What are hotel sales and why are they important?
The primary reason to focus on boosting hotel room sales is straightforward – it drives revenue. Increased revenue allows you to deliver the service guests expect and propels your hotel towards future growth. Before you can offer additional packages, excursions, and luxury upgrades, you need to master the art of selling rooms.
Another reason to prioritise hotel room sales is to create the atmosphere guests expect. A nearly empty hotel can be off-putting to guests. By selling as many rooms as possible, you provide a lively, charismatic environment that enhances their stay.
While providing a comfortable stay is a key goal for any hotel manager or operator, it’s essential to remember that you’re running a business. This means you need to sell hotel rooms. Your hotel sales strategies should balance your commitment to the guest experience with the necessity of booking as many rooms as possible at any given time.
Whether it’s peak season or off-season, your goal should be to develop room selling techniques designed to increase profitability. Let’s delve into how you can achieve this.
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History and development of hotel sales management
The history and development of hotel sales management is a fascinating journey that reflects the evolution of the hospitality industry itself. It’s a story of adaptation and innovation, driven by technological advancements, changing consumer behaviours, and the dynamic nature of the global travel and tourism industry.
Early Days: Personal Relationships and Word-of-Mouth
In the early days of the hospitality industry, hotel sales management was primarily based on personal relationships and word-of-mouth referrals. Hoteliers would build relationships with travel agents, tour operators, and corporate travel managers to drive bookings. Word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied guests were also a crucial source of new business.
The Rise of Global Distribution Systems (GDS)
The 1960s and 1970s saw the advent of Global Distribution Systems (GDS), computerised networks that enabled travel agencies and travel management companies to access hotel inventories and services in real-time. This marked a significant shift in hotel sales management, as it allowed hotels to reach a global audience and significantly increased the efficiency of the booking process.
The Internet Revolution
The rise of the internet in the 1990s and early 2000s brought about another major shift in hotel sales management. With the advent of online travel agencies (OTAs) like Expedia and Booking.com, hotels were able to reach an even wider audience. However, this also led to increased competition and put downward pressure on room rates.
Direct Bookings and the Rise of Metasearch
In response to the growing power of OTAs, many hotels began focusing on driving direct bookings through their own websites. This led to the development of sophisticated booking engines and the rise of metasearch sites like Kayak and Trivago, which aggregate rates from various booking sites, including the hotels’ own websites.
Data-Driven Sales Management
The latest trend in hotel sales management is the use of data analytics to drive decision-making. With the help of advanced data analysis tools, hoteliers can now make more informed decisions about pricing, distribution, and marketing. This allows them to optimise their sales strategies, maximise revenue, and better meet the needs of their guests.
Top 13 strategies on how to improve hotel sales
Every hotelier needs to implement sales strategies that work best for their own target market as well as for their local destination.
Ultimately, it is up to the hotel operator or manager to create a customised hotel sales strategy that will drive the most room sales at their own individual property, but here are 13 of the best hotel room sales strategies to consider:
1. Hotel group sales strategy
This strategy may require an overhaul of your normal marketing and sales approach. The idea is to sell rooms and meeting spaces to corporate groups; it’s important you can offer a deal for both.
Landing these types of sales requires innovation but it can be very beneficial for repeat business if you do. The most cost-effective way to secure group bookings is by connecting directly to planners.
You can list your property on venue marketplaces where planners can view floor plans, photos, and unique differentiators. It’s also important to segment your target audience, so you can make compelling offers to the right kind of groups for your property.
2. Direct hotel sales strategy
With this sales strategy, the priority is to earn direct bookings online from as many guests as possible. Direct bookings are the most beneficial booking for hotel operators because these bookings generate the most revenue.
There are no agents or other distribution partners that must be paid a commission when a guest books directly online.
In order to implement a direct booking strategy, hotel managers should invest in an online booking system that syncs with their existing website and property management system. Hotel operators should also prioritise their social media strategy when focusing on increasing direct bookings.
3. Destination marketing sales strategy
This type of sales strategy requires a hotel operator to work with other tourism business professionals in their destination to promote the region as a whole.
Through a destination marketing campaign, local businesses team up to target the most powerful inbound tourism markets and drive more traffic to the general area.
