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What Innkeepers Want Every Christmas? Fill Those Empty Rooms

publication date: Dec 13, 2012
author/source: David Brudney, ISHC

What Innkeepers Want Every Christmas?
Fill Those Empty Rooms

By David M. Brudney, ISHC, December, 2003

There are three things we can count on for sure:  death, taxes and vacant hotel rooms in late December.  Death and taxes?  Let’s not go there, especially at this joyous time of year.  Vacant hotel rooms in late December?  Ah, the Achilles’ heel of hoteliers since the dawn of hospitality. 

Oh, sure, there are those exceptions.  Holiday festivals, shopping and theater packages, college football bowl games and snow-and-sun resorts have helped fill otherwise empty guest rooms in some more fortunate destinations.  But for the most part, innkeepers have pretty much accepted occupancy levels in the 30s and 20s from mid-December well into the first week of January.

Here are a few myths to explode and some suggestions and reminders for hotel owners and operators that might help make a typically depressing period maybe a little brighter:

  • Myth #1: “nobody’s at work.  Businesses are closed.  Everyone’s gone and won’t be back until after the first of the (new) year.”  Lots of people are still very much around, many of whom are hotel clients and prospects;
  • Many local clients and prospects - - if invited!  - - might love a break from year-end deadlines at work, shopping, etc., to stop by your hotel for breakfast or lunch, either 1-on-1 with a sales associate or the G.M. or, better yet, as part of a group of clients and prospects - - great opportunity for interaction, bonding and showcasing the hotel;
  • Be creative!  Use this opportunity for the chef to prepare some special desserts with specially-brewed coffees and other holiday hot beverages for local clients and prospects to sample with takeaway recipes;
  • Opportunities for your hotel to bond with the local community; partner up with an organization allowing locals to drop off toys and food for those in need; invite school children classes and choirs to perform next to the large Christmas tree you’ve put up in the lobby (or an empty meeting room!);
  • One of my fondest memories is of the time a hotel client of mine hosted a special Christmas party for the local Make-a-Wish Foundation and invited clients and prospects to attend.  The staff all dressed in costumes, from Santa to reindeer to all of Santa’s helpers.  Toward the end, there wasn’t a dry eye to be found anywhere in the room;
  • Myth #2: “nobody important stays in hotels that time of year.”  Not true.  It may surprise some operators, but some guests stay in hotels because they don’t want to be alone at this time of year.  For some, checking in to any hotel is a way of feeling connected.  Others may stay because they are visiting family and friends where there is no room to stay or they choose not to be houseguests.  Some guests find staying at home over the holidays too depressing and simply choose to leave home.  Some just enjoy extended holiday shopping, sightseeing, seeing some good movies, taking in the theater - - things they may have put off during the year;
  • Some who do not celebrate Christmas use this time of year to hook up with others for visiting, socializing, dining out, going to movies;
  • Make sure your website and other distribution channels have special holiday package rates and address everything special going on in your hotel (with linkage to other special venues and activities in December);
  • Innkeepers have terrific opportunities here to welcome these guests, to make them feel a little special and to do some bonding.  Put some holiday cookies and candies, maybe even a wassail bowl with cups in the lobby or at the front desk.  Have the maids place something very simple in the guest rooms each day, a reminder of how much management appreciates each guest this time of year.  Your guests will love these special extra touches and they will be telling family and friends and co-workers about this experience for a long time to come.  Some will return every year and some might even book a business meeting or social event down the road; be sure and record contact info on all of these guests for follow up via e-mail or direct mail to invite back - - and bring friends and family! 
  • And don’t forget to remind the sales staff this is a wonderful time to load data in their computers, organize sales calls, trips and appointments for the 1st quarter, send out personal notes and e-mails to clients and prospects and yes, it is okay to reach out and make some telephone calls.  You might be amazed at how many folks you will find still at work.

Finally, if some of these ideas and suggestions appeal to you but you find it too late to implement this year - - not to worry!  Save this article.  Trust me, late December is not going to change.  These ideas and suggestions are timeless.  You can use them next year.  And the year after. © Copyright 2003

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