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Sell Those Resorts

Here's how to keep those rooms full, even during the off season

Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Laura Koss-Feder
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For resorts located in four-season areas, the winter months can be cold and very lonely. Leisure travelers, meetings groups, and incentive trip planners are flocking to your resort during the warmer months, but may not see the need to visit a resort during the winter - when they would rather travel to a warm destination and bask in the sunshine.

“You need to create demand, develop your own unique events, and utilize all that your resort has to offer during this time of the year,” says Dr. Bjorn Hanson, veteran industry analyst and researcher and clinical associate professor at the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

He recommends taking a four-pronged approach. First, develop special events, such as special wine tasting weekends with local vintners or fashion shows with local clothing stores and boutiques. These other businesses are probably also hurting, would welcome the exposure during this time of year as well, and may even pay a sponsorship fee.

Second, offer special bundling of services and amenities for meetings. Even though group business is down, executives still need to hold planning meetings, and would welcome the opportunity to have meetings, F&B, audiovisual equipment, and maybe even guest rooms offered as a package at a good price during this slower time of the year. “You’re not just discounting this way. but promoting all the wonderful services and facilities that you can provide your group clients,” Hanson says.

Third, create getaway weekend and weekday packages geared toward couples that showcase your spa, indoor pool, and F&B, he adds. You may be discounting your rooms to some degree, but keep pricing consistent for your spa and F&B. And, finally, if you are offering a major reduced price package, indicate in your advertising and marketing that is a “once in a lifetime” deal that won’t be repeated. This way, you won’t have a hard time raising your prices once business picks up and guests will understand that a great package is only temporary and low room rates should not always be expected.

One resort used romance and some creativity, rather than only discounting, as a way to entice guests, especially with Valentine’s Day taking place during the dead of winter. The 272-room Suncadia resort in Roslyn, WA, which is popular with both couples and families, is marketing its outdoor ice rink as a popular site for marriage proposals, according to a spokeswoman. A big red heart was frozen into the ice rink, under the top layer of ice. Until the end of February, couples who get engaged on the ice rink will receive a free bottle of sparkling wine or sparkling juice and 50 percent off a dinner for two at the Portals restaurant, located in the resort’s lodge. They will also receive one night of free lodging when they return to the hotel with a marriage certificate.

Another cold-weather resort is utilizing philanthropy as a selling tool. The 26-acre Tarrytown (NY) House Estate & Conference Center is now offering special weekend packages and is donating money to Habitat for Humanity for every room booked through March on this package.

“We felt this promotional offer gives them (customers) a great value-add for them to enjoy while on property, while at the same time it gives them the comfort to know that their choice of hotel allowed them to make an impact on the community as well,” says General Manager Joe Santore.

A Midwest resort that relies on a lot of Chicagoland visitors believes that fun, food, and a little bit of silliness can help weather the winter months. The 334-room Abbey Resort & Spa on Lake Geneva in Fontana, WI, is offering special guest weekends with Chicago-area chefs, featuring a variety of events centered around F&B, says Allen Anderson, director of marketing. The resort also has special fun events for both corporate groups and families, such as frozen turkey bowling (yes, you bowl outdoors with actual bowling pins, using a frozen turkey to knock them down instead of a ball), bonfires, and mini boat building and racing (building boats and racing them in the indoor pool), says Sue Thune, activity(cq) director.

“Creativity is the name of the game during this time of the year,” she says. “It is the way to go during the colder months for many resorts.”

Laura Koss-Feder
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division
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