4. Cross-promotional sales strategy
With this sales strategy, hotel managers need to identify and evaluate various large events that will be taking place in the local region throughout the calendar year.
Then, the hotel operator needs to come up with a promotion that can coincide with the event, ultimately allowing them to earn an influx of bookings that they may not otherwise have had.
Opportunities that are ideal for a cross-promotional sales strategy include an upcoming industry conference, a concert or a major sporting event.
5. Loyalty program and guest rewards sales strategy
Many travellers today, particularly the powerful millennial generation, value the opportunity to earn rewards with the companies that they do business with. Hotels, in particular, have great success with rewards programs.
In a guest rewards sales strategy, the manager or operator should develop a system that rewards guests for staying frequently, for purchasing upgrades, and for referring friends and family members.
A rewards sales strategy often generates repeat bookings, which are particularly lucrative for hotel operators.
6. Revenue management sales strategy
This type of sales strategy aims to maximise the number of rooms booked at any point in the year, regardless of the typical travel traffic at that particular point in time.
Typically, a revenue management plan requires hotel operators to drop room rates during the low season in order to encourage bookings, while raising rates during high traffic times.
During these moments, guests are going to be willing to pay higher rates to get a room, so it’s worthwhile raising rates to generate more revenue per available room.
7. OTA optimisation
Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Booking.com, Expedia, and Agoda are powerful platforms that can significantly increase your hotel’s visibility and reach a global audience. However, to maximise the benefits of OTAs, it’s crucial to optimise your listings. This includes providing high-quality photos, detailed and engaging descriptions, and up-to-date information about your hotel’s amenities and services. Additionally, managing your rates and availability effectively can help improve your ranking on OTA search results, making your hotel more visible to potential guests.
Remember, while OTAs do charge a commission, they can drive a significant volume of bookings, making them an important part of a balanced hotel sales strategy.
8. Leverage online reviews
A positive online reputation can significantly boost your hotel’s bookings and revenue. Encourage your guests to leave reviews on popular platforms like TripAdvisor, Google, and OTAs. Respond to reviews in a timely and professional manner, showing appreciation for positive feedback and addressing any issues raised in negative reviews. This not only helps improve your hotel’s online reputation but also demonstrates your commitment to guest satisfaction.
Additionally, showcasing positive reviews on your website can help drive direct bookings. Remember, a strong online reputation is a powerful sales tool in the hotel industry.
Upselling is the process of selling a more expensive version of the service or product your customer is buying. The methods you use to upsell need to be handled with a degree of delicacy.
The timing, tone, and regularity with which you upsell is the key to the success of your efforts. You don’t want to seem pushy, so treat it as an exercise in awareness rather than a sales pitch. Make sure guests know what options are available to them but let them initiate any further interest.
Re-marketing allows you to reach out to potential guests who have visited your site without finalising their booking. Many travellers will visit a variety of different websites to explore their options during the research phase of their online booking journey.
With re-marketing strategies, you can access these customers again at different points during their online booking experience and remind them to visit your site again to book with you.
11. Incentives or cross-selling
Cross-selling is the process of selling an additional, supplementary product or service to complement the product or service your customer is buying.
Offering incentives in the form of additional products or services may just be the thing that gets your guest to confirm a booking. Think added-value items like a free massage, or a local tour.
12. Build local partnerships
Unless your hotel is located in a remote or isolated destination, there should be plenty of other businesses and attractions you can form a mutually beneficial partnership with.
Co-promoting with restaurants, speciality shops like ski hire, adventure companies, theme parks, or museums can help lead to easy and effective marketing.
And these kinds of partnerships can work no matter how the guest is planning their trip – be it to book accommodation first, or create their itinerary before looking for a hotel.
13. Make booking easy on your website
The importance of a good website experience for travellers can’t be overstated. Nothing will drain their excitement quicker than a slow, confusing, or convoluted website.
Make sure yours is clean, intuitive, mobile-friendly, and has clear action buttons such as ‘book now’ for potential guests to click. When direct bookings are so valuable, your website has to be a priority.
Hotel sales and marketing
Sales and marketing go hand in hand – sales must be enabled by good marketing to be effective. By basic principle, you shouldn’t market anything that sales can’t deliver, or you’ll risk negative customer feedback. There are so many avenues to market and sell your hotel through that, if you do it right, bookings should never be a problem.
