Keeping a resort filled and profitable is a juggling act. Certainly, occupancy rates are important, but success goes far beyond keeping a full house.
To really maximize profitability from your guests, you have to analyze travel trends and seasonal ebbs and flows, adjust marketing and sales efforts, and optimize the highest occupancy on the most profitable days. Also, although beyond your control, unforeseen world events and Mother Nature often create tricky circumstances that can affect your normal short- and long-term scheduling trends.
Travel marketing professionals and resort managers have faced the challenge of unpredictable circumstances for years. In addition, growing competition in the industry and a continually fluctuating economic outlook worldwide is making resort vacationing less consistent than it once was.
However, “expecting the unexpected” can be a powerfully lucrative ability for resorts. With the right approach to resort marketing, it’s not impossible to successfully meet or exceed both occupancy and profit goals for your resort—especially when you learn how to properly leverage group business, which can add consistency to your juggling act.
Gain additional insights by watching this short video from Blue Onion Media’s Pete TenEyck. Want more? Shoot over an email or give him a ring at (303) 597-9661. He’s a pro when it comes to helping businesses effectively navigate the evolving media landscape, and he’d be happy to answer your questions or discuss your pain points.
Leisure vs. group business
Group business on the scale we’re discussing can be an extremely lucrative if you view it as a B2B transaction rather than B2C, which is what you’re probably most familiar with in seeking out leisure guests. In this case, we are focusing on group reservations from corporations, schools, governmental agencies, and others who are organizing a retreat or annual meeting of some sort, and plan to have a large number of guests visit the resort on a given set of days.
The fundamental difference is the identity of your target market. Leveraging group business requires marketing to professional event planners and companies that specialize in managing incentive programs. Not only do these individuals have different motivations and goals than individual consumers and families interested in a leisure vacation, they also read different magazines, visit different websites, and work on a completely different timeline.
Successfully reaching this target market and convincing them of the value of visiting your resort requires a different strategy, media mix, and marketing investment than what you normally use to draw in consumers. And that’s where the real challenge surfaces.
What happens if you succeed?
Before going any further, let’s consider the possibilities. What if you could achieve an optimal balance of group and leisure business, and maximize profitability? In order to successfully harness your resort’s fair share of group business, you have to be willing and prepared to:
- Better manage your inventory. Booking leisure guests on higher-priced weekends and filling lower-priced weekdays with large groups makes better use of inventory.
- Get in front of long purchasing lifecycles. Keeping seasonal events top of mind, even one or more years down the road, enables you to plan accordingly to fill gaps. Group organizers often plan long in advance of an event with a process that can include seeing an ad, getting RFPs and visiting the property.
- Be adaptable. Being willing to possibly bring in several smaller groups during non-peak periods can help fill gaps in inventory.
- Advertise to niche markets. Advertising to the right target market, specifically to event planners or corporate organizers, helps you make better media buying choices.
Obviously, these are excellent outcomes any resort manager or marketer would want to achieve.
What happens if you consistently lose group business?
Inevitably, your loss is another resort’s gain. Group business is going to go somewhere.
Group business tends to generate a significant amount of repeat group business AND additional leisure business as well. Companies that have a positive experience at a certain resort are always more likely to book that same resort the next time they have a group event to plan. In addition, the individual employees who were exposed to the resort while on business could very well decide to return with friends and family for some hard-earned rest down the road.
This two-pronged dynamic—which is heavily impacted today by the power of social media—makes successfully obtaining group business even more important for resorts the world over. Catering to both group and individual needs should be a priority for your resort. If you ignore one or the other, the gap between you and competitors who nab group contracts will continue to grow in the months and years to come.
What does an optimal resort marketing strategy look like?
A healthy balance of leisure and group business can provide consistent occupancy and profitability throughout the year. In order to achieve this balance, you have to take into consideration seasonality and purchasing lifecycles.
Corporate planners who make decisions on where to stay for group business trips or conferences begin investigating options long before the actual date of the event. It’s important to get in front of them in advance to make time for a site visit, potential RFP process and rate negotiations. Ideally, you can convince this type of booking to happen during off-peak days and off-peak seasons when leisure travelers are less likely to crave resort time by:
- Strategically placing ads throughout the year to match purchasing lifecycles.
- Targeting publications and websites for niche markets (i.e. real estate, medical, financial).
- Finding broad media placement options to fill rooms during specific seasons.
- Negotiating with media outlets to get the best rates on media buys.
All in all, it’s a heavy project to take on, and the concept could overwhelm even the most experienced resort marketing professional. But it’s definitely possible. In fact, it’s vital.
How to accomplish this optimal situation
It’s not likely that you or your busy marketing team can effectively develop the needed skills to make this optimal media strategy a reality overnight. Even with a dedicated budget for experimentation, the process could conceivably take years, and no resort has the luxury to remain uncompetitive for that long. But that doesn’t mean that achieving this goal is out of reach. Rather, it means smart resort marketers know how and when to get professional help.
At Blue Onion Media, we’re proud to be able to look back on over 37 years of experience as a premier media buying and planning resource. Since 2003, we’ve specialized in media and buying planning for resorts, helping leaders in the luxury hotel and resort industry optimize inventory, maximize marketing investment and fully leverage the lucrative but underserved group business market. In fact, we invest over $300,000 annually in data resources, including Nielsen TV & Audio ratings, Scarborough, Kantar Media Intelligence and Strata planning and buying software
We’re not a full-service advertising agency. No one on our payroll handles creative, so we’re not looking to propose a particular headline or logo or in any other way step on the toes of your in-house or contracted advertising pros. Rather, our focus is strictly on making sure your message reaches the right people at the right time and in the right format, all at the right price. We work to stretch every marketing dollar you invest and make sure it’s working it’s hardest for you.
See how Omni Hotels generated over $250k in revenue with the right media mix!