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South African Hotel Marketing 101 For 2022
Owning and operating a hotel, BnB, lodge, or any form of accommodation has never been an easy task- you know that! Getting the word out is hard enough, never-mind the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on businesses in this industry. In this article, I'm breaking down the 101 of Hotel Marketing in 2022.
Hospitality changes brought about by COVID
Firstly, let's break down the significant changes which the pandemic has brought about in the hospitality industry, that are here to stay (for now at least).
- Local travel is crucial to get you through yet another COVID-19 year, so shift your focus from international to local travellers.
- Weddings are getting smaller.
- You need to highlight and communicate safety measures and COVID compliance with guests.
- Focus on leisure travel (not business travel), but showcase how digital nomads can go about working from your establishment (features like Wi-Fi in all rooms, generators for power backup solutions, quiet conference areas for in-person or Zoom meetings that can be booked out, etc. This can be highlighted visually, with exciting photography of people working near a pool, fireplace, etc.).
- Being understanding and flexible on cancellations can really go a long way in building consumer retention, encouraging bookings and avoiding negative publicity.
Here are the key elements I'd focus on when marketing for the hospitality sector:
1. Have a REALLY attractive website
First impressions are essential. It's a cliché at this point, but like all other clichés, there's certainly truth to it. You're in the business of creating desire, making people feel welcome and at home. Your website needs to be clean, up to date and function phenomenally well.
Additionally, it should be well-presented- in line with your branding and featuring beautiful imagery that's pleasing to look at. No expense should be spared when it comes to the UX/UI design of your website.
2. Dissect your audience
Separate your audience into very distinctive personas, and market with a unique approach and messaging for each. Here is just a few examples of personas:
- Student backpackers
- Budget vacationers
- Pensioner travellers
- Yogi and wellness travellers
- Luxury wine and dine travellers
- Family vacationers
- Wedding hosts
- Conferences and business travellers
- Active outdoors travellers
- Special needs (elderly or wheelchair accessibility) travellers
- "Roughing it" style: Caravanning, camping, 'glamping.'
- Business travellers
- Digital nomads
Equally as important as marketing to new customers is how you're reconnecting with past vacation stayers. An important method of understanding if a past vacation stayer will return is simply to ask them. This can be done via email through a quick questionnaire with no more than 6 questions.
Key things to ask include how their stay was, what can be improved upon, what they enjoyed and what they didn't. Longer questionnaires can even be incentivised with a discount code to redeem on their next stay- this encourages honest feedback and repeat business simultaneously.
Where to advertise and list your establishment
- Make sure guests can easily book via your own website. Try it yourself and Quality assurance (QA) test the entire process.
- Make sure your available room listings are visible and fully operational on as many third-party bookings sites as possible. Here are just a few critical ones:
- Bush Breaks
- Where to stay
- South African Hotels
- Rooms For Africa
- SA Venues
- Sleeping Out
- Accommodation South Africa
- Trip Advisor
- SA Holidays
- Perfect Hideaways, etc.
If you offer weddings of any size, make sure you're featured as a venue on prominent wedding sites such as Pink Book.
Invest paid media into third party placements such as Google Search, Google Display Network, Gmail marketing, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Getaway magazine, Travel Mag, SA Travel Info, Mzanzi Travel, Travel Ideas, etc., as well as content marketing through Mailchimp.
Capitalise on seasonality
As a hotelier, you don't need to limit yourself to only travellers looking to book a room. Here are a few ways to adjust your strategy, based on seasonality changes:
- Generally, the wedding season in South Africa starts in September until the end of March. Honeymoons also coincide with this season, so have dedicated messaging around honeymoon, romantic getaways and even anniversary celebrations.
- Because of the pandemic, there's a big lean towards smaller/micro weddings. You can have packages to cater towards these small weddings, as well as the traditional larger weddings if your space allows.
- Is your establishment family-friendly? Then offer long-term stay specials during peak school holiday seasons. Generally, First Term break starts beginning to mid-April; Second Term breaks end from June to mid-July; Third Term breaks end of September to bringing of October, and Fourth Term Break is mid-December to Mid January.
- Is your space remote, secluded or totally private? Offer this as a great solution during the winter season- as a getaway that's pandemic friendly- offering all the isolation to feel safe or even a comfortable home away from home. This is particularly crucial as each winter seems to bring a new wave of COVID, and fatigue starts setting in. Take advantage by offering long term stays in winter and marketing your space as secluded, perhaps with the offer of goods and groceries dropped off outside one's hotel door for the perfect isolation cabin.
- Year-end functions and smaller quarterly campaigns that focus on small boutique-style business events can be yet another stream of revenue to consider.
Powerful tools in your marketing arsenal
Special discount codes can be used to increase uptake in winter months. These can be redeemed for long stay travellers or used to push conversions - especially from certain platforms or articles you've been featured in (eg. an article on Getaway Magazine).
Find yourself in a position with a last-minute cancellation? Advertise this on social media for a last-minute booking at a reduced rate to help fill up any empty rooms.
Host social media competitions to engage with your followers and travel influencers.
Special holiday offers
Think about special holidays and how you can capitalise on them for guests living close to you. Mother's Day set menu lunch, Father's Day safari drive, Valentine's day fine dining for two, etc. As well as offers such as 1-night stay and massage days for babymoons, as well as space which can be rented out for bridal showers, baby showers, birthdays, graduations, etc.
It surprises me how few guesthouses, hotels and other hospitality establishments actually utilise YouTube. The possibilities to create impactful content on this platform are endless. Here are just a few ideas:
- A brief history of your establishment. Create a video explaining how it all started, feature a quick interview with the owner, historical facts of note, etc.
- An overview of your establishment- A walk-through of your space, room types, what's on offer in the dining room, behind the scenes with the chef, with the head housekeeper, the spa manager, how many rooms you have, other features, etc.
- Location overview. What's your area known for? Highlight favourite hotspots nearby, safari walks/drives, and showcase indigenous flora and fauna (e.g. "5 adventures to have Knysna).
Ready to advertise your accommodation?
Are you ready to take your hotel or accommodation to the next level? Got any other questions about marketing in this space? Let's chat! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Tell us your story
Are you looking to promote your business?
South African Business owners can create your free business listing on nichemarket. The more information you provide about your business, the easier it will be for your customers to find you online. Registering with nichemarket is easy; all you will need to do is head over to our sign up form and follow the instructions.
If you require a more detailed guide on how to create your profile or your listing, then we highly recommend you check out the following articles.
If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on digital marketing.
- A Quick Guide To Content Repurposing
- Creating Content in Times of Pandemic
- Trends In Covid-19 Affected Organic Search Results
- Content Marketing Strategies For A Post-COVID Future
- Your SMEs Survival Guide To Overcome The Impacts of COVID-19