Getting ready for Christmas 2020 – Yes, really

Every year, I meet hotels and restaurants who have tried and failed to increase Christmas occupancy, but whose festive revenues have remained little changed for several years. 

Same patterns, similar revenues, and all that changes are the naturally inflated prices. So I’m here to tell you that right now is the time to start planning for Christmas 2020 before you’ve even wrapped up the 2019 festive period. 

We are all very well-intentioned in life and in business. We mean to do things to make our business better, but then a guest is difficult or a staff member is off sick or something breaks and you need to get involved. 

I appreciate more than anyone the battles of running a hotel and the reality of being a master at all aspects, but it’s this very jack of all trades approach which is undermining your future success. Every year from hoteliers, I hear the same thing; I meant to do this, but… The problem is that that’s where mediocre lies, in that but, right there.

So should you really start planning Christmas for next year, before you’ve even finished this one? Yes, absolutely.

Memory is a fickle fiend and right now your memory is at its freshest about the successes and failures of the seasons, the sales patterns, the team wins, and the feedback. 

You know what is going well and what isn’t and you also have the best chance of identifying opportunities and evaluating their potential success while everything is fresh in your mind. 

So, if I was in your shoes, here is what I would be doing:

Stop and think: 

Think about what has gone well and what needs improvement, align it with client feedback and team feedback, and create a ‘model’ for next year. 

This might be anything from staff training through to dining room layout, check-in efficiencies to pricing. Everything and anything is up for grabs, so think about what you are going to change for next year. 

Most importantly, write it down and make sure your notes are clear and explanatory. At least six months will pass before you look at them again, so will you understand it when you revisit it?

Identify the opportunities:

Is there a way you can do more business, drive more revenue, increase client retention or anything else that will boost performance for next year? Depending on how you run your festive restaurant, you might be able to add another sitting. In the hotel, you might be able to increase the minimum nights’ stays over the festive period without upsetting your client base. 

What changes can you make to boost your revenue without overburdening the resources you have available?

Review your stats and patterns:

Aside from the dates of the weekends in November and December, largely speaking the festive season follows the same booking patterns every single year. What do yours look like? Which weeks are most popular and which weeks are least popular? How about the days of the week?

I regularly see businesses do the same thing every year – perhaps tribute nights, or festive dining packages, or weekend shopping stays – because they prove popular and they sell well. 

However I also see patterns of low bookings and unpopular days because businesses don’t think about branching out until it is too late to market it properly. 

Where I have seen great success is businesses adapting their offering to their patterns; higher prices for popular days, lower prices for half-booked dates, as well as offering multiple types of activities too. I even saw one business who sold out Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before the late week dates because they offered a completely different package with less focus on the booze and more on the activities, experience and a festive afternoon tea.

It appealed to a new audience and offered something different for companies that didn’t want a boozy party and a late night offering.

Plan it in and make decisions now:

Consider what has proved popular and how you might price it next year. Plan your marketing activity and include pullbacks for getting this year’s guests to book ASAP. True, your guests might not be ready to book yet, but drawing on your knowledge from this year, you will be better prepared to market it next year. 

If you know what you are going to promote, how and when you will be streets ahead and may capture those early corporate bookings that you’re not equipped for yet. 

Then, when the time comes to advertise, you only have to check your prices and plans, not develop them entirely, which makes it much easier to roll out regardless of what else is happening at the time.

Think about the rest of the year:

Believe it or not, hundreds of the guests that pass through your doors at Christmas, won’t be on your marketing database (about 40%-50% in fact), because a company has booked on their behalf and hotels don’t think about data capture at Christmas. 

How can you encourage this new audience to join your mailing list, or visit again in the future? What about offering goody bags or voucher books, leaflets to refer a friend or a competition to win dinner for two. 

Whatever you are doing, think about what you want to achieve – more people on your database and bookings in the future – and what is most suitable for the audience you are talking to. It’s a huge and underrated opportunity.

I appreciate I might seem crazy to be getting you thinking about it now, but it really works. On average, the clients that I get to do this with see an uplift of 15-20% over the festive period, not including the effect of price rises or repeat visits throughout the rest of the year. 

They get more bookings, earlier bookings, and fill more dates, not to mention reducing their cost of service and mistakes. Now isn’t that worth a festive cheer?

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