In the hotel industry, marketing depends on how you make travellers aware of your property and your sales tactics will be how you get them to book a stay at your property.
Your marketing should largely revolve around:
- Spreading a brand message
- Adopting a unique voice
- Making contact with your key target markets
- Being active on social media to build an audience
- Having an email marketing strategy
- Utilising a search engine optimisation strategy
- Being mobile friendly
Things that can really help drive sales include:
- Amazing visual advertisements
- Well-crafted copy
- Celebrated feedback
- User-generated content (driven by great experiences)
- Value-rich offers
- Unique selling points
You have a lot of freedom with sales, and it can be exciting. Essentially, you get to tell your potential guest how great your property is and how much fun they’ll have enjoying your hospitality.
Selling your hotel rooms should be all about creating energy and building anticipation in the traveller – they need to believe not staying at your hotel would be a missed opportunity to help make their trip perfect.
Hotel sales ideas
It’s never a good move to put all your eggs in one basket in any situation. Selling your hotel is no exception. You need to have a lot of ideas so when something isn’t working you can shift your focus.
Different selling methods will apply to different markets and demographics – you certainly would sell in the same way to a family as you would to a couple. The good news is that there are hotel sales ideas to cover all bases.
Take a look at this list to kick-start your thinking:
- Let people take virtual tours of your hotel
- Use fresh, interesting, content to answer travellers’ questions
- Keep your website updated with local events
- Have conversations with followers on social media
- Link with local businesses to create lucrative partnerships
- Let guests sell more for you with reviews and user generated content
- Go behind the scenes to humanise your brand
- Connect with influencers
Trying something new is always worthwhile; if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything and it just might be what you need to provide a boost to your hotel sales.
Creative hotel sales ideas
There’s no right or wrong idea before you’ve seen the results. Getting creative means you have to experiment and take actions you haven’t taken before. Take a look at traditional methods and think about how you can step outside of the box.
For instance, selling guests in the local area is very common and very logical. But what if you went further and gave guests even more reason to explore and enjoy their surroundings – just as Palomar San Diego did way back in 2012.
Their initiative was a scavenger hunt competition that sent guests and locals on a city wide adventure via a social networking app called ‘Scavenger Hunt with Friends.’ The idea was to #livelikealocal.
This could have been a complete failure but in reality it generated plenty of coverage for the hotel and added a fresh sense of fun for travellers, while effectively giving them a guided tour of the city.
There are plenty of ways you can subvert traditional sales offers, simply by taking what already exists and thinking one step beyond it or shifting the ingredients to create something travellers haven’t heard or seen before.
Promotional hotel sales idea
Promotions are great because you can be very flexible and targeted with what you offer, and often they’ll grab the attention of travellers searching online.
This is where it can actually be useful to steer into what guests might expect, such as promotions around seasons, themes, events, direct bookings, or partnerships.
1. Seasonal promotions
Most destinations experience a low season, where tourism is not as active as other parts of the year. However, with the right deals your hotel doesn’t have to suffer through empty rooms and hallways.
Try to incorporate discounts with eye-catching promotions like ‘Summer Getaways’ and ‘Winter Retreats’ and remind travellers how beautiful your destination is and how much they can see when there are less crowds.
2. Themed promotions
These will be attention-grabbing and very relevant for travellers looking into booking a stay in the area.
For example you might offer promotions around honeymoons or anniversaries if you’re in a romantic locale, adventure deals if you’re out of the major cities, or ultimate relaxation experiences if you’re a coastal hotel. Appealing to different lifestyles or family setups is always a good idea.
3. Event-based promotions
It makes a lot of sense to capitalise on events and include them in your promotions. People will already be researching these events so if your hotel has a deal in conjunction with them, awareness of your hotel should increase along with site traffic.
These events might include music or art festivals, Easter or Christmas events, circuses, travelling markets, sporting events etc. With a booking you might offer discounted tickets, adapt the hotel experience to match the events, create special rates.
4. Direct booking promotions
Placing exclusive promotions within your booking engine on your website will give travellers an incentive to book directly instead of via an OTA. It will also help establish your hotel website as your most important distribution channel and help increase profit by eliminating OTA commission fees.
