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Tips Tuesday: Budget Friendly Perks & Rewards to Increase Group Bookings

Group bookings can be a tremendous source of revenue for limited service hotels, but it is often a struggle to attract groups and keep them coming back for subsequent stays. Savvy hotel operators and owners have started to offer creative perks and rewards to groups to increase their number of bookings, establish loyalty, and make their hotels stand out from the crowd. Read on for 9 creative and budget-conscious perks and rewards that you can offer for group bookings. 

1. Partner up: Discounts to local businesses

Partnering with local businesses for discounts has a number of benefits for your guests, your hotel, and the businesses that you partner with. Guests feel like they are getting something extra with their stay, as well as useful information about the area’s attractions and ideas of things to do. If there is one organizer for the group, having ideas for group activities can be extra helpful. Local businesses will also feel like you are more connected with the community, and may be more likely to use your property or recommend it when they have needs for local meeting space.

Great options for local discounts include tours and museums, restaurants, movie theaters, local attractions, and coffee shops. The more unique the location or experience, the higher its potential value to your guests. Don’t forget seasonal attractions like flower shows, fall festivals, and holiday markets when negotiating for group discounts.

Make sure to publish and update your list of discounts on your website, hotel app, guest booking materials, and any digital signage throughout the property to keep your guests informed. Groups will only use the discounts if they know about them!

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2. Unique experiences: Arrange special events

With special events, your hotel has the chance to create a truly unique experience for your guests, and ensure that they will choose your property or brand again. While sports and dining experiences are the most common, there really is no limit to the types of experiences that you can provide. Maybe your wedding bookings can include a manicure for the bride, or discounted spa services for her entire wedding party. If you have a sports team coming, you could arrange a session with a fitness coach or trainer in your hotel’s gym or an outdoor space. These experiences don’t need to be expensive in order to show that you understand the group and want them to have an exceptional stay at your property.

Access to special events is rated as the number one loyalty program perk by millennial guests, so this option is a particularly good fit for millennial groups arriving at your hotel. Consider arranging an Instagram photo session with a local photographer, a cooking class in your kitchen during restaurant down-time, or host an outdoor movie night with snacks and sodas.

3. Unconventional space: Reserve hotel spaces for group use

While meeting spaces and room blocks may your main source of revenue from groups, a little bit of outside-the-box thinking may lead to some additional sources of income for your hotel’s group sales strategy. Consider whether you have any underutilized spaces throughout your property, and whether there is anything creative you can do with them to help certain groups. For instance, a visiting swim team, bridal party, or family reunion may opt to reserve your pool for a few hours to have for their private use. A corporate group may wish to use your restaurant kitchen during the quiet lunch-time hours for a group cooking class. 

Choose unique features of your property – your rooftop deck, courtyard garden, top-floor suite, or gym – and consider how a group might use it. Just make sure to check with your insurance company, legal team, and operations department to ensure there are not any restrictions on how you can use the space.

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4. Logistics and storage: Help with packages and gear

Big groups often come with a lot of gear – whether that is sports equipment, musical instruments, conference materials, or personal luggage. They may expect that gear to be a headache to deal with, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want groups to come back again and again, making the process of receiving and storing their equipment and belongings is a great way to stand out and earn guest loyalty.

Before groups arrive for their stay, check with the event planner or group organizer about what type of gear they will have, and whether any of it will arrive before the group does. Offering a storage space and the ability to receive packages at the hotel may be standard procedure at your hotel, but it can be a particularly useful perk for groups. Include messaging about your package and equipment storage in your group booking materials, and communicate with the group about this perk throughout the booking process.

5. Room perks: Free nights, room upgrades, early check-in and late check-out, suites for VIP’s

Speaking of perks – remember that all of the perks you offer to individual guests can also be offered to groups. Free nights on their stay, room upgrades, early check-in, and late check-out can be powerful rewards if offered in the right context. You can also set up reward tiers to offer larger rewards for larger bookings. If a wedding party books 10+ rooms, maybe they get late check-out for all of their guests, while 20+ rooms leads to a room upgrade for the happy couple. Many hotels now opt to group their rewards into tiers and then let the group choose their rewards as they reach each tier level. 

When handing out traditional rewards like room upgrades, don’t forget the meeting planner or event organizer. This is your main point of contact, and their opinion will make a big difference in whether the group comes to stay again. Treat your event planners like the VIP’s they are, and make sure that they feel taken care of throughout the booking process as well as the group’s stay.

