Would you walk past a tree with money attached to the low-hanging leaves? A 2014 study found that most people will walk right by dollar bills hanging from a tree at eye level. This common human trait is known as inattentional blindness—when people miss things in plain sight because they don’t expect them and their focus is elsewhere.
How does this relate to your property? Chances are there are creative ways to elevate hotel revenue through the utilities you already have—you just have to ‘see’ them first!
1. Make the F&B experience memorable
You’ve got the formal restaurant or casual pub or snack bar (or all three!) on-site. Now it’s time to boost their income generation. Opportunities include sending a coupon for onsite restaurants within group confirmation emails and offering lower-cost specials between typical busy times, such as the lull between lunch and dinner, or late evening before closing.
Have bartenders pitch specialty drinks named for the incoming business event or occasion, being sure to include appealing, easy-to-spot signs detailing the ingredients. Similarly, the head pastry chef or baker can create specialty cookies or cakes iced with a design that matches the theme of the group event. Event-specific F&B ideas to inspire:
- Science symposium: Cookies shaped like beakers and iced with measurements.
- Technology company: Cakes decorated with the company’s logo, or star app design.
- Garden company: Dessert offerings displayed on ‘field’ of lemongrass.
- Publishing conference: Cocktails named after characters in best-selling novels.
- Traveling youth baseball team: Championship sliders for a post-game celebration.
Consider also creating special three-course tasting menus for off-peak hours so guests can enjoy small versions of house specialties at more affordable prices, or create seasonal tasting menus for large groups.
Take a cue from luxury hotels that are now offering in-room cocktail service, where a bartender makes drinks to order from a cart wheeled to your room. Or, offer a take-away breakfast option for business travelers leaving early to catch a flight. Refine your F&B for your group market and include options for people with dietary restrictions that are delicious (rather than obvious afterthoughts). Groups are less likely to utilize on-site F&B if there’s a lack of options for even one event attendee.
Track the results of your F&B offerings within your CRM software. With a clear picture of the most popular offerings for different group segments you can create targeted F&B for upcoming events.
2. Event spaces: Think beyond business and weddings
Encourage your group sales teams to widen their focus beyond the traditional business and wedding events. Some possibilities include:
- Large local book clubs
- Political action strategy meetings
- Volunteer group annual planning meetings
- Foreign film buff meetups (or any shared-interest groups)
- Cosplay evenings
- Fiction writers group meetings
- Running club annual socials
Include local groups in your outreach, or cast a wider net if your hotel has something unique to offer. For example, a hotel with outstanding trail running nearby is in an excellent position to become a destination for trail running clubs across the country. If you’ve got a state-of-the-art A/V setup with a large screen—make it available for movie screenings, season finales of popular shows, or championship games.
Explore Meetup and Eventbrite to discover regional groups holding annual or monthly events, and reach out to organizers with a detailed rundown of how venues meet their specific needs. Market your event spaces to regional community groups and local colleges, and be sure to include photos of non-traditional events on your website and social media feed.
3. Upsell rooms and services, but don’t be pesky
A room with a balcony. A half-day at the spa. Late check-out for a nominal fee. Upselling is a key area where hotels can increase revenue, as long as the focus stays on improving the guest experience.
The hard sell and too frequent upselling can backfire by making guests uncomfortable and undermining repeat business. It’s essential to know your guests and the upselling or cross-selling appropriate for them. Upselling afternoon wine and cheese on the terrace to a wedding party with lots of kids in the mix isn’t likely to get a bite, while a wedding party of adults may appreciate the upsell. Tracking successful upsells for different group segments within your CRM can help guide these efforts.
Hotel properties can also leverage the rise of ‘bleisure’ travel—the trend of combining business and leisure travel—by providing specialty services for this type of traveler. Offer an ‘Adventure Concierge’ as an amenity for business conferences. These specialists can design offsite itineraries to nearby attractions and activities so event guests feel they’ll get the most out of extending their trip for a few days.
4. Host live events that generate buzz
Live events can draw people from across the country, as well as people from the surrounding region who may not stay the night, but who may make reservations at the restaurant or enjoy a few drinks at the bar. Reach out to local event organizers, universities, and business associations and give them dates open for live events over the next year or two. Events that can generate excitement include:
- Popular regional acoustic groups with a cult following
- Jazz trios
- Author readings
- Lectures by notable professors
- String quartets
- Cultural celebrations (Irish or Scottish Céilís, Mini Carribean Carnivals, etc.)