The incentive might be a discount, or it might also be an added extra such as a bottle of wine, restaurant voucher, or amenity gift cards.
5. Partnership promotions
Combining with other businesses will reduce the cost of promotion and marketing, and give you wider coverage, as long as your partner holds up their end of the bargain. It may also give you access to a new market and create ongoing business.
Common partnerships include those with theme parks, restaurants, cinemas, museums, sporting arenas, adventure, and tour guides.
It’s one thing to create your promotions, but remember you need people to see them. Always advertise on your social media channels and ensure your search engine optimisation is strong
6. Mobile-only promotions
Year-on-year, nearly every statistic points to an upsurge of mobile usage on hotel, travel, and booking websites, with projected numbers even more prominent.
As quick as online booking overtook more traditional and outdated methods, mobile is starting to usurp desktop. Implementing smart and effective mobile strategies will boost customer experience and keep your hotel competitive within an industry that never stops innovating.
First things first, you’ll need a mobile-optimised website which will attract traffic and remain as user-friendly as a desktop browser. Secondly, your booking engine requires the capability to run promotions with restricted rates to mobile-only, while keeping a painless two-step booking process.
Packaged hotel room sales ideas
Hotel packages are a staple of any marketing and hotel sales strategy, and also something guests will expect to have offered to them.
The impact these packages have on driving extra bookings or boosting revenue will depend on three key factors:
- What you sell
- How you sell it
- When you sell it
Guests won’t purchase a package just because you tell them it’s a great deal. You need to offer them value for money and something that will excite or interest them personally.
Packages can apply to both leisure and business travellers as a pleasure and convenience respectively, and your hotel can only benefit from selling packages as guests who purchase packages are less likely to cancel their booking.
Ideally you want a package that will please every guest but at the same time, if you have too many it will dilute the impact. Three great packages are better than 10 mediocre ones.
Here are five tips when creating your hotel packages:
1. Use other businesses to enrich your packages
Combining your services with that of another tourist attraction in the area is a surefire way to add value to your packages. It also gives you a lot of flexibility on what you can offer guests. Tickets to zoos, tours, theme parks, museums are always popular as are restaurant vouchers.
Even concerts or one-off events can be leveraged as short-term packages. This way you can cater for many different guests, those interested in adventure and those more excited by shopping or fine dining.
2. Promote one-stop shopping
Savvy travellers will look at your packages and wonder exactly what kind of deal they’re getting. Unless you and your business partner agree to offer discounted prices, it’s likely the combined price of a room and a tour package will be similar to the components purchased separately.
This is why you need to advertise the convenience and quality of what you’re offering, rather than spiking the cost.
3. Be creative with your choices
Guests might become rather bored if they see yet another ‘romance’ package. Try incorporating more interesting content into your packages and their names.
For instance, a ‘bucket list’ package might include a selection of passes or discounts to the absolute must-sees of the local area. This will be an attractive option for guests because it’s likely they are already interested in visiting those landmarks.
For business travellers, always focus on convenience such as a package delivering breakfast to their room, free dry cleaning, and transport services.
4. Use your own property to add value
While most packages include a room and some type of external activity, you can make your packages even more enticing by adding your own service to the mix such as spa-treatments or a bar tab.
Guests will want to experience your amenities and they’ll be more likely to pay to do so if it’s included in a package.
5. Cater for specialty markets
Never ignore families. Often it’s the children you’re appealing to most because parents will be looking for activities that will occupy the kids. The same principle applies if you’re a pet-friendly hotel.
You must also consider guests with disabilities and people with specific occupations that you can give personalised packages to.
Don’t forget to promote any new packages you create, be they long-term or one-off. Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and your email to drum up business. Send any information along to your local tourism office so they can do the same.
Another thing to consider is what you want to achieve with your packages. Sometimes they can create a lot of brand awareness, even if they don’t attract much business directly. For example, I read about this strange offer from a hotel in California.
To the average traveller, you and your competitors will often appear very similar. That’s why you need to present an offer that tips the balance and convinces an undecided traveller that yours is the best hotel for them. Package deals and extras are an easy, but extremely effective way of doing this, providing you take the right approach.
