Contributed by Ian Kemp, Client Experience Manager for Major Accounts, SHR
“Resorts are more about the guest experience than any other type of hotel. Remember to speak to that in everything you do.”
—Sandy Hartmann, Marcus Hotels & Resorts
Today’s leisure markets have never been more competitive. With limited time frames to boost their revenues heading into high seasons, today’s resort managers need every advantage they can find to make the most of their peak times. In a recent webinar, we brought together SHR's Director of Revenue Management, Sarah Jones, and Client Experience Manager for Major Accounts, Ian Kemp, plus special guest, Sandy Hartmann of Marcus Hotels & Resorts, to reveal how a finely-tuned CRS configuration and knowing how to use your technology can help accomplish this.
Owning the Guest Experience
As they say, you want to sell the sizzle, not the steak. What that means to hoteliers is to sell the experience, not just the room, and first impressions count. Since the website is often the first place you are found by guests, Ian recommended keeping the homepage on your site free of visual clutter. Resort guests tend to cruise through more sites than, say, a business traveler might, so you want to make sure that when they do show interest, they can get to where they want to go, and quickly. Also, ensure that your “book now” button is easy to find. “And keep in mind that today’s more tech-savvy guests are doing their shopping on multiple devices, so make sure your site works well in different formats,” Ian advised. Sarah added that those same tech-smart guests want to picture themselves at your resort, so make sure to fill those traditionally empty pool, lobby, and bar photos with people. “Every resort is unique to their guests, so make sure you know who you’re speaking to with your photos and verbiage to make it fun and attractive,” she said.
Don’t Forget the Call Center
Sandy reminded everyone about the vital contributions a well-prepped call center agent can make in turning “looking” into “booking.” What do agents need? “Resorts get far more people who are going to start at the website and work from there,” she pointed out. So, make sure a package is available to the call center when the guest finds it and wants to get info. “Everything must mirror each other,” she explained. In other words, if they are looking at your golf packages, tell them about golf, not massages. And, as Sarah offered, keep in mind, you’re competing against Airbnb and other sharing economy alternatives out there, so it pays to get keep your call center sharp.
Selling Specialty Room Types
As Sandy said before, you need to remember to speak to the guest experience in everything you do. This also means putting yourself in your guests’ place. Look at what they see on your site when shopping room types. “You want their choices to be clear,” Sarah advised. “For instance, if you have 15 room types and price points, make sure that your photos reflect those different price points.” On the other hand, if you find yourself with too many room types to count, streamlining things may be your best bet. Whatever you do, don’t burden your guest with too many choices. You may think you’re giving them more when all you’re really giving them is confusion. Sandy suggested that for the call center, you want to ask qualified questions that directly apply to that guest. As for selling those higher priced rooms, you need to make it worthwhile. “Don’t ever apologize for your higher rates,” she said, “But do make sure the guest knows why that more expensive room will add to their experience.”
Flexing Your Tech for a Clear Offering
Ian pointed out that this is where having flexible booking technology can come in handy. “Having a rate code that tells the guest every aspect of their package is important,” he explained. “Your CRS should have a way to set up packages to do this.” Also, the ability to do blended rates can come into play with mixed bookings, i.e. two nights of a package at one rate, then one of a non-package. In addition, curating rates can help the booking engine to populate the lowest priced packages first so they sell out first. “Your technology needs to be able to flex with you to help give your guest all the information they need to make their best decision,” Ian said.
Maximize Your Booking with Attractive Specials
Sandy explained that ready-made packages at a resort can help the decision-making process for undecided guests, and it can help with your revenue and your yield, but you must make it easy to fulfill the packages. “You don’t want someone to walk into your resort with a set of golf clubs in tow to find out there is no golf,” she said. “You don’t want a person who’s chosen a breakfast package to be offered a choice of breakfast as if they hadn’t.” Also, remember to offer easy a la carte add-ons after initial bookings, i.e., by the pool, with balcony, etc. Ian reminded everyone that from a systems perspective, this means that certain rate codes should receive certain add-ons that are logical. Sorting is key as well. “You need a CRS with control over which add-ons show first,” he advised. Sarah agreed, adding that “You need to be able to control inventory. If you’ve only got 5 cabanas, you need to apply inventory controls so you don’t oversell but fill up each cabana, ending up with much happier guests who will not only return next season but who will be glad to write up reviews for your resort to spread the joy.”