Imagine the situation: you look at your sales over the next two weeks, and identify an almost empty date. But before and after that date, your sales are doing just fine.
This guest article was written by Elise Ripoche from Jaffichecomplet.com
Obviously the “good” filling of the previous and following dates is positive. But this has for consequence to give even less chances to your empty date to be filled. Indeed, you will have to sell one-night stays on this difficult date: no more chance to fill with long stays. So what to do?
You’ll be surprised: maybe you don’t need to do anything! First, evaluate if the demand you naturally have, or the market demand, will be able to fill this date (potentially at the last minute). To learn more about the analysis to do on your activity I invite you to read Victor’s case.
And in the case where natural demand will not help: what to do?
In this case, it may be appropriate to launch the heavy artillery and use one or more of the solutions I am about to present in this article.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of 12 possible solutions to destock the empty nights of your apartment (short term rental) or the rooms of your hotel/gite or guest house.
1 – Check your settings
What do we mean by settings? These are all the elements that condition the availability of your rooms. In other words, the criteria you set in your channel manager or on the Airbnb/Booking/Expedia websites. These criteria can be: imposing a minimum length of stay, imposing a day of arrival, imposing a particular price.
In a context of last minute destocking, the first thing to do is to go and check that you have not left in system with a setting that hinders your sales.
To give yourself the best chance of destocking, it is crucial that the constraints linked to your inventory be removed or alleviated to allow last minute reservations.
For example: remove an imposition of a minimum stay of 3 nights (because you want to make sales for a duration of 1 night)
2 – Remind last year’s customers who have not yet booked
You have the possibility, simple and inexpensive, to remind your customers of last year at the same date to propose them to book again this year. It is not necessary to have a commercial offer to propose, a simple reminder is enough, by reminding the strengths of your apartment/hotel.
This reminder can be digital or telephone. If you use an email, don’t forget to personalize your communication so that the client feels recognized: “Mr. …., you stayed with us from May 15th last year etc.”.
3 – Use your loyal customer base to make them a last minute VIP & flash offer
Creating and nurturing a loyal customer base is a must for any business. It is typically this base that can save you in case of last minute availability. You can for example propose to your customers to register to your “loyalty club” to receive your special VIP offers. With this list of loyal customers, organize special sales events:
- limited in time. The average duration to grant to your customers for a flash sale is 4 days.
- with a unique advantage: promotion, gifts offered or advantages granted. You can for example not lower your price but offer an activity to children.
- and while maintaining the emphasis on your quality service.
Please note that in the context of this type of promotion, I recommend that you include conditions (to avoid receiving unwanted requests):
- indicate the possible dates of stay
- mention the limit of available stocks
- and/or indicate that the reservations are non-cancellable and non-refundable.
4 – Follow up with your corporate clients and offer them an advantage to book on off-peak dates
In the same way that you follow up your individual customers, it is also relevant to follow up your business customers. Carry out targeted emailings and, if necessary, offer an advantage to book on the dates that you wish to fill (see paragraph n°3).
The important thing in this context is to have targeted the right person beforehand. Addressing this email to employees is not always the right solution.
Two situations are possible:
- employees travel frequently and are the decision-makers for their trips: in these cases, write to them directly and send them an offer that interests them personally (not a price but rather a gift or an advantage such as a late departure for example)
- the reservations are centralized by a person of the company for the employees: it is the case in a context of training for example. In this case, write directly to this person and offer them a discount (chances are they have a budget to respect).
5 – Work with a network of tourism professionals in your area
Another strategy relies on your network of tourism professionals. Leisure service providers, shopkeepers, car or leisure equipment rental companies, tourist offices are all entities with whom you can collaborate throughout the year and more particularly in case of a last-minute sale need.
You will be able to join an existing packaged offer: weekday getaway or visits/tastings. Or publish your offer on existing communication media.
Finally, these empty rooms can also be an opportunity to make your service known to professionals who will sell it afterwards. In tourism, this is called an éductour.
Travel experts has conducted a survey among its travel agent members and here are the results. TheTravelExperts :
- 100% are interested in the unsold stocks of travel producers
- 87% are willing to participate financially, within reasonable limits
- The reasons that motivate the interest of travel agents: of course, to know the products, to test them in real conditions; to know the services of a company; to know the destinations; to meet partners, to build original offers.
6 – Increase your commission to Booking.com
Booking is an online sales site that offers a very interesting feature in a destocking context: you can increase the commission you give to Booking for reservations made on the site.
Obviously, increasing the commission granted to Booking will ensure that you will be much better ranked in the search results for your city. This will mechanically give you more chances to be booked, and to fill your off-peak periods.
This solution is relevant if: you usually have an average or rather low ranking, and there is still a lot of availability with your competitors, and you need to “emerge” among a large amount of offers. Note that this function will temporarily make you emerge globally, not only on the date concerned.
