How to market your small hotel or management rights.

written by Sarah Colgate

Business Tips for 2024 | Helpful tips for tourism operators

January 4, 2024

I have had a range of hotel sales and marketing roles over my career, mostly with large hotel chains or boutique style resorts with money to spend. Then this year a contact of mine asked me to market his management rights property on the beach in Surfers Paradise.

Management rights if you are not aware is the business of running holiday apartments in a building. Not all apartments will be in the letting pool, some may be permanent rentals or be owner occupied. The Manager owns the rights to rent the apartments in the letting pool out to holiday makers, they earn a percentage of the revenue and pass the rest onto the owners. So it’s in the best interest of everyone for the apartments to be full of holiday makers at a good per night price. 

The property I was asked to market sits in between Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach on the beach. Essentially you walk out of the property gate onto the sand. It’s a sensational location. The building is about 30 years old and the couple have been managing it for around 20+ years. The number of rooms and style of rooms in the letting pool can differ every month depending on the owners. Check it out – The Breakers Absolute Beachfront Apartments 

What I soon realised was this type of property needs a well thought out marketing strategy, as well as some out of the box thinking to attract guests and increase bookings. It’s not as straightforward as marketing a hotel with a brand attached. 

Here are some of the most effective ways to market a small hotel:

Create a visually appealing website

This may sound obvious however a lot of small businesses in particular small hotels do not keep their website up to date. I suggest you have a professional design a website that showcases your hotel’s unique features, amenities, and attractive visuals. If you have a sensational location, add a lot of location photos, maps of the areas and information on how close everything is. 

Your booking platform needs to be integrated with your website so potential customers can book directly. 

Also ensure that your website is clean and clear, with user-friendly navigation, it needs to be mobile-responsive, and optimised for search engines. Have your friends and family test your website. 

Utilise search engine optimisation (SEO)

Use keywords and phrases in your website content that people may use to search for your kind of business. By using these words and phrases the visibility of your website on search engine results pages will improve. 

I suggest you focus on local keywords to target guests in your area or people who are looking for accommodation in your area. 

If you don’t know what keywords and phrases to use, get some help. There are loads of keyword tools available, but first set up google analytics and see where your traffic is coming from and what keywords have been used to get to you.

Leverage online travel agents (OTAs)

OTAs have millions and millions of users everyday. They are a very effective distribution partner for your small hotel or management rights. 

The biggest OTA in the  world is  Booking.com with more than a billion searches every day. There is also Expedia (hotels.com and Wotif.com), Airbnb, Agoda, LastmInute.com and Trip.com.  OTAs will help you increase your hotel’s exposure and reach a wider audience. Maintain competitive pricing and offer attractive packages to entice potential guests.

I also suggest once you have loaded your hotel you look at it from a customer perspective. Ensure your photos are professional, the listing information is complete and your prices are competitive. If you need help there may be a local account manager for the OTA that can assist you. 

Embrace social media marketing

Establish a business presence on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin and Twitter. Ensure you set up a business account and communicate helpful information to potential customers. By regularly posting engaging content, including high-quality photos, videos, and updates about your hotel it builds trust with potential new customers. 

My ratio of posts on a hotel social media accounts looks something like this:

15% – Destination posts showcasing the region and all it has to offer

20% – Local community posts, supporting businesses that contribute to your business or support your business and provide services to your customers. 

50% – Your property, internal and external images, videos, reviews, testimonials, user generated content

15% – Post offers, promotions, packages and hot deals. Anything with a call to action for the customer. 

Please remember to interact with followers and respond to their inquiries promptly and professionally.

Implement email marketing

When collecting email addresses from your guests and website visitors to build a mailing list, ensure you have an opt in and opt out permission. The laws around email marketing are very strict. In 2023, Kmart was fined more than $1 million in Australia for sending emails to unsubscribed users. 

Before you do anything ensure you have permission and can prove the customer opted in to receive your communication. 

Once customers have opted in then send out regular newsletters, exclusive offers, and personalised promotions to keep your audience engaged and encourage repeat bookings. If you are a small hotel I suggest you reach out to the tourism operators around you and ask if they want to give you something to put in the newsletter. This will add more value to your communication, benefit your customers and your local community. Who knows they may do the same for you in return.

Encourage online reviews and ratings

Positive reviews and ratings are crucial for building trust and attracting new guests. Encourage satisfied guests to leave reviews on platforms like TripAdvisor, Facebook and Google. I personally prefer Google for the reviews as that will help with credibility when someone searches for your business online. 

Ensure you are consistently responding promptly to all reviews, both positive and negative, to show your commitment to guest satisfaction. Don’t freak out if a negative review comes through. I suggest you call the customer and see if you can work it out offline first, if there is no resolution then ensure you communicate in the response that you have offered to rectify the situation however the customer declined. Then potential customers know you are committed to ensuring an excellent guest experience.

Collaborate with local businesses

As I mentioned above, work with the local tourism operators, local businesses and establish partnerships that are mutually beneficial. 

With a local restaurant that you think your customers might enjoy eating at or that you would like to recommend to your customers, go and meet with them. Explain that you will recommend them to all your customers and ask if they would be interested in providing a special offer or deal. This will add value to what you are providing for your customers and support the local business community.  

Example: As a tourism operator having a relationship with local hotels is essential. I always had my sales team give them a pile of $5 off vouchers to hand to customers as they checked into the hotel. It drove sales directly to my website and the customers saw more value in the hotel they were staying with.

Emphasise your unique selling points

It may sound very simple, I suggest you clearly identify what sets your hotel apart from the competition and highlight those unique features in your marketing.

It could be personalised services, eco-friendly initiatives, themed rooms, or a picturesque location. Write them down and capitalise on your strengths to attract guests seeking a distinctive experience. One step further is to create a unique selling proposition or statement that communicates your uniqueness. 

This is one I wrote for a small boutique style accommodation on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Misty View Cottages offers secluded rainforest hideaways for couples wanting to disconnect from the world, experience peace, tranquillity and privacy so they can reconnect with nature and each other.

Offer special packages and promotions

Create attractive packages and promotions tailored to target different markets during different seasons. This could include discounts for extended stays, seasonal offers, honeymoon packages, or corporate deals. As well as packages with local tourism operators; Winter Hot Deal – Stay 3 nights and receive whale watching tickets. 

Promote these offerings on your website, social media platforms, and through email marketing.

Conclusion

As a small hotel you can do so much for yourself at no cost. These are just some of the strategies you can start on today. Set aside time and focus each week to work on your marketing. The more you do it the better you will become. 

The key is consistency and creativity when marketing your small hotel. I suggest you continuously monitor the performance of your marketing efforts, track bookings and revenue generated from each channel, and adapt your strategy accordingly to maximise your hotel’s visibility and bookings.

Head to the Tourism Solutions page for a list of marketing services I offer.

Thanks for taking the time to read suggestions and I hope they are helpful.
Sarah Colgate
Business Growth Specialist

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