Most every US city that plays host to major conventions, festivals or national sporting events is guaranteed to see occupancy rates spike for the days leading up to, during, and shortly after the event. Inauguration Day is one such occasion for Washington D.C., meaning that come January, hotels in the area will almost surely be on the receiving-end of an incredible influx of demand. To help navigate the chaos that comes with being in such high demand, members of the Expedia® Washington D.C. market management team have compiled several suggestions to ensure that properties throughout Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia are able to fully capitalize on this quadrennial windfall.
• Having a state delegation elect your hotel for their group’s stay can be key, though a majority of those arrangements will be finalized over the course of the next several days. Once this happens, most hotels will extend their remaining inventory to the general public, so properties looking to attract transient demand for the Inauguration should ensure now that they have inventory available across each of their distribution channels before the flood gates open.
• If your hotel is located in an area that will be impacted by street closings and other accessibility issues, remember to include that messaging in your property’s online content. Notifying guests of the potential for limited access to the hotel because the street will be closed for Inauguration Day festivities gives the hotel a bit of cache that comes with being in the thick of things.
• Suburban hotels looking to get in on the Inauguration action would be wise to post offers that are both non-refundable but still enticing enough to attract travelers before the city hotels open up inventory.
• Hotels located outside of the city would be remiss not to promote any transportation assistance that’s provided to guests by the property. Are you located around the corner from the metro or running a shuttle to the nearest station? Make sure your content reflects it.
• Remember that the entire region is your comp set when it comes to out-of-state visitors who are not geographically savvy. For Washington D.C., the metro negates proximity, so it’s important for hotels located in the center of the action to watch city-wide trends carefully when setting rates to avoid pricing themselves out of the market. Similarly, suburban hotels need to be especially mindful of regional trends in order to develop their most effective pricing strategies. In instances of such high compression, the wrong pricing strategy can lead to either unfilled rooms or money left on the table – neither of which is a desirable end-result.
• Be cautious about restrictions. A two- or three-night length of stay makes sense for this occasion, but a four- or five-night restriction may be overkill and is likely to keep away guests. Similarly, watch the marketplace for refund practices. Naturally, incenting the non-refundable booking is an ideal scenario, but make sure you are also offering a refundable rate that is priced appropriately. One general rule of thumb for calculating an appropriate refundable rate for peak periods is, if your average daily rate (ADR) for stays during the Inauguration is tracking at double the rate typical for January bookings, then the refundable versus non-refundable rate differential should also be double.
• Many folks will begin making their Inauguration Day travel plans as soon as the final votes have been tallied, so plan to work late on election night and get to work early on November 7th. If 2008 booking patterns are any indication of what to expect, there will be a tremendous amount of bookings made that evening, so remember to be cognizant of available inventory and adjust pricing based upon what’s selling. In 2008, a few unlucky hoteliers found themselves sold out at lower-than-typical rates on the day after the election because people on the west coast were still awake and booking trips long after the polls had declared a winner.
Much like the presidential campaign, the winning candidate – er, properties – are those that give the people what they want. For D.C.-area hotels come January, this will mean a broad selection of available inventory and a wealth of clear, relevant content and photos to give potential guests the information they need to make a confident booking decision.