Hoteliers aren’t in the business of telling guests what they can and cannot do—their ultimate goal is to create an experience that is flexible enough to perfectly match a guest’s wants and needs. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible.
Restrictions and stay controls are a necessary evil. In order to ensure that a hotel maximizes its revenue potential near the end of the year, booking rules must sometimes be changed. When this happens, guests may be required to book a certain number of days in advance, stay for a prescribed number of nights or avoid checking out on specific holidays.
The challenge is implementing the restrictions your hotel strategy requires in a way that doesn’t offend guests or affect bookings negatively. Here are some tips to help you strike the perfect balance.
Carefully Consider What is Necessary
Some restrictions can’t be avoided—but that isn’t always the case. The restrictions you typically put in place may reflect market conditions that are no longer relevant, or be based on outdated traditions. As important as restrictions sometimes are, they are almost always an unwelcome obstacle for guests. Forcing a family to commit to a maximum stay or check in at a rigid time may be as unnecessary as they are unwanted. You don’t want to restrict bookings without good reason, but you also don’t want to allow an open season at a time when you need to carefully manage occupancy.
By taking a close look at booking patterns, you can evaluate if and when restrictions are actually required. You know when occupancy is likely to spike or fall and how the resources of your hotel are utilized to meet that demand. Use those insights to ensure that you’re only placing restrictions on guests when they are absolutely imperative.
Align with Your Marketing Message
Make sure you are not compromising the image of your hotel or the message of your current marketing campaign by putting restrictions in place. For instance, if you want guests to think your hotel is as accessible and accommodating as possible, things like blackout arrival dates will only foster ill will. Try to align the restrictions you must put in place with the language you use to explain them. You might tell guests that by requiring a minimum length of stay around the holidays your staff is better able to focus on the guest experience.
Start Collecting Data
Identifying when to put stay controls in place must be a data-driven process. It is too consequential to be dictated by tradition, intuition or assumption. By collecting and analyzing a large amount of data about your occupancy trends and operational performance you get a more empirical understanding of what your property does and doesn’t do well. That data can then be used to reveal when a restriction is necessary versus purely negative.
Automate More of the Process
Setting restrictions is a highly refined process where small differences in details can have a major impact on revenue. The only way for hoteliers to manage this process with confidence is to rely on technology. Tools should be implemented to bring the relevant data together into one location, automate the collection process and enable advanced analytics. Not only does the right tech help to expedite the decision-making process, it also insulates hoteliers from the kinds of errors that form a lasting negative impression.
Photo: Shutterstock / dotshock