3 Easy Ways to Gain Last-Minute Hotel Occupancy Online

05th Oct 2013

NB: This is an article written By : Ashley Stevens  the Director of Client Services for Blue Magnet Interactive

As hoteliers, you’ve all been there: a group cancels at the last minute and you’re stuck with an excess of empty rooms. As the Director of Sales of a hotel, you’re scrambling to get guests into your hotel that same night but have little time to coordinate a huge occupancy push. It’s happened before and will likely happen again. But never fear! Next time, just turn to your online channel to drive some last-minute occupancy. Below are three easy ways to get some heads in your beds when you need them most.

1. Social Media Promotions

Start planning today–even when you don’t have the dire need for last-minute rooms–by creating an exclusive rate for social media channels. Next time you need last-minute rooms, open this rate to your guests and share an announcement of the rate via social media. You can work with your social media team to implement targeting strategies and focus on guests looking for same-night rooms via Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels.
If you already have a large fan base on Facebook, create a post about the special rate and ask your fans to share the post to help spread the word. Be clear with your message: your hotel is offering discounted rooms and you should be sure people understand this is a “one night only” type offer. Also, you should make your content something your fans would want to share. Post a picture of your most beautiful room or best hotel photo and encourage people to like the post if they like the photo. In addition, you should ask your fans to share the post. This will increase your “people talking about this” score and get your rates in front of more potential guests.
Blue Magnet has seen great success sharing deals & discounted rates on Twitter because of its open and searchable platform. By using hashtags like #cheaphotel or #sale in addition to a hashtag for the city name (ie, #chicago), you can reach a much broader audience. The best news is that these tweeters are already looking for deals in your city so they’re likely to click through to your website and ideally book.

2. Same Day Sales

While some brands are shying away from using OTA sites for typical bookings due to high margins and decreased ADRs, many hoteliers agree OTA sites are still useful for gaining last minute occupancy. By running sales with your OTA of choice, you can see loads of extra exposure with very minimal management of the promotion. Not only that, but you get the added benefit of the billboard effect and its impact on future bookings.
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As soon as you realize you may be desperate for same-night bookings, the first thing you should do is call your OTA market manager or online marketing manager. Explain that you are looking to drive occupancy for the same night. Most likely he or she will recommend you set up a same-day sale and discount your rate.
Since same-day sales run the same day as the booking, these deep discounted rooms don’t violate brands’ best rate guarantees. In fact, you could discount your room as much as you’d like and not have to worry about rate parity if the booking and stay are within 24 hours of each other. (This is true for most brands in the Blue Magnet client base, but please be sure to check with your brand performance team before assuming this is the same for your brand.)
Blue Magnet has also seen success with negotiating margins on top of using the one-day sales. For example, if we put together a same day sale on Expedia we typically commit to giving Expedia a slightly higher margin for the need date. Expedia sees this as a benefit and will temporarily bump your hotel up in the search rankings, thereby giving you even more exposure.

3. Expedia Travel Ads

This is another strategy where you’ll need to do some prep work ahead of time in order to execute during your last-minute need periods. Even if you have a full house tonight, contact Expedia Market Management (MM@Expedia.com) or your local area’s market manager and ask for details about signing up for TravelAds. Expedia Travel Ads are a budget-friendly way to pay for better rankings in Expedia.
In order to set up the ads, your hotel will have to buy into at least $250 worth of ads if you pay with a credit card or $500 worth of ads if you would like to be invoiced directly. Keep in mind that once you invest this money, it’s yours to spend as you’d like; you can spend until it runs out or pause it and use it specifically for need periods.
Once you set up your ads, be sure you start to target specific date ranges. If you need the rooms tonight, you can target guests searching for a hotel the same night. You can target only tonight, specific date ranges or general searches. Blue Magnet finds the most success for its hotels by targeting searches for specific need dates when our hotels need the rooms and are willing to pay the margins to the OTA for room nights.
If you know your hotel ranks poorly for organic searches in your market on Expedia, you may decide to use these ads more than just for need periods.  (Secret tip: Tell your digital marketing manager to keep you in the loop for sales on ads – sometimes Expedia will offer deals on money for ads!) Otherwise, keep the money reserved for a day when you’ll truly need it, and you’ll be happy you planned ahead.

Be Prepared: Plan Your Strategies Today

Use the strategies above to help you gain last-minute bookings at your property. Whether a group cancels at the last minute or your forecast shows that you’re heading into a high need period, plan ahead and take advantage of your online opportunities; you’ll gain some extra room nights and look like the hero to your sales team! For even more ideas, contact your online marketing manager; he or she should have an arsenal of strategies on hand to drive incremental bookings at the drop of a hat.

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