To all the new-to-the-scene hoteliers out there looking for ideas on how to get a nascent hotel business up and running and wildly successful as quickly as possible: we hear you.
And to get you the best advice possible, we called in our on-the-ground specialists: Jamie Patterson and Matt Chojnacki, who recently took over managing the exquisitely renovated, 10-suite 19th-century-castle-turned-luxury-guesthouse in Poland called The Palace at Osowa Sien.
The wife-and-husband hotel management team shared with us their innkeeping experiences. Even better, they revealed the hotel business initiatives that are quickly making The Palace at Osowa Sien a must-stay spot for vacations, retreats, and special events.
In other words, these rising stars of hospitality gave us some of the best advice out there on how to turn a newly opened independent hotel into a business success.
Which, naturally, we’re delighted to share with you.
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Invest in technology
You’re going to want to equip your property with right hotel tech essentials right off the bat.
“As an independent hotelier, you’re the marketer, the host, the accountant, and the reservation manager – all rolled into one – and that’s just the beginning. As such, we know we can’t do everything ourselves, so we continually look for meaningful ways in which hotel tech can assist us, such as with customer relationship management and booking facilitation. While there’s no single application that will completely optimize the entire business, by acquainting ourselves with several and finding the right mix for us, we’re able to boost our business bit-by-bit and take steps towards automation for non-guest-facing tasks.”
Get on metasearch
Starting with trivago, of course.
“Having worked at trivago, we knew the value of marketing our hotel on trivago. It’s a no-brainer because setting up a profile is quick and easy (unlike some archaic sites). With basic profiles being free to create, it can be that just one extra booking a month more than justifies this presence for the little guys like us.”
Build a beautiful and optimized-for-conversion hotel website
“Your website is your digital storefront. And for independent hoteliers (especially those in rural places like us), you heavily rely on digital foot traffic. You want to give your audience something to ogle – now more than ever, guests are looking for the next boutique place with an experience that an out-of-the-box hotel concept often cannot provide. And that first opportunity begins with your web page. If they’re not engaged by its digital curb appeal, chances are, they won’t give the rest of your establishment any more thought.”
And the official website of The Palace at Osowa Sien is as stunning and inviting as the property itself.
Work with as many distribution channels as you can
“As the old saying goes ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’. Why should hotel distribution (marketing) be any different? Sitting at reception hoping someone will book is not the way to go. Instead, put in the effort now to get other channels distributing your hotel to potential guests you might never have reached on your own. And even if they have found your property somewhere else, by having it listed properly across multiple channels, you’re more likely to remain on their ‘list of places to go’. Simply put, savvy and varied distribution is always beneficial. We’re listed on as many distribution sites as possible, from the big-player OTAs to niche travel sites like Slowhop and Host Unusual and event-planning sites like Venuu.”
The logic is simple: The more channels you distribute through and the more sites you’re listed on, the more potential guests you reach and the better your chances are of being booked.
Engage in influencer marketing
Influencer marketing done right can be one of your most effective hotel advertising initiatives, as it’s been for the Palace.
“To build a story around your property, you need people to talk about your lodging and the uniqueness of experience that it provides – and you need them to talk about it often. Provided you deliver a top-notch stay for your guests, you’ll generate word of mouth, but there’s also a way to move that conversation online to engage a larger audience — by working with influencers. Look at specialty travel forums, social media, and experiential travel-driven sites to find influencers who may be a fit for your brand. Ask them for media kits to see if they’ve got an audience that aligns with your demographic. Then work, work, work at building that relationship with these people who will become brand ambassadors for you and your hotel.”
Keep an “off-menu” or overflow room not bookable online
You never know when a VIP guest will come looking for a last-minute room.
“Last-minute bookers exist, and they’re typically a valuable segment to attract. To ensure we’re always able to receive them, we’ve got an ‘off-menu’ suite. Not only is this a lifesaver in high-season, but it also delights guests who know they’re in for a treat — getting a special room that’s not available for just anybody to book. Because you never know when a character out of the pages of a Fitzgerald novel will show up in search of a unique place to stay at a moment’s notice.”
Leverage seasonal or local events — or create your own
Special events, private parties, and organized retreats can mean big business for even a small hotel.
“We’re always testing out event ideas, and still have a ways to go, but regardless of the type of hotel or hosts, there are some events and packages that are evergreen (e.g. the romantic getaway, weddings, etc.) and some that are undeniably unique (we have an annual feast in honor of ‘the good witch of the village’s past’). To maximize the potential of themed packages and retreats, our strategy is to have a mix of both and refine the offering from there.”
Know your audience and attract the guests you want
“It’s absolutely key to know your ideal audience and then to get in front of them — directly. To do this, you must first consider your ideal guests, their wants, needs, likes, dislikes, and habits. Put yourself in their shoes. What media do they read? How do they spend their day? How do they travel? And then you need to be present in the same spaces they are along the way.”
Turn guests into loyal customers and repeat (direct) bookers
Convincing guests to return is all about delighting them; getting them to book direct next time is all about educating them.
“We always have perks for those who book direct and we never hesitate to share them with guests who have come to us via a high-commission OTA. It’s simple really; we let them know that the best communication channels and rates are always direct, and we present them with a special card with a discount for their first direct stay with us.”
Be flexible and accommodating
This is especially important when first starting off, as you’re building your reputation and establishing your client base.
“People are unique individuals and have specific needs, which we embrace as an opportunity for us to stand out from other hospitality brands. Though we’re a family-run boutique hotel with select provisions, from the beginning we’ve had guests with vegetarian or vegan requests, and others who’ve asked for help organizing a marriage proposal in a special place on the grounds. These inquiries gave us the ability to be creative, and fill (or surpass) our guests’ needs at the same time – while imparting a personal touch. Consequently, we’ve since started developing a reputation for vegan-friendly dining and romantic getaways.”
Polish the cutlery
It might sound trivial, but it turns out that guests really do notice and appreciate the finer details of their stay, such as a set of simple but well-polished eating utensils.
“People always comment on our cutlery! That’s because the little details really do matter. The linens need to be crinkle free, the glassware spotless, and the cutlery shiny. Sometimes, this is the gamechanger for our visitors.”
Love being a host
When we spoke, Jamie and Matt didn’t come right out and declare their love of hosting. They didn’t have to. It was obvious in the animated way they described their day-to-day activities, in their stories of going above and beyond to delight their customers, in how well and how fondly they remembered each guest who passed through their doors.
Above all, their passion for their profession can be seen in how tirelessly and lovingly they work to make their hotel business a success — a success they seem to measure in guest satisfaction as much as sales growth.
It’s why we’re confident these dedicated young hoteliers have a bright future in the hospitality business ahead of them.
Furthermore, it’s why we encourage all new hoteliers to follow their example when managing their own small hotel businesses – and maybe even do some research by booking a stay at The Palace at Osowa Sien (we’d sure love to!).
Did you know? Metasearch marketing is a crucial activity for all hotel businesses and especially for new hotels. To find out more about how to market your new hotel on trivago, head over to trivago Hotel Manager by clicking the button:
Do you have your own best tips for a new hotel business that you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments section below!