Check out the video below to see how your hotel create packages that your hotel guests want:
Hotel sales action plan
Implementing a successful sales strategy requires you to have an effective distribution strategy. Hotel operators must network with industry professionals as well as agents to sell their rooms to the maximum number of people in a variety of target market segments.
Common agents that are included in any distribution strategy include retail travel agents, visitor information centres, local businesses, online travel agents, and destination marketing organisations.
Hotel operators and managers must recognise that their distribution network is a fluid, living entity, and they should constantly be looking for new and innovative ways to reach out to new agents and distributors.
In addition to expanding and developing a diverse distribution network, hotel operators must be able to effectively distribute their rooms to all of their agents in real-time. The only way to do this is to partner with a channel manager that connects to your property management system.
With a channel manager, hotel operators can provide their live availability to every distribution agent that they have, regardless of their location or time zone. This allows them to sell as many rooms as possible — including securing those valuable last-minute bookings.
It also significantly reduces the risk of overbooking rooms at the property, particularly during high-volume times. A channel manager is necessary to implement any sales strategy that a manager wishes to employ at their individual property.
Hotel sales tools
Your hotel sales tools include anything that enables you to bring a guest into your hotel. This might mean your social media accounts, your email marketing campaigns, the phone on your front desk, guest feedback, or back-end hotel technology solutions.
Though when you think of tools as objects or functional pieces of software you might consider these to help inform your sales strategy:
- Social networks
- Analytics tools such as Google
- Survey tools
- Online travel agents
- Property management tools
- Booking engines
- Channel managers
- Website builders
Identifying and using the right tools will depend on your property and the guests you want to attract but for the most part all properties need the same tools. The difference comes in how you use them.
Data is extremely important so using tools that can give you detailed reporting functions is a great step to take. With enough data at your disposal, you can make informed decisions about how you sell, gaining an edge over any competitors who are following a ‘cookie-cutter’ approach.
Obviously you need to be smart about how you use the budget at your hotel and look for tools which will make life easier while helping deliver more revenue to the business.
Hotel sales software
When you think of sales software in a hotel context, it’s better to think of distribution software. Three key pieces of technology that could help you are a channel manager, online booking engine, and website builder.
While they may not be strictly thought of as sales software, they are the key to driving sales and revenue in the hotel industry.
1. Channel manager
This is one of your greatest allies when distributing your rooms because it’s a tool that manages all the different online travel agents (OTAs) you sell your rooms through, such as Booking.com, Expedia or Airbnb.
The main operating principle is called “pooled inventory” which means updates to rates and availability are made automatically across all connected channels whenever and wherever a booking is made.
Enabling a more effective way to promote your rooms will naturally create an increase in sales. Read our guide on channel managers to learn more.
2. Booking engine
An online booking engine has become essential, especially with the rise of social media. Creating a friction-less experience for guests when they book directly will boost your conversion and improve your sales results. Read our guide on booking engines to learn more.
3. Website builder
This takes away the need for you to hire a web designer. Instead you can use this software to create a beautiful, search engine optimised, guest converting website in minutes.
You simply have to provide your content and choose from a number of available templates. Your website is a major selling point for travellers – winning them over with an amazing first impression is imperative.
With the right technology in place, you will be able to easily and effectively implement your hotel room sales strategies. To learn more about these hotel sales tools and to find out if they are the right choice for your hotel property, check out how they work in a video demo.
Advantages of hotel sales strategies
When you sell hotel rooms, you do more than just get another guest in the door of your property. You are able to improve your hotel business in its entirety.
Here are a few of the benefits that you will realise when you employ hotel room sales strategies that are designed to increase hotel room sales:
- You will generate more revenue consistently throughout the entire year. An effective hotel sales strategy allows you to earn as much revenue as possible, regardless of the seasonal ebbs and flows of the tourism industry.
- You will be able to make improvements to your property. As you begin to earn more revenue from your bookings, you can make improvements that will generate buzz about your brand and continue to sell more rooms.
- You will be able to move beyond standard sales strategies and begin creating packages that increase the revenue you generate per guest. Once your sales steadily increase, you can begin to expand your offerings. Romance packages, adventure packages and luxury upgrades allow you to sell more rooms while also boosting the revenue you earn per booking.