Why hotels should engage with locals and how to do it
The very purpose of a hotel – to provide guests with a place to sleep for the night – means that they overlook the importance of locals, particularly when it comes to marketing. Likely to only target those living outside of a certain radius, it is possible that your property is missing out on an opportunity. Local people are not only valuable to your business if you have a hotel bar or restaurant, an events room or leisure facilities, but they also have the potential to become your brand ambassadors. In this article, we look at why hotels should engage with locals and how to do it best.
Why hotels should engage with locals
When we think hotels, we think travel. We think long distances, road trips and even flights. And of course in most cases the guests at your hotel will be coming from afar – that’s why they need a hotel room for the night. However if your hotel has any kind of service accessible to locals (a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, gym or spa) you could be missing a revenue opportunity that’s right under your nose.
But that’s not all. Engaging with locals has a great deal of benefits including but not limited to; networking and thus creating opportunities for collaboration as well as enhancing your hotel’s reputation and creating local brand ambassadors. Wondering why hotels should engage with locals? Learn more below.
By providing meaningful experiences that leave a lasting impression on guests, hotels have the opportunity to transform their locals into brand advocates, positively impacting brand reputation and online reviews. Through engagements with locals, your hotel can establish strong relationship; a key strategy for delivering ongoing value to the community. Additionally, effective hotel public relations play a crucial role in shaping how your brand is perceived. Get this right, and your locals will be recommending your property to guests coming to visit them, and they’ll mention your name when recommending an events venue or a place to eat.
Create opportunities for collaboration
Still not sure why hotels should engage with locals? Through active community engagement, your hotel can cultivate avenues for collaboration with local organisations and businesses. For example, you might meet someone interested in pairing up their multi-day hiking tour with a hotel property in your town, or you might come across a corporate destination management professional looking for a new venue for clients in the area. These collaborations not only have the potential to generate revenue but also serve as effective means to promote your business.
Understand the needs of local customers
Engage with the community and you’ll gain a deeper understanding of their needs, enabling you to customise your products and services to enhance customer satisfaction and foster loyalty. By recognising that preferences of local guests may vary, comprehending these nuances will result in a more genuine experience that aligns with local values. Are you hearing that locals would love the possibility to use your gym and spa? Or perhaps they love the idea of a staycation package? Stay tuned to their thoughts and ideas and you could increase the revenue at your property as a result.
How to best engage with locals at your hotel
Now that it’s clear why hotels should engage with locals, let’s look at a few strategies.
Source things locally (food, drink, art, entertainment)
A great place to start when looking to engage with locals, is to start swapping out your products with local ones. Make connections with local businesses and start using their produce, drinks or even soaps instead of those imported from elsewhere. Of course by sourcing products locally, hotels can not only infuse the community’s culture, history, and roots into every aspect of a guest’s experience, but they’ll also be creating ties with other businesses. It doesn’t just end with products either, you could also engage with local services or arts.
Focus on the off-season
To attract local customers, hotels can also strategically target the offseason when both tourists and locals are seeking a change of scenery. By offering enticing promotions and package deals, hotels can capture the attention of those locals who are eager for a nearby getaway. Consider last-minute deals to fill empty rooms or offer staycation vouchers which include other services (like free breakfast, use of the gym or a spa treatment) to encourage locals to take advantage of the hotel’s amenities. By focusing on the offseason and implementing these thoughtful strategies, hotels can effectively attract and engage local customers while maximising their occupancy rates.
Promote a staycation offer
We’ve already touched on it above, but the staycation offer could be the key to success with locals at your hotel. In 2023, a larger number of remote workers as a result of the pandemic means that people are at home more and looking for a change of scenery. This is where the staycation really plays its part. Tied in with deals such as restaurant vouchers, perhaps a spa treatment, or even an off-premises experience, hotels can increase their revenue with the help of locals. You could even collaborate with local businesses such as breweries or local restaurants to build packages that have greater appeal than just accommodation.
Host an event
Hosting events is a powerful strategy for hotels to connect with locals and foster loyalty. By organising an event you send out a message that your hotel wants to become part of the community, thus strengthening your brand and reputation. One approach to hosting an event could be to organise entertainment such as live music performances or art exhibitions, providing a fun and engaging experience for attendees. Another effective strategy might be to host community-focused events like charity fundraisers or workshops relevant to local interests or to simply celebrate local holidays. By promoting any of these events with an effective marketing campaign through various channels, hotels can forge meaningful connections, build loyalty, and position themselves as active community participants.
Implement a ‘locals’ loyalty program
Since your locals live nearby, they can probably be loyal more so than your out of town guests. For example, they might visit your bar every week, might eat a meal in your restaurant once per month, and its possible that they refer you to a friend looking for accommodation every so often. Accordingly, if your hotel does not have a loyalty program in place, its likely that it missing out on some loyalty potential. When your locals are provided with discount at your bar, restaurant or on rooms, their sense of belonging is increased and they are more likely to visit again and again. This sense of belonging is also likely to increase the likelihood that they refer you to, or bring, friends. Of course for your property, this is a win-win situation.
Leverage local influencers
Got a new facility to share about? Perhaps a great offer to promote? Partnering with local influencers is a great way to keep things local and engage with your community. By partnering with influencers who have a strong presence and following in the local community, hotels can reach a wider audience and generate buzz. The best part is, the buzz is kept local, creating more awareness for your property on a local level.
Wondering how to manage this? Contact local influencers and allow them to create engaging and authentic content that showcases your hotel’s amenities, services, and experiences. This can include sponsored posts, Instagram takeovers, or even influencer-hosted events at your hotel.
Sponsor local sports teams or events
To enhance word-of-mouth recommendations and increase awareness of your hotel, it is important to proactively explore fresh possibilities. Engage in meaningful community involvement by sponsoring a local team that travels locally or even nationwide, proudly displaying your hotel’s name on their uniforms. Another option is to sponsor a sporting event that commemorates a significant regional achievement. These initiatives are guaranteed to garner attention and promote your hotel’s visibility.
Flaunt your space
Proud of your gym and swim facilities? If your hotel offers locals a spa package, or you have an amazing rooftop bar, let people know. Sometimes your locals don’t even know what your hotel has to offer, or they simply aren’t aware of your hotel’s openness to outside guests. If you’ve got the facilities, flaunt it! Play up the “you won’t get this at home message” in your marketing strategy, talking up your gym or sports facility, spa, good views and you’ll be surprised how many people will want to drop by. This also goes for digital nomads and remote workers. If you’ve got a great lobby or a cafe, advertise it for local remote workers looking for a change of scenery. The likelihood is, you’ll end up selling a lot of coffee!
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