Another possibility is to negotiate with your Booking consultant to enter the “Preferred Partner” program. You need to have a sufficient rating and obviously pay a higher commission. This will allow you to be ranked higher as well as receive a thumbs up on your ad.
7 – Work with existing destockers (for hoteliers)
This solution is more specifically aimed at hotels: there are many destockers already existing on the market that can help you sell your rooms at the last minute. Note however that these players have an affinity with the top of the range, so I recommend it rather from 4 stars. There are in particular: very chic, private travel, or groupon.
Another player can also help you to destock is hoteltonight. This application is specialized in selling hotel rooms for the same day or the next day. Be careful though, this application clearly works in favor of the customer: hotels give their rooms for sale as well as the price and the best offers are presented on the application. It’s the fight for the lowest price! But in case of a large stock to be sold quickly, why not…
There is also a possibility on Hotetonight that I found quite interesting: the secret offer. This offer is revealed only if the customer is registered on the site and lasts only 15 minutes. It is made at very low prices (-70% for example) but I think that the “staging” and the short duration will clearly have the power to trigger the purchase.
8 – Make an offer to the previous or next night’s customers
A solution can also be to propose directly:
- to the customers staying the night before the low: to stay longer (with an advantage to do so)
- to the customers staying the night after the trough: to come earlier to your place (with an advantage to do so)
9 – Create an event on this date and communicate on it
Rather than immediately thinking about lowering your price, a more constructive approach is to think about improving your service. To attract customers, you can create an event on the off-peak date to convince them that coming on this date is a must. It is possible that some people will postpone their stay to take advantage of this newly created offer.
What kind of events are we talking about?
- Bringing in a service provider who has a commercial interest in presenting himself: for example, organizing a 1-hour presentation on what you need to know about the region and allowing the tourist guide to present his guide service for the main monuments at the end.
- make a merchandise exchange with a professional: for example, offer a private mini-concert and pay the musician to stay with you (of an equivalent value) on dates that are usually off-peak (rather interesting if the service benefits several rooms)
- finance a low-cost service: for example, pay a babysitter to entertain the children during the parents’ dinner in the room next door (rather interesting if the service benefits several rooms)
All these ideas must be calculated according to the price of your rooms: they will be financially profitable only if the volume of sales obtained thanks to this event allows to absorb the cost of the operation.
Finally after creation, the quality of the communication on the event, will be a key element of its success.
10 – Create an attractive package and communicate on it
The creation of an attractive package can obviously only be done in partnership with your fellow tourism professionals. The idea being also obviously to benefit from your reciprocal customers.
How to proceed?
- Target the relevant tourism actors: tourist sites, restaurants, cabs, tourist guides, aquatic/water sports, gastronomic activities etc.
- Obviously in the first step: agree together on the package to be established and make sure that the date you are interested in is also possible for the partner.
- Define attractive terms and conditions: no need to think about lowering the price immediately, you can offer an extra service on both sides for example.
- Then communicate this package to each of your respective customer bases
- Communicate about the package to your reseller partners
- Finally, communicate publicly about the package (or not if you want to keep the exclusivity to loyal customers and reseller partners)
Once again, the quality of the communication will be key to the success of the package.
11 – Target a niche and adapt the offer to this niche
Finally, to finalize the category: adding service rather than lowering your prices, I recommend an additional tip.
Think about the type of clientele you would like to attract or the type of clientele that has potential at that time.
So by targeting them more specifically you can provide a service that will convince them to come to you. Here are some examples:
- You want to target golfers? offer them a cab to the nearest golf course
- You want to target families? offer a special breakfast for children
- You want to target the pros? offer free wifi
Once again, it is the quality of your communication that will determine the success of your operation.
12 – Lower your public price
Finally, if you have tried everything and unfortunately you are not getting any additional bookings. I feel obliged to advise you to lower your public prices to try to fill the vacancies. But be careful, not in any way!
- Evaluate the number of rooms that you usually sell at the last minute and only lower the price of the rooms that are in excess.
- Keep in mind the risk of customer dissatisfaction. When surfing on your page a customer who has already booked may realize that the current selling price is lower than what he paid. If necessary, don’t hesitate to refund the difference to your customer to guarantee his satisfaction.
Why be more vigilant with public price cuts (displayed to all customers) and less vigilant with targeted price cut offers (see point 7, 8 or 10 for example). Because by lowering prices in a more “hidden” way to very precise targets, you want to avoid breaking the trust that binds you to your customers.
Indeed, if they realize that your prices are lowered at the last minute, they might not come anymore or they might be tempted to wait until the last minute to book. This is not desirable because it reduces your visibility on your future performance.
This article was written by Elise Ripoche from Jaffichecomplet.com