A Shoulder Season Checklist for Independent Hoteliers

Hello October

As the days grow colder in our part of the world, we find that inquiries from hoteliers seeking to upgrade their hotel technology begin to heat up. This makes sense as the shoulder season brings lodging operators less foot traffic and more time to assess and improve property performance.
Budget preparation time for many, the fall shoulder season is an ideal time for lodging operators to reflect on and determine realistic goals for their property for the year (and years) ahead. The quieter days are a perfect opportunity for analyzing data to ensure business is on track and for testing new strategies to attract travelers during the shoulder season and beyond.
Here are our tips for making the most of the shoulder season.

Review guest feedback

The hospitality business is all about guest satisfaction, so guest feedback is a key indicator of success. Going through recent reviews that came in over the busy season will reveal what your guests love about your property and where they feel you could do better. (If your property didn’t receive many reviews, here are some tips for encouraging guests to share their feedback.)
Analyse feedback with an objective eye and try not to take negative comments personally. Are there any particular complaints that come up frequently? Identify actionable opportunities for improvement… and act on them.

Review performance data

Analyzing year-to-date and historical occupancy and revenue data reveals the overall health of a property, helps to forecast performance, and can indicate if and where strategic changes need to be made. If occupancy rates, ADR, RevPAR and total room revenue are on a downward trend, possible causes should be identified (such as weak online presence or reputation, uncompetitive rates, limited distribution, travel trends, etc.) and a plan of action should be established.
Reservation reports are also key to gaining insights on reservation trends, like where bookings are coming from (direct, OTA and GDS channels, corporate accounts, etc.) and how fast room nights were sold. Identifying your property’s reservation trends helps determine distribution, revenue management and marketing strategies going forward.

Review technology

Mobile devices have changed a lot in our lives, including the way we connect with each other, the way we shop, and the way we consume information and entertainment. For most of us our smartphones are a permanent appendage. Naturally, the hospitality industry (like most other industries) has had to embrace mobile technology in order to keep up with customer expectations and our new way of life.
These days, reliable Wi-Fi access and a mobile-friendly hotel website with a mobile-optimized online booking engine are essential for any property.
While exciting mobile applications like mobile keys, self-check-in and mobile messaging are becoming mainstream among big brands and chain hotels, assess whether or not such endeavours are right for your independent property and guests at this time. Keep your finger on the pulse of mobile technology — what’s new and novel now may soon be considered a standard (and expected) amenity across the board.
In addition to guest facing technology, it’s important to review operational systems like your property management system (PMS). Is your software hindering operations in any way due to a lack of features or flexibility? (This may have become quite obvious during the busy summer.) If so, the quieter shoulder season is a good time to shop around for other options.
As well, think about daily tasks that could be made more efficient through automation, especially where data from one system is manually entered into another. Integrating core hotel systems (distribution channels, payment processing, POS software, call accounting software, etc.) with your PMS reduces the administrative load on staff and eliminates manual errors. With cloud-based technology this is easier than you think. Our Quick Guide to PMS Integration shows how daily processes can be made more efficient by integrating your PMS with your other hotel systems.

Spruce the place up

In addition to typical seasonal maintenance, like raking leaves and clearing gutters, look for signs of wear and tear from the busy season in guestrooms, common spaces and outdoor areas. Whether patio furniture needs repairing or replacing, a wall needs a fresh coat of paint or curtains need cleaning, even minor repairs can make a big difference (remember, it’s all in the details).

Create exciting shoulder-season packages

With school back in session and the weather increasingly unpredictable, most properties have to work a little harder to attract guests during the shoulder season. As well as adjusting room rates, value-added packages are a great way to promote your property’s (and location’s) seasonal charms and increase occupancy.
Packages that include local seasonal attractions or activities, like self-guided fall foliage tours, festival tickets, or trail riding, tempt weekend staycationers and other savvy travelers wishing to take advantage of off-peak travel deals. Consider establishing relationships with local activity operators, restaurants, attractions and other businesses to offer value-added stay experiences that your guests will get excited about.

Dress your website for the season

Tailor website content (images, video and written copy) for shoulder-season travelers, highlighting seasonal activities, attractions and events enjoyed in your local area.
Images that reflect a seasonal stay, such as guests enjoying hot apple cider by the fireplace or the stunning view of fall colours from your porch, help to maintain relevancy and effectively convey the allure of the off-peak stay experience.
Provide helpful seasonal travel tips for travelers to your region; how to dress for the weather, the best activities to try, special events, off-peak operating hours of attractions, etc. Local information that helps guests get more out of their stay is much appreciated by customers, and validates your local expertise and professional commitment too. Your website blog is an ideal venue for getting prospective guests excited about off-peak travel to your destination.
Don’t forget to promote the benefits of a shoulder-season stay experience across all your marketing channels, including social media, email marketing and offline marketing efforts. You might like to read our previous post about fall marketing ideas for inspiration.

Take care of you!

While there are plenty of tasks to do (and catch up on) during the quieter days of the shoulder season, it’s also important to enjoy some personal downtime. All work and no play can lead to burnout, so set some time aside to relax and have some fun — or at least make some plans to look forward to for the off-season!