Pre-Opening a Hotel? Don’t forget you need guests! (part 1)
The pre-opening phase of a new hotel is both a big challenge and a great opportunity at the same time. We are currently going through and preparing for the opening of new hotels in various destinations throughout Europe, and are working hard to avoid common mistakes made in this process. We have listed some of our hotel pre-opening tips below.
It seems many have watched the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ with Kevin Costner, and believe the infamous phrase ‘build it and they will come’. I guess it is time for a wake-up call, because we are not building a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield in the Midwest US for some deceased legendary baseball players. No we are in business ladies and gentlemen, and we have to make money.
Investors like to see an ROI on the capital they put into the project. The hotel has to generate income, and rather sooner than later. The sooner we start making revenue, the quicker we will be able to turn the business equity profitable.
Owners, investors and developers, please be advised! Guests will not come just because you are building a new hotel. They will not come because you have thought out an innovative lodging concept. No, we will need to work hard to attract them.
And moreover, we need to start in time …
So how long up front do we have to start with our marketing, PR and other strategies to attract guests? Let’s walk through some of the key points:
Actually the promotion should start the day the first construction is initiated. Put up a big sign ‘Coming soon’ with some breathtaking images of what you are building to attract the attention of people walking and driving by. Make sure you change the information and images through the various stages of construction to keep people updated on your progress.
During construction all the way up to the opening is also a very easy time to create buzz with the press. Local and industry media is always curious about a new hotel opening, use it to your advantage.
You will have to do more than sending out basic press releases. Make sure your media package is intriguing and encompasses the true vision and mission statement of your hotel. Also invite the press to visit the construction site and model / demo room, and show them around. Get them excited about the project and share interesting anecdotes with them.
FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Blogs etc are ideal social networks to get the word out there, even before the opening. Communicate the story of the hotel online and share the progress of the construction with potential future guests.
Connect with local people to have them help you spread the message. Just last week we had a blog article for our new hotel in Crete get 200 FaceBook likes within a few days time. And the hotel is still 2 months away from the opening date.
Foto websites like Flickr and Pinterest, but also the broadcast yourself video network YouTube are great to use when it comes to promoting your new hotel or resort. Images and short films are easily shared.
Show what people can expect in the new hotel, and don’t only focus on the rooms. Show some of the delicious dishes they will be able to enjoy in your restaurant or describe the favorite cocktail of your star bartender.
You can of course also provide information of fun things to do for tourists in your destination. Your hotel does not have to be open yet to position yourself as the local expert concierge.
Website An important factor in the positioning of a website on Google, by far the most influential search engine, is age or history. Therefore it is to be recommended to launch a 1 page type of introduction website the day you have decided to start the hotel project. It should be even before you have the complete financing together. Really it can’t be early enough.
During the first phases of construction you can launch an under-construction/coming soon type of website explaining people what is to come.
In terms of launching true hotel website it is important to take into consideration that it takes time for the various pages of such site to be indexed in the different search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc). We recommend launching the site (with temporary images and content) 18 months prior, but certainly no later than 12 months prior to the opening.
The logic here is the same as with the hotel website, time is of the essence. And especially if you are located in a highly competitive market, don’t expect to just show up on the first pages of the search engines because you launched your website.
Search engine optimization is a lengthy and tedious process that should really start 12 months prior to the opening date of your hotel. Also sufficient budget has to be assigned. Many hoteliers think spending €500 per month in online marketing is enough. How much return do you think this will generate? If we are using a 5 to 1 ratio, this will bring in €2.500 per month.
Guess you will fall a bit short if your site needs to generate €/$ 25.000 per month. In general start working with an 8 to 1 ratio. So if you need to generate €/$ 100.000 in direct sales each month, budget about €/$ 12.500 per month in online marketing spending.
This will be needed for a lot of things like adding your website to hotel registry websites, putting press releases on online PR website, working with expert SEO companies, etc.
This should give you quite something to start thinking about if you are considering opening a new hotel. In our next article on Hotel Pre-opening we will dive into the revenue management and distribution side of the pre-opening phase.