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Uncertain Times Call for Return to Backyard Basics

publication date: Feb 25, 2013
author/source: David Brudney, ISHC
Uncertain Times Call for Return
to Backyard Basics


David M. Brudney, ISHC, April 2003

Uncertainty is the only thing certain about operating a hotel in today’s new business realities.

The target just keeps moving.  These days the term “back to normal” seems more and more like a fairy tale. 

Every day hotel operators must deal in a business world that may have changed forever due to 9/11, terrorists’ threats, the Home Security Act’s impact on tourism, the war, the Enron scandal, the economy, gas prices and the near disappearance of the business traveler, the “Holy Grail” of our industry.

And look out for a new emerging trend: more and more leisure travelers choosing to stay with family and friends.

What’s the Constant that Works in the Toughest of Times?

Is there any certainty in these uncertain times?  What’s the constant that works in the toughest of times?  Lesson number one of “Hotel Sales 101”: marketing begins in your own backyard.  Master first the art of neighborhood marketing.

When it comes to hotel reservations, never underestimate the power of the influence of locals - - city, suburb, airport, remote, no matter.  All the electronic systems used to fill hotel rooms today notwithstanding, I still maintain that 2-out-of-3 of all hotel reservations are either made direct or influenced by locals.

Hotel Owners’ Checklist

Here’s an owners’ checklist with timeless blocking and tackling fundamentals, simple to understand yet so easy to overlook:

  • Backyard Basics and neighborhood marketing begin with tracking current and past guests, a “must do” in order to survive and succeed today.  If no database software is in place, pay a retired senior citizen or a high school student to record data manually.  Charge the cost to marketing.  That’s where it belongs.
  • Answer the phones and return all calls promptly.  Take down names and numbers (using whatever incentive necessary).  Never let a prospect or potential referral become lost forever.
  • Front Desk must capture 90 percent of all walk-ins/call-ins.  You can’t afford to leave dollars on the table.
  • Outside your hotel, become familiar with each and every one of the key generators of business.  What attractions, sports, entertainment and cultural venues, commerce, government and schools are driving visitors and room nights into your market?
  • Identify which private and public organizations value your guests.  Which might have interest in co-op advertising, joint promotions, sharing marketing expenses?
  • Working the neighborhood correctly includes penetrating the local weddings network, non-profit fund-raising drop-offs, launching your own adopt-a-school program, providing incentives to local retailers who refer out-of-town guests.  Don’t overlook cab drivers, gas stations and barber shops.
  • Locals need hotel rooms, too!  House painting, remodeling, fumigation, relocation, unexpected houseguests or, simply, the need to get away from house and kids for a night or weekend - - without the travel hassle!  Any limited service hotel can package a terrific romantic weekend for locals including dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Next time we’ll talk about what options you have if your G.M. can’t or won’t ‘buy in” to the program.  The risks of neglecting your own backyard and neighborhood are simply too great.  Tough times never last, but tough people do.


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