Welcome to Episode 3 of the Confessions of a Hotel General Manager series, a new series on the issues that keep GMs up at night. Each episode explores in detail the trials and tribulations of what it takes to manage a hotel, painting a candid portrait of what goes on behind the scenes. Aliases are used to protect the identity of our subjects, and so we can bring you, the reader, their stories.
In this new episode, we will share a story about “Steve,” who is a general manager at a recently renovated hotel in Houston, Texas. Steve faced immense pressure from ownership to quickly generate revenue from their newly built high-end restaurant, as well as other new amenities that were added during the renovations.
Table of Contents
Episode 3: Increasing Guest Spend
The downtown district in Houston, Texas is the perfect hybrid between modern style and good old southern hospitality. Perceived as the premier dining and entertainment hot spot, downtown Houston is the perfect place for everybody to enjoy the company of family and friends.
Let’s meet Steve Z, who is a newly hired general manager at a hotel right in the heart of Downtown Houston.
Coming from a hotel and restaurant management background, I knew the importance of providing a complete experience for guests outside of just staying in our rooms.
One of the main reasons I joined this hotel is because of the investment and dedication made by the ownership group to renovate the entire property and add a new restaurant, bar, and spa to enhance the experience for guests. Do you know how many places I worked that were run down? I wanted to be a part of something new and exciting as well as being the driver in promoting our brand.
Most people have a perception that hotel restaurants, bars, and other onsite amenities are overpriced while being mediocre at best. To be honest, it is true in most cases, which is why it has always been a challenge for me to think about different ways to attract our hotel guests to partake in amenities whether it’s a restaurant or spa.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve tried every tactic imaginable to get people to come into the restaurant. We’ve leveraged virtually every space within our hotel to promote the new amenities. Signs were displayed in the lobby, bathrooms, elevators as well as in guest rooms. We’ve handed out coupons at check-in and then put more in the rooms.
We’ve tried promoting different theme nights and happy hours on social media. We had a night where we offered free drinks with dinner, free passes to a nearby museum with dinner, and a free entry to a raffle for an iPhone if you came in and spent $25.
Nothing seemed to work. And, as you may expect, with large investments come larger expectations. After a long meeting with leadership, the pressure was on and my job was on the line. I needed to find a better way to promote and drive guests to our restaurant/bar as well as our new spa service. One thing I knew was that we had to do it in a way that is non-intrusive and personalized.
Start with Awareness
We wanted to generate awareness and excitement from as many channels as possible, and while we hit a few initially, we definitely left some stones unturned. First, we finally updated our website to feature our new upgrades, sent emails to past guests, put out a press release and even spent some money on digital advertisements that included radio, online banners, and social media ads.
Working with our promotions team, we developed special packages that our guests can enjoy based on the type of trip they are planning. For example, we created a package for a romantic getaway that included a suite, private dinner and couples spa service.
For families, we created a package that included a welcome gift bag for the kids and special family activities that included breakfast, arts & crafts and tickets to visit a nearby aquarium. This not only helped us generate awareness but also helped us to upsell our guests right at the booking process.
Our front desk staff were trained to let guests know about our newly built amenities and proactively offer happy hour specials at our bar, discounts to our restaurant and spa services.
This multichannel approach ensured we were positioned to reach as many potential guests as possible of all types and age ranges.
We pride ourselves on delivering personalized service for every guest. To do so, we collect as much information about a guest as possible during the booking process as well as ask questions during check-in so our staff can provide the guests what they need before they even arrive in their room like an extra rollaway bed or a special type of coffee they prefer.
Since we gather so much guest data, I knew there was a way for us to use it for personalized upselling opportunities.
Personalizing promotions was our main goal to drive revenue. Once a guest booked a room with us, we would immediately leverage that information to create a personalized promotional email program to entice them to make a dinner reservation or book a spa service.
For example, if a guest traveling for business just flew across the country, we would recommend a relaxing spa treatment for them to get the trip started off right and re-energize them for the meetings ahead. Or if a couple is out celebrating a birthday or anniversary, we would entice them to dine at our restaurant by providing a special package that included a complimentary beverage and dessert to make their day extra special.
This type of personalization helped us provide a full experience for our guests rather than just a bed and a couple of pillows. Making recommendations relevant to each guest is the key to making them feel special rather than thinking you’re simply trying to sell them something. Plus, since we’ve started, our restaurant has seen a lot more traffic!
In-the-Moment Guest Engagement
As I was doing some research on upselling techniques, I came across this interesting stat:
Fully engaged hotel guests spend 46% more per year than actively disengaged guests spend.
It made sense. If my guests are engaged with our staff, they are more likely to spend more. I had to find ways for our guests to conveniently communicate with our staff no matter where they were on our property.
For guests that are in their rooms, we’ve made it easy to request room service and other items they need by simply ordering it through our hotel phone, TV or the Amazon Echo voice device by simply asking Alexa.
However, most of our guests are out and about having fun. We wanted to provide them with a convenient way to communicate with us as well. We added a much-needed chat functionality on our mobile app as well as a general SMS text messaging capability for guests that didn’t want to download the app.
Besides having guests message us for requests, we’ve also been proactive in sending text messages to our guests telling them about special events and happy hour specials.
I was really surprised to see the number of messages we exchanged with our guests on a daily basis. From extra towels, dinner reservations, and late checkouts to extended stay requests, our guests really love the convenience and personalized attention we give them by providing a text messaging service.
It makes them feel like we are right where they need us to be, and ready to serve them. They get what they need much faster and we get more opportunities to upsell.
This experience has taught me that convenience is number one when it comes to our guests. When you make it convenient for them to get what they need, they will love you for it.
Another important lesson: in order for hotels to sell more to guests, they have to make it personalized. It shouldn’t feel like selling at all, but rather a recommendation from a friend. Realizing this not only significantly increased the use of our new amenities (and saved my job) but got us some incredible online reviews.
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