For hotel directors of sales and marketing, Valentine’s Day is less about romance or showing one’s affection and more about delivering some semblance of occupancy during the traditionally low-revenue winter months (outside of the ‘sun destinations’). Most plans are ideated and drawn out in broad strokes in late fall or prior to the holiday season, with tactical execution beginning in earnest once all the holiday season hoopla dies down in the first week of January.
With Valentine’s Day falling a month and a day from this writing, if you haven’t already started acting on your plan, realistically you are only two weeks behind most of your competitors, so there’s still time to attract guests. Below are some ideas to help you do just that. And even if you have kicked your Valentine’s plans into gear, perhaps there’s one that you can tack on to enhance your offerings.
1. Valentine’s Day is now Valentine’s Week. This year presents a special challenge in that the 14th of February falls on a Tuesday. Many couples will be celebrating on the preceding weekend while others will opt for something quainter and local on the night of or even the Monday if there are scheduling conflicts. To appeal to this divergent consumer behavior, you might offer a special weekend package while also keeping your Valentine’s prix fixe menu and spa specials open from, say, Friday the 10th to the 17th. Heck, if they are popular enough, you may even consider keeping these offers around for all of February!
2. The key to anyone’s heart is through his or her stomach. I actually despise the turn of phrase that I’m riffing on here because it implies that women don’t like food as much as men do. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Men may be larger on average, thus requiring more caloric consumption to meet their metabolic needs, but that says nothing about culinary appreciation. And there’s no better way to show how much you appreciate all guests, both male and female, for choosing your hotel to celebrate this romantic holiday than through exquisitely prepared mains, decadent desserts, artfully constructed appetizers, thoughtful pairings and perhaps an amuse bouche. Remember, too, that people eat with their eyes, so pay particular attention to meal presentation and the colors on display in every dish.
3. Packaging is supposed to simplify. Advertising a special price on rooms only is a tough sell for this period because you aren’t helping make the experience as carefree as possible for incoming guests. Instead, give your customers a nudge by bundling a room deal with a prix fixe dinner, couples spa treatments, in-room champagne and chocolates or local activities, to cite several easier-than-you-think tactics that you can employ. This is hardly draconian in its approach; you aren’t limiting the times available at the outset, only showcasing the potential that your package has to help push guests further down the sales funnel.
4. Themed events. Valentine’s Day celebrations are no longer just about couples sequestering themselves for a day or two. It’s a social holiday like any other. In addition to your couples-centric features, consider planning an event with live music, keynote speakers, comedians, a fashion show or cooking demonstrations. Whatever is at your disposal at this point to add some life to the party. And keep in mind that the more interactive the event, the more memorable it will be.
5. Gift certificates. Creative gift certificate sales are another opportunity during the Valentine’s Day promotion period. Consider bundling, for example, a small $20 restaurant dining gift certificate valid for the following few months – that is, March or April – as part of a bounce-back incentive. Similar bonus incentives for repeat visits can be crafted for spa, golf, gift shop, activities or practically any other onsite amenity.
6. Surprise and delight. This marketing classic never fails. Always give a little bit extra, unannounced and with no expectation of direct monetary compensation. An amuse bouche illustrates this on a small scale where a bite-sized portion of food can build positive sentiments, but only because it was unexpected. Think of it the opposite way: how would a guest feel if they paid an appetizer-level price for this paltry morsel? Shortchanged and slightly angry perhaps. Welcome gifts work the same way in that they are effective when they come as a shock or when the value of the gift is far above what was expected.
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on Friday, January 13, 2017)