Use social media and hashtags that combine the hotel and the event to spread the word and get the venue on the radar of event planners.
5. Showcase and sell hotel decor and linens
Do guests rave about your hotel’s cozy comforters? Admire your striking wall decor or bedside lamps? Jokingly ask at check-out if they can take the bed home with them? Many top hotels now offer their furniture, linens, and decor for sale on branded e-commerce sites—The W Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton, and Sheraton hotels to name a few.
If your hotel’s design includes something exceptional elements—think reclaimed wood coffee tables or limited-edition pendant lamps—offer them for sale in the hotel shop or simply alert them to the option within the hotel room information folder. If guests share their love of the hotel’s sea salt body scrub or in-room shaving kit, put it on display with a price behind the concierge so people can easily add it to their bill and take a bit of hotel luxury and papering home with them.
For business groups, look for amenities engineered just for them, such as mobile lap desks or compact sit-stand desks on wheels? Business travelers may find these items so helpful and convenient they want them for their home or office too.
6. Highlight local artisans and businesses
When away from home for business or leisure—travelers enjoy discovering what makes the area distinct. If there’s a local brewery near the hotel, organize tours for group visitors and offer cases of the brewery’s favorite beers to attendees. Perhaps the region boasts a glassblowing studio, pottery studio, or furniture maker, or a regional watercolor painter who has gained some renown. Share your admiration for these local artisans and offer to display and sell their creations in the hotel lobby for a small commission on each sale.
7. Boost group occupancy during the off season
Use your creativity and your marketing dollars to drum up group business during the off season for a single hotel or a hotel group. People don’t always think of beach hotels for the holidays, but you could create a winter wonderland indoors with fairy lights and indoor snow that attracts groups looking for an affordable (and festive!) winter business retreat.
Is one of your properties a popular golf resort? Consider turning the fairway into a cross-country skiing destination for business retreats and experiential weddings. Don’t forget to create specialty hot-cocoas to serve at the bar or around the lobby fireplace après-ski!
8. Rent amenities during quiet times
During quiet months or quiet hours of the day, consider renting amenities to local groups and businesses. For example, you can make your swimming pool available to local day camps with no swimming pool for swimming lessons or to senior citizens centers for pool exercise classes. Only consider this if your pool is large enough to have a section roped off for the classes, while a large section remains available to guests. Similarly, you can rent the hotel’s tennis courts for community recreation programs in the early mornings before guests typically make use of them.
Another option is renting meeting rooms to local groups during the site’s off-season. This takes some outreach to business associations, community groups, and area government managers who can spread the word to organizations who probably assume the facilities were beyond their budget. Clarify dates and pricing, and then treat them as you would any group when they arrive—let stellar service turn these attendees into brand ambassadors.
9. Reclaim and make the most of underused spaces
Are the hotel pools on certain properties underutilized, such as hotels that see robust bookings for busy conferences with packed schedules—i.e. no time for swimming. Pool upkeep is expensive and reenvisioning the space may be in order if the revenue gained by rooms outweighs the pool’s appeal to guests.
Does your property feature stunning views? Pop-up hotels are a fast-growing segment to explore. Create a pop-up glamping hotel in a picturesque corner of the property with an outdoor bar, fire pit, and easy, pull-back tent flaps for stargazing. This is another excellent offering for corporate team-building retreats, as well as adventurous couples who want a unique wedding for themselves and their guests.
Many urban hotels are adding coworking spaces to their lobbies for use by the growing population of remote workers and digital nomads. Models can vary, from free use of the space with the expectation that workers will spend money for coffee and food to a monthly subscription model that includes unlimited coffee and use of hotel amenities like the pool.
10. Rent parking spots
Parking is an easy asset to overlook, but if your hotel is located in a busy metro area or near events, institutions, or offices with overflow parking issues—you can rent parking spots. Survey your immediate environment for opportunities, including:
- Performing arts centers
- Office buildings
- Busy restaurants and bars
Audit your parking lot capacity at different times (morning, night, weekends) and determine the number of parking spots you can rent without impacting the experience of your guests. Then reach out to the property managers of these sites to share the parking availability through a calendar year, and clarify that event-night traffic control in the lot is their responsibility. If you get takers, this can be a steady stream of passive revenue for hotels.
Take a look at your hotel properties, the land, and the surrounding region with the goal of uncovering missed opportunities. The ones that make sense for your group business and your budget can transform the hotels you manage so they’re bustling in one way or another—24/7/365.