Spring break can conjure up some pretty frightening images: sunburns, underage drinking, and trashed hotel rooms.
Bless those housekeepers. Really.
It can be pretty scary. Almost as scary as James Franco in cornrows and a grill.
But here’s something even more scary.
At Panama City Beach, famed spring break hotspot, “hotel reservations [are] down more than 50 percent…and businesses [are] reporting sales down anywhere from 50 to 85 percent.” The city itself is still planning on making bank with tax rates, but I’m not sure hotels will be so lucky.
Whether this is due to bad publicity or the enaction of new laws to crackdown on tourist behavior, it spells bad news for hotel managers expecting to make big bucks during this popular vacation season.
But what this does mean, though, is that tourists are flocking to other spring break destinations and other hotels. Maybe even yours.
So how can you transform your hotel into a spring break destination dream?
I’ve got you.
Below, I’ll outline four strategies you and your hotel can use to make the most out of this lucrative season. From guest personas to crafting hot hotel deals, I’ll walk you through some simple strategies to transform your property into its very own oasis as a spring break hotel.
1. Reevaluate Your Ideal Guest
Do you know who your average spring break customer is? Do they differ from your hotel regulars?
The thing that can be interesting about different hotel seasons, and in particular spring break, is that you may encounter a different kind of guest. Perhaps your resort hotel is a haven for the collegiate crowd in the springtime, only to evolve to a more family-oriented property come summer.
Maybe it’s time to reevaluate who your customer is, whether you’re trying to ward off college students or appeal to that very audience. I mean, Fort Lauderdale made more than $1.1 billion during the 2013 spring break season alone. That kind of money is definitely food for thought.
So even if you’ve already created a buyer persona, it may be wise to craft another specifically for the spring break season, especially if you wish to attract a slightly different audience.
But remember that you do want to stay within the same ballpark, here. A few weeks of party hardy guests may deter more family-friendly tourists and confuse customers.
And don’t forget: not all college students are the same. Some are even starting to travel with their parents as well. Alternative spring break programs are also on the rise. You could be the go-to location for those programs if students need a place to stay, and the college could then become a returning customer.
According to Nielsen, Millennials are “willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings,” and 72 percent are also “willing to pay more for products and services that come from companies… committed to positive social and environmental impact.”
Clearly, it may pay to invest some of your own green into green practices, which you can then pitch to guests looking for more eco-friendly options. (It can also give you a nice spot on TripAdvisor’s GreenLeaders page.)
Restructuring your buyer persona may seem daunting at first, but think of the benefits in the long haul. Creating this secondary buyer persona can help you reevaluate your marketing strategy and examine whether you want to invest more or different resources in attracting certain spring break crowds.
2. Crafting Hot Hotel Deals
Everyone likes saving money and everyone likes making money. The best thing about being a hotel is that you have the ability to do both, especially during the spring break blitz.
So why not pass on that good feeling to your guests, showing them you’re not only hospitable in terms of your services, but price as well?
But wait. What does that cost you?
Hear me out.
Deals and packages are great on both ends. Your guests save some money that they then use on other offerings at your hotel, increasing your revenue by leaps and bounds. Because these days who needs to leave their hotel to have a little fun?
But that leaves the question: how do can you still ensure you’ll make a profit?
Answer: hotel management software.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how I feel about hotels neglecting the benefits of technology. I mean, how is it possible that some hotels still refuse to offer free Wi-Fi? Makes me feel like we’re still in the dinosaur age.
But the great thing about hotel software, is that it can also save you money and help you configure your room rates during popular seasons so you can offer specials and discounts without going under.
How? Some hotel software has a booking component that can calculate this for you or, if you wish, you can invest in hotel booking software specifically, which can also do the work for you if you aren’t quite ready to invest in a complete system.
Either way, it’s a great way to manage a mass of guests and make a profit without the confusion. Plus, the ease of software can mean a big advantage for smaller properties with fewer employees.
If you do decide on creating a special spring break package, ensure that some of your benefits also include special activities at your property and not just room packages. This can introduce your guests to some of your other offerings, maximizing your guest experience and profits.
3. Invest in Special Spring Break Activities
Going to have some major talent during a high-trafficked weekend? Have a special seminar on meditation or a visiting fitness instructor in town?
While spring break is a time to relax, not everyone is snoozing poolside for the duration of their break.
I’m lazy, but I can’t imagine just laying in the sun all day. I burn easily and I like to do things. Even if it’s only eating.
If you’re expecting another great year in revenue for your spring break blowout season, it may be time for you to take the next step in amping up your hotel.
But that doesn’t have to mean a bass-boosting alcohol free-for-all complete with table dancing and trashed tourists. Though it does sound fun.
Maybe you attract families intent on adding to their treasure trove of memories with a fun Boogie Board lesson or a nice night out for the parents. Maybe you’re a resort with some romantic appeal, perfect for a visiting jazz band or special spa day. It’s all about knowing who your guests are and who you want to cater to.
Whoever it is, it’s a worthwhile investment and something you can advertise through out your social channels to get interested eyes and entice future guests. Might I suggest Instagram?
Not to mention, an unforgettable guest experience can score you some great points with guests, meaning great reviews. And because “[r]eviews are the most powerful value indicator for consumers,” these reviews can lead to more reservations in the future.
4. The Importance of Safety
Spring break can conjure images of crazy college students, but what about the parents of these guests? Or even the families that stay at your hotel to have a good time for everyone?
Safety is likely their top concern.
The famed Panama City Beach is the notorious ground-zero for party antics, and not surprisingly for high crime during spring break season. Last year alone, the Panama City Beach Police Department (PCBPD) “responded to 13,301 calls for service,” up from almost 2,000 calls the year prior. More than 2,400 people were arrested in a few weeks.
Hotels also have their own fair share of problems. With an influx of tourism and minds on margaritas or meeting up with friends, burglars take note of careless guests or housekeeping, breaking into hotel rooms left unlocked or manipulating keycards.
Believe me on that last one. There’s even videos on YouTube that show you how to do it.
You also don’t want to be the next hotel featured on Dateline, where a child or a wife goes missing on what was supposed to be a relaxing family vacation. It’s something that will never go away.
So how can you beef up your security?
Whether you decide to implement wearable tech or smartphones as keycard alternatives, be sure that you can guarantee room safety at your property when your guests are out and especially when they’re in. Even if you post simple reminders for guests to lock their doors (and remind housekeeping as well) or provide a safe for guest valuables, make sure you increase your security on all levels.
Tip: Don’t forget the importance of cybersecurity. While your focus should be on your guests, be sure your systems have a network or computer security component that will, in turn, protect customer data, like card payments and personal information, so you don’t end up like the long list of hotel brands that were hacked last year.
Can you think of any other great ways to make your hotel a vacation hotspot for the yearly spring break crowd? Let me know in the comments below.
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