One of the benefits and one of the challenges of a hotel’s offering is that it can vary vastly from season to season.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll want to showcase certain aspects to entice guests to stay with you.
If you’re blessed with an outdoor swimming pool for example, this can offer the perfect focal point for summer marketing. Opting to stay in the UK is currently being championed thanks to poor exchange rates, so why not highlight the fact people don’t need to fly abroad to enjoy some time at poolside? Put it first and foremost, with a summer menu especially designed to supplement it.
The outdoors in general is a great place to highlight. Afternoon Tea on a sunlit terrace? Get some accompanying imagery and a video that focuses on how good your hotel looks in the summer months, while also emphasising any nearby summer pursuits, such as walking or relevant local events. Why not create your own summer event, to show off your gardens? You can then PR this and shout about it on social channels too.
If flowers bloom at a certain time of year, does this enhance your hotel exterior? One hotel client benefits from an abundance of lavender in the summer, so channels its offering as ‘100 days of Provence’, providing an exotic continental spin to its more traditional Yorkshire fare.
But while a pool in the UK, or blooming flowers, can be a lovely thing to focus on when highlighting a hotel’s offering in the warmer months, in winter it’s a rare guest looking for a dip in an outdoor pool – even if it is heated.
With that in mind, you need to change the emphasis accordingly.
The focus for most hotels in winter is inevitably Christmas. There’s a stereotypical look guests associate with the festive season (blame/thank Charles Dickens) and it’s one that hoteliers do well to focus on when tapping into Christmas sentiment.
Christmas centric marketing can offer a great boost when aiming to fill beds in November and December, but what about January and February? Traditionally these are shoulder periods for hotels and they can prove a tricky couple of months to navigate following the festive boom.
You can still play on the winter’s offering of course, while simply removing the Christmas element. A sprinkling of snow is the perfect time to call in photographers/videographers who can capture wintery conditions while emphasising the cosy, warming hospitality that you offer. Snow aside, emphasising roaring fires and snug rooms can provide the escapism needed to encourage guests to book, while you can look to host events again here too, just give them the appropriate seasonal twist. Whisky is a lovely warming drink to fend off a chill, so why not host a February tasting evening once everyone’s bypassed Dry January?
Despite its etymology, seasonality in hospitality isn’t limited to the seasons. You should look to embrace key fixtures in the calendar. Whether that’s internationally recognised sporting events, national holidays or simply awareness days, there are plenty of things to jump on board with.
Being a Cheltenham-based agency (well, just north of) an example we tend to use is that of the Cheltenham Festival – the jewel in the crown of the hunt racing calendar. It’s an event that garners international interest, with people heading to the region from all over the world to join the tens of thousands of racegoers who attend each day of the festival.
Hotels for miles around are booked up throughout, and while hotels in the heart of Cheltenham can afford to rest on their laurels, safe in the knowledge they’ll be enjoying a bumper March regardless, those slightly further afield need to do what they can to entice guests and demonstrate they’re very much within the racecourse’s catchment area.
One hotel client of ours, the Kings Head in Cirencester, is about a 20 to 30-minute drive from Cheltenham, meaning it’s one of those that needs to do that bit extra. Part of the extra sees it host a racing preview night a couple of weeks ahead of the festival. Although its outside of Cheltenham, the hotel is very much in racing country, with several leading stables located nearby.
Utilising its racing contacts, the hotel works hard to pull together a panel of experts from the racing world who then pronounce on the forthcoming festival, speculating on the likely winners of the key races. It’s a popular event that’s almost invariably a sell-out.
Not only does it provide immediate income in its execution, but it also has a lasting impact leading to festival week proper. Having promoted the event on social media and via PR, it usually gets picked up by the key racing titles as well as some national outlets, with journalists often in attendance. Video and photography is then utilised at the event itself to accompany post event releases, as well as for promotional purposes the following year.
All of this activity then, puts Kings Head high in the mind of racing enthusiasts looking for a place to stay come race week, and even for other race meets throughout the season. Being regarded as a racing friendly hotel means racegoers make a beeline for it when looking for accommodation.
Despite Cheltenham Festival not being associated with the seasons per se, the fact that it occurs every March makes it cyclical in a similar way to the seasons.
Hoteliers should look at the forthcoming annual calendar and earmark key periods that they can exploit. Then, they should do all they can to market their brand accordingly – be that via social media campaigns, press pushes, video/photography or even direct mailings and the more traditional forms of marketing. Given the seasonal difference in hospitality, showcasing your seasonal offering is essential to continually entice a flow of guests.
David Barrett is Managing Director of Pic PR, a communications agency that specialises in hospitality