Repositioning Your Hotel for Survival- Marketing Strategies For Attracting Leisure Guests


As they say, the numbers don’t lie.  At GCommerce, we are constantly reviewing trends in our proprietary reporting platform Summit, and the trends are clear.  Hotels and resorts that don’t rely heavily on group business; those located outside of large city centers and that have appeal to leisure clients are doing far better than their peers. It is frankly jarring to look at reports showing properties getting HUGE returns on their media dollars and achieving occupancies that are approaching normalcy while also observing properties with a far different and more dire outlook.  

Hotel group business, and to a large degree hotel business transient bookings, are likely to be scant for the near future.  If your property was built to serve those markets, you are likely grasping at straws and wondering what steps you can take, however small, to drive some much-needed occupancy.  Appealing to leisure travelers might be part of the solution for your hotel.  While we can’t promise that leisure business will be plentifully available, there are some simple hotel marketing strategies you can take to attract any demand that exists.

First, learn from recent history.  Smith Travel Research conducted an in-depth post-mortem of the 2009 hotel market.  They found that hotels that drastically reduced their rates, flailing in an attempt to attract customers, performed the poorest, and took the longest to recover.  You worked for years to establish your price/value.  Do whatever you can to suppress the urge to sacrifice it for short term gains.  Price is not the answer; positioning, offerings, and hotel media strategy are.

Four Hotel Marketing Strategies to Attract Short Term Leisure Guests

  1.  Speak Directly to their Needs- Start by looking at your hotel’s website through the eyes of a leisure customer.  Chances are your copy, your images and your overall presentation feature the property’s group and business traveler amenities.  Can you make some simple changes using your hotel website’s CMS (hopefully easy to implement) that will start to highlight your leisure offerings?  While the business and group travelers tend to fit more into the road warrior category, understanding the nuances and expectations of life on the road, leisure travelers tend to need more hand-holding before making a reservation.  Do your hotel’s room types clearly outline what they include, from double vanities to full-size mirrors to laundry service?  Are you painfully clear when describing your property policies?  Small copy changes can go a long way to providing leisure guests comfort during booking.
  2. Address COVID-19 Head On- Speaking of policies, like many of you we have thought long and hard about how to address COVID.  In our estimation, the best approach when appealing to leisure guests is to loudly acknowledge your COVID policies on your homepage and other relevant pages of your hotel’s website.  We believe that exuding thoughtfulness and competence in your approach to COVID outweighs concerns about reminding guests of the risks.  GCommerce recently published recommendations on ways to communicate your property’s COVID-19 precautions if you are looking for additional suggestions.
  3. Merchandise- Offers and packages provide a great opportunity to appeal to leisure travelers while helping position your property accordingly.  Can you easily offer late check-out or free breakfast packages?  Simple leisure-focused offers can appeal to hotel guests without eroding your long term price/value.  Packages also give you space to feature and draw awareness to attractions that are safe and open in your area.  “Day at the museum” or “Free kayak rental” packages may help convince a leisure guest to choose your property while giving them itinerary ideas they might not have found otherwise.  
  4. Laser Targeted Hotel Media Campaigns- Finally, fine-tune your hotel’s media campaigns.  Our current data shows that a lion's share of all leisure business is being booked by guests within 150 miles of the property.  Focus on the local drive market, and focus on media that appeals to “getaways” or “escapes.”  Make sure your hotel’s messaging through that media highlights your new offerings.  Your future leisure guests are your current neighbors in search of a reason to leave isolation for something better.  For a more in-depth look at hotel media strategy during COVID, see the blog from our talented marketing team

Appealing primarily to leisure travelers may not be central to your DNA, but with some thoughtful work, it can be done and done without great expense.  

If you have additional questions or need help crafting a new marketing strategy for your hotel, please reach out. Our experienced hotel digital marketing team is standing by to help.