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HOTELS–Hotels’ Marketing Strategies Change With the Seasons



Promotions, Packages Attract Guests

The tides of tourists might make some hotels seem like sandy beaches , crowded one season, deserted the next.

But that’s not quite the case in San Diego, where off-season is a relative term.

Chalk it up to the weather, but it seems that meetings, conventions and tourists keep hoteliers busy tending or marketing to guests throughout most of the year, say local hotel representatives.

Just as hotels need to be ready for the busy seasons, marketers are prepared to turn any off-season back on.

The high and low periods for most San Diego hotels depend on many factors, such as location, marketing strategy and others, according to Dan Schmitzer, director of sales and marketing for the La Jolla Torrey Pines Hilton.

This particular Hilton experiences a dip in the number of guests during the summer since the hotel doesn’t get many vacationers, he said.

– Business Activity

Affects Occupancy

About 60 percent of the hotel’s occupancy results from meetings and conventions activity, which slows down in the summer. Leisure and drive-in travelers make up the rest, he said.

Because there aren’t many meetings and conventions in the summer, the 400-room Hilton offers promotions to attract its “share of summer leisure travelers,” Schmitzer said.

As a result, springtime brings about promotions and discounted hotel rates. A room that would cost almost $300 during sell-out periods drops to about $160 or lower when times are slow, he said.

These promotions are also used to attract guests during the holidays, he said.

“We try to be competitive in price, but offer a value to attract people,” he said.

“The leisure traveler is the wild card. They will go stay at another hotel down the street if their rate is $25 less. So, when we advertise to them, it has to be very price-value driven,” he said.

– Promotions Include

Package Deals

The Hilton tries to offer value-added packages that include a low room rate and discounted services or commodities like food, beverages or recreational activities, Schmitzer said.

These promotions target summer’s drive-in business travelers, which consist of families and adults who are on a three- to four-day vacation in the Southwest, he said.

About 75 percent of advertising is in newspapers and the radio is used in the summer to support print marketing, he said.

The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau also offers advertising opportunities to attract business and leisure travelers, Schmitzer said, adding it’s a good way to stretch advertising dollars and gain exposure.

The Hilton also hosts travel writers and restaurant critics, in addition to other promotional and community activities, he said.

Like the Hilton, Loews Coronado Bay Resort attracts business from meetings and conventions, which is about 70 percent of the resort’s business, according to Kathleen Cochran, Loews’ general manager.

– Marketing Directed

To Local Visitors

Since meetings and conventions don’t generally occur in the summer and on holidays, the resort markets to families within driving distance or a short plane trip away, she said.

December is the resort’s only period that could be considered off-season, Cochran said.

“Family time is so precious and people are taking more short-term trips,” she said. “I think we’ve been successful, because we have gotten into the psychology of what it’s like to be away with your kids. We really understand what kids and parents want.”

The response has been so good that Loews will have a 90 percent occupancy rate in the summer, Cochran said. During that time, the resort will have about 1,000 guests; about half will be children.

Accordingly, the 440-room resort offers many on-site activities families can do together. Being kid- and pet-friendly helps too, and the resort offers accommodations and resources for both, she said.

While Loews offers discounted rates, the best rates are usually offered to the resort’s repeat customers, Cochran said. While normal rates are between $225 and $295, promotional rates are about $149 or lower.

Other promotions offer families a free adjoining room or similar incentives.

– Some Advertise In

Consumer Publications

In addition to marketing for meetings and conventions, Loews also buys a great deal of consumer advertising. The resort advertises in publications that have West Coast editions, Cochran said.

“We do get people from the East Coast, but we only have X amount of dollars to spend. So, we usually spend them closer to home.”

The resort mostly advertises in magazines, such as travel or in-flight publications, and supplements marketing efforts with radio during the holidays, she said.

The resort also offers seasonal events to attract guests, Cochran said.

For example, the hotel offered “refrigerator raids” on leftovers after Thanksgiving and Christmas, and holiday rates of $130 last year.

Upcoming events include family activities for Easter, and guests will receive a sales tax break on food and beverages purchased at the resort’s lounge.

– Off-Period Starts

Early In The Year

While San Diego Paradise Point Resort also caters to business and leisure travelers, it encounters a definite off-period during the first part of the year.

Memorial Day in May kicks off the busy season as vacationing families visit Southern California, according to Elizabeth Hamm, the resort’s director of public relations.

Then as tourists begin to head home around Labor Day, the 460-room hotel becomes occupied with meeting and convention visitors, she said. To attract visitors during the off-season, the resort markets itself by several means.

Paradise Point will offer promotional rates between $89 and $159. Prices range from $170 to more than $500, she said.

“By discounting our rates, we hope to attract people who might not otherwise think of taking a vacation during that time,” Hamm said.

– Travel Writers

Provide Exposure

The resort also hosts travel writers to gain exposure for the hotel and off-season travel advantages, she said.

Paradise Point also advertises on the radio and in publications such as more upscale consumer travel and leisure magazines, Hamm said.

Radio promotions in which winners get a free stay at the resort help Paradise Point gain exposure in the market as well, she said.

A recent promotion in Seattle furnished the hotel with plenty of feedback and responses, Hamm said.

While all these techniques are used throughout the year, marketing is more saturated and consistent in the resort’s target markets during the regular season, Hamm said.

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