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6. Roll out the welcome mat: Welcome gifts, beverages on arrival, and airport shuttles

It has often been said that, you have one chance to make a good first impression. While first impressions are incredibly important for group sales, you actually have a few different points in the sales and booking process where you can impress your guests. Booking emails, planning calls, welcome gifts, arrival and departure transportation, and how the group is received will all play a large role in the overall experience that the group has at your property.

One underutilized perk is the welcome drink or signature cocktail. While hotels in the carribean have been serving rum punch upon arrival for decades, the trend has only recently extended beyond tropical vacation destinations. While it may not make financial sense to offer all guests a welcome drink, it can be a wonderful budget-friendly perk to offer for groups. Is there a cocktail or mocktail that your location is known for? Do you want to inspire feelings of warmth and comfort with a warm drink in the winter? Or could you offer something more fitting for the group, like a local beer for an association of brewers? Use the welcome drink as a chance to stand out, show off your local flair, and craft a unique experience for your groups.

Groups arriving at an airport will need transportation, a perk that can provide outsized returns for your property. Because the group will often arrive all together on one flight, you only need to provide one van or bus to get the whole group to your property. This is a budget-friendly option for the hotel, and a huge help for the arriving group. By forming a relationship with a local shuttle or bus operator, you can receive a discount for your property as well as supporting a local business.

7. A parting gift: Help coordinate room gift bags

The welcome bag is a common gift left by wedding organizers or the wedding party in the rooms of their guests. This is usually coordinated with the hotel in terms of entry to the block of rooms, but is otherwise organized and handled by the guests themselves. But who says the welcome bag needs to only be for weddings, or only be organized by guests? You can use this idea for your property’s group bookings as a unique perk to stand out from the crowd.

Leaving a small gift in guests’ hotel rooms before they arrive is a personable way to greet them, and can be especially effective for group bookings. Just like all the rewards you provide, this perk should be customized to the type of group that has booked with you, and the type of experience you want to provide. A group arriving for a family reunion and picnic might appreciate a gift of local honeys and jams. Maybe you can show off a local specialty by partnering with a restaurant or shop that offers teas, coffees, or snacks. Whatever you choose, make it personal by including a small note for the group members.

8. Hotel swag: Provide branded merchandise

While providing branded hotel merchandise may be one of the first perks that comes to mind for hotel owners and operators, the type of merchandise provided can vary widely and be a true differentiating factor for your property. 

Consider what items would be most helpful for your guests when choosing branded merchandise, rather than jumping straight to the items that are easiest to design or order (I’m looking at you, pens). Maybe your group of luxury business travelers will give your hotel a large amount of revenue if they keep coming back for a certain conference each year: those groups might warrant higher-ticket items like portable chargers or USB drives. Sports teams and tour groups might appreciate a reusable water bottle. A custom Rubik’s cube has the dual advantages of being a fun puzzle for younger guests and having a large print area for your messaging. An eye mask is a much-appreciated gift for any traveler that has come a long way or would like to sleep in after a late night. 

Choose products that are fun to share, have a large print area, can be stored without special conditions, and are safe for all types of guests so that you don’t run into any problems down the line. As with all perks, the branded merchandise you provide should be appropriate for the group that you are giving it to. Having two to five different items on hand should allow you to customize your perks appropriately and provide a tailored experience for your guests.

9. Follow up: Checking in after their stay

Sometimes all a guest needs is the feeling that the hotel is really listening to them and cares about their stay. For group bookings, it is vital to follow up and get feedback on both the good and the bad aspects of the group’s experience. But inspiring loyalty requires more than a basic follow up. Pay attention to why the group was at your property, and craft your follow up appropriately. Did the sports team win their big game? Send them a congratulations! Did the company win the big deal that they were going after? Showing an interest in your guests and forming a relationship can be the biggest perk of all.

For all of these perks, it is incredibly important to make sure that the reward fits the type of group that you are offering it to. A CRM system can help you to segment your groups by type, allowing you to quickly decide on the types of rewards that you will offer. Consider using a CRM to improve your group bookings, learn more about your audience, and leverage budget-friendly perks to increase group loyalty.

Ready to leverage a CRM to improve your group bookings? Check out a demo of Social Tables’ group sales and catering CRM software. You can also learn the most effective ways to maximize group revenue with these 4 tips for venue marketing, or discover how to draw more wedding business with 8 ways to make your wedding-friendly hotel stand out.

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