Another busy season has come and gone, and now it’s time to take a deep breath and hit the reset button. Depending on your property type, your busy season could mean thousands of people coming through a month. It’s hard to get anything done while all your rooms are booked and you’re juggling revenue management and your distribution. But during the low season, you have the opportunity to address your property and prepare for the next busy season.
Before Your Busy Season Ends
While the hustle and bustle is still going on, don’t forget to collect your current and past customers’ contact information. From email lists to phone numbers, you’ll want to have those contacts handy so that you can send them promotions, announcements, and other fun stuff during your off season and before the next busy season.
Entice people to keep in touch with you through call-to-actions on your website for blog or newsletter subscriptions. Contacts are good to have all year long, but it’s easier to capture new emails and contacts when there’s more traffic on your website.
Run Annual Reports
Hopefully your property runs reports on a regular basis no matter what season it is, but the off season gives you an opportunity to take a broader look at your year. Depending on how you calculate your fiscal year, you can build reports that show how your property fared from one busy season to the next. You can use the down time to dig into some data and figure out year-over-year trends, as well as small trends throughout each season.
If you implemented different pricing strategies, you can analyze how well they worked and plan new ones for the upcoming seasons. Your average daily rate and revenue per available room will likely be the key performance indicators for your property. We suggest taking a look at both metrics over the course of the year to determine trends over time. For more information on reporting, you can check out our ebook on revenue management for your property.
The off-season is also a great time to streamline operations. All types of properties are a collection of many moving parts. Between your booking processes, front desk operations, cleaning staff, property management, and everything in between, it can get complicated really fast.
Use the off-season to take a look at processes that need more efficiency. Look at everyday tasks to see where inefficiencies may lie. For example, your front desk staff checks people in and out every day. Are there ways to reduce steps to improve the guests’ experience? Perhaps sending paperwork ahead of time will help speed up the process, or allowing guests to express checkout to avoid long lines.
When we talk to our customers, we find that housekeeping can always benefit from process improvements. As we’ve suggested before, it’s a good idea to create a checklist of items each cleaning staff member must complete in each room. This helps you and the staff member know that every room is getting cleaned to the same standards every time.
It also helps to have a property management system that has the ability to track whether or not a room is clean. This helps the front desk assign guests to rooms and helps with special requests such as early check-in.
Audit Your Past Season
Beyond the financials, it’s important to audit how happy your guests were. While it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your reviews on a regular basis, we suggest doing a deep dive at the end of the season to analyze season wins and shortcomings. Each season is unique and should be treated as such. A lot of variables can change from year-to-year, so it can be helpful to compare guest experiences that will be most similar.
Choose a specific set of dates that make up your busy season and find all the reviews that fall within that window. Then go through each of the reviews and identify positives, negatives, and indifferences. If you have the time, completing a simple sentiment analysis could help you go beyond the number ratings and pull real insights from your available data. We created a guide on how to create a sentiment analysis to help you get started.
A sentiment analysis will help you gauge your guests’ real thoughts on how their stay went. It’s a good idea to respond to all negative reviews and attempt to find a solution. If a guest left a particularly great review, consider using it as a testimonial on your website, on social media, or in future ads.
Find Creative Ways to Market in the Off-Season
While it may be the off season, we’re sure you still want to sell as many rooms as possible. Often the first piece of advice you’ll hear is to lower your prices. While it’s true that different types of travelers go on trips in the off season to save money, there are other ways to entice deal seekers.
Consider creating packages that include special add-ons such as free meals, drinks, or experiences. Packaging different offers together allows you to give guests something special without offering bottom-of-the-barrel prices.
Create guides that let potential guests know what happens at your property outside of peak season. For example, you may be located next to a roller coaster park that’s primarily busy in the summer, but there are also incredible sledding hills open in the winter. Suddenly, you have an entirely new activity to promote.
The off season is a perfect time to upgrade the backend software that runs your property. No one wants to switch their property management system, booking engine, or channel manager at the height of busy season. Tackle technology changes that will help you operate your property better when things get busy again. New tech can certainly help you streamline process, as we suggested above. And as always, we’re always available to show you how Cloudbeds can help your property.
Consider adding other technology solutions to your workday as well such as popular productivity apps. Some of the ones we recommend include Trello and Basecamp, which we talk about more in depth here.
Your off season is a fantastic opportunity to recover from the busy season while preparing for the upcoming year. Use this time to audit how well you performed, identify areas you can improve, and find new systems and technologies to implement. Set yourself up for success and take advantage of the less jam-packed days to get some back-office tasks completed.