-thinking hotels will have installed beacon technology to capitalise at this time. Naturally, traditional methods such as tent cards, bill stuffers and posters can still play a part, but let’s embrace the technology available to us and grow your appeal with these guests and drive future visits.
Christmas is a time for collaboration. Leave no stone unturned in bringing relevant partners to light to surprise and delight your guests and gain that all important local PR. It’s a great way to get your staff motivated too, but make sure you train, train, train the message to ensure consistency and clarity as to why you have partnered with that particular brand.
Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree
The tree – ah yes, the good old Christmas Tree. Is it up yet? We all know that some hotels take their Christmas trees to the max in pursuit of international fame. It’s great fun to read about trees adorned with £7m worth of jewellery in Abu Dhabi, or the 8,000 macaroon tree at the InterContinental in Paris. This all goes to show, don’t underestimate your tree’s appeal – it’s part of the tradition, it sets emotions racing and should be the centrepiece of the festive season at your hotel.
Set a retail strategy
Do you have a retail strategy in place for your hotel? Many of your guests will have their minds fully focused on shopping at this time. They will be scrutinising every inch of their stay for ideas and inspiration as to what to buy colleagues, friends and family. Furthermore, this should be a year round strategy, not just for Christmas.
This can be as simple as spa gift sets or hotel experience gift vouchers. Some of the more progressive hotels are beginning to sell interiors, artwork and local provenance goods; the holidays form a major part of their retail strategy. Check out what The Hoxton has created with its Hoxshop, for example.
Stick with your Christmas brochure
Christmas brochures – to print or not to print. OK, let’s face it, we’d all prefer not to print one but the fact remains there’s life in the old dog yet. That said, it’s a tiresome process that needed to start in April and be in distribution from summer onwards. The age old challenge for marketers is to avoid the flying cutlery when asking Chef to meet the copy deadlines.
Keep it in the community
Playing your part in the local community at Christmas time is very important. But why just at Christmas? It’s important that you build the holidays into your CSR strategy rather than only looking for Christmas charities to support.
Start the year with Christmas in mind – build up to a great event during this time where you can celebrate the partnership and reflect on what part your hotel has played in raising awareness, funds and spirits throughout the course of the year.
Know your audience
You need to be mindful of how your guests will be receptive to your Christmas marketing. Be mindful of cultural sensitivities, but that doesn’t mean that your content needs to be ‘politically correct’. After all, your guests have chosen to come to your hotel and destination to experience it at first hand. Just make sure that you apply the right levels of commerciality and sophistication as necessary to support your service culture and level of hospitality.
Let your staff shine
Let’s face it, by the time December arrives it’s down to the staff on the ground. This is their time to shine. Make sure your marketing team do not to get in the way of the operation and allow your staff to build relationships with guests who are likely to be repeat customers, and who you would definitely like to see again. In effect, the Marketing team’s job at Christmas should be done by now and for you it’s about setting upon the data available to you during this time to generate repeat purchases and experiences.
Don’t forget family
Christmas is a time for family, whether that be a couple, parents with three young children, or four generations coming together for the first time in years. Be clear about your offering and try to cater to all within that. Mirror the importance of this festive, family holiday in your own hotel and the guests will feel right at home.