How to Make Your Boutique Hotel a Destination Location
A destination location is a hotel or resort in which the guests visit for the amenities and services offered by the venue as opposed to the location’s proximity to other attractions.
Boutique Hotels are defined as upscale venues that offer individualised design and unique selling points.
“Being referred to as a ‘destination hotel’ is a strong asset. Not only does the emphasis on price and location reduce but the hotel can become more resilient to pressure and tourism changes.” – Adam BALL, Banyan Hotels
Customers are looking for more from the hotels they visit, they’re looking for experiences that engage their senses and offer them unique opportunities that they can’t get anywhere else.
Emphasising the unique elements of your boutique hotel and offering new and exciting experiences to your guests puts you in a position to turn your boutique hotel into a destination location.
However, the luxury travel market is changing, with technology allowing people to easily conduct searches and research, potential guests can discover more about your location and the surrounding area, which is why tourism marketing and offering more options to your guests is becoming so important.
Some of the most common complaints from travellers when discussing major destinations are that:
- It’s too crowded
- The trip was anti-climactic
- There were too many other people
- There wasn’t enough to do
- The location was marketed as something that it isn’t.
Looking at these issues, it’s clear that the common theme in many of them is that the expectations of the customer wasn’t reached. The hotels in these locations provided their customers with an offering they were unable to deliver.
Boutique Hotels offer individual experiences that are different to any mainstream chain venue; by carefully evaluating what your establishment can do for your traveller, and balancing it with what’s available in the surrounding areas – you can resolve many of these common complaints, and build a genuine excitement for the services you deliver.
Competition in the hospitality sector is fierce, and with companies such as Air BnB offering regular people the opportunity to rent out their homes to travellers, standing out in the market and getting customers through the doors is harder than ever.
When the concept of Boutique Hotels was first introduced in the 1980s, the idea was that these establishments were offering something different to mainstream hotels, that they were homes away from home – in today’s market, where guests can actually stay in other people’s homes, it’s vital that Boutique Hotels evolve and grow to remain a competitive and attractive option.
When it comes to making purchasing decisions, the ‘Experience’ is becoming a deciding factor for many, in fact:
86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience, but only 1% feel that vendors consistently meet expectations. Source: Oracle
When you look at how to market your boutique hotel, you must determine what your potential guests are looking for, why your hotel is the one to meet these needs, and why your establishment is the destination they will not only want to visit – but talk about, refer to others, and visit time and again.
There is a growing desire for guests to combine the amenities and services provided by a luxury hotel with the experiences of a destination location.
Only 38% of luxury hotel owners believe that one-quarter of their current guests will return for another stay at some point in their lives. Source: Statista
This shows that having a luxury location alone is not enough. Guests want to be treated well and have a top-class experience, but they want their memories to extend beyond the walls of their room. Luxury doesn’t just mean the quality of the room or the softness of the pillows (although this does matter), it applies to the service, the experience and the intangible feeling of being treated amazingly.
Knowing your audience and their needs and evolving to meet them and create a luxury brand is something that can further differentiate your boutique hotel from your competitors and the offerings made by Air BnB.
With the right marketing and focus, you can take your strategy to another level – why stop at being a destination location if you’ve got the tools and ability to become a luxury destination location?
Technology has changed the hospitality market. Hotels are now having to compete online not only with Other Travel Agencies (OTAs) and each other, but also with self-booking systems and short-term accommodation options that are now available.
Companies such as Air BnB have given individuals the opportunity to rent out their own homes to travellers and since 2008 when they were founded, they’ve seen over 400 million guests and now have 150 million users in over 65,000 cities. Source: Much Needed
Boutique Hotels are no longer the only accommodation offering the ‘feel of home’ experience. Which means that as a Boutique Hotel you need to use different selling points to differentiate yourself and entice new guests to your doors.
This evolutionary process however is already something that Air BnB are adopting; they have recently started to offer experience packages in some of their locations, with options such as cooking classes available.
To prevent your venue from falling behind and becoming obsolete in the eyes of experiential interest, your strategy needs to broaden – you need to create a destination that offers a unique and engaging experience, and use tourism marketing techniques to ensure that once customers have enjoyed what you have to offer, there is still more to draw them back.
With Boutique Hotels being designed to offer a different experience, including a destination marketing mix into your strategy makes sense; it will gather together the best qualities of your property and help you answer the question of how to differentiate your property from your competitors.
When you’re creating a boutique hotel marketing plan you will be outlining the ways you can strengthen your brand identity, create marketing opportunities, and determine the direction that your business intends to go in.
When putting together the destination marketing plan, you need to ask yourself:
- Who is my ideal customer?
- What do they want to see and experience?
- Am I meeting those needs?
- What are my competitors doing?
- What are my competitors not doing?
- How am I different?
- What are my Unique Selling Points (USPs)?
Then you need to continue to ask yourself how to market a tourist destination? What can you offer your guests in terms of the location of your establishment, the nearby attractions and amenities, and the accessibility of it.
Customers want to know what they can expect they want to know what they can do – and how easy it is for them to do it. However, what they don’t want is pages and pages of dull, dry text that clinically dissects the offerings and sucks the fun from them.
Your strategy needs to have a focused direction and a targeted mix of content that will engage the senses and the imagination. When you promote your brand as a destination, your content needs to be as unique and interesting as your location.
71% of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service from a name they recognise. Source: Onbuy
Emotional Marketing is a powerful tool to connect you with your customers. By engaging their senses and stimulating their minds, you form a bond with them. This builds not only anticipation but trust and recognition of your brand.
When a person finds something that’s interesting or exciting, they’ll talk about it for a while. But when a person is emotionally connected to something, that feeling stays with them long after they’ve forgotten the specifics of the situation.
Creating emotional bonds requires honesty and a willingness to get involved. You can’t just talk at your visitors; you need to talk to them. You need to invite them to become a part of your global experience and value the time they are taking to engage with you.
More than 80% of reputation damage comes from a mismatch between the ‘buzz’ and the reality. Source: Status Labs
It’s crucial that you are honest about what you can offer, and what there is to do in your wider community; otherwise, you’re going to be damaging your reputation and wasting your money on a strategy that doesn’t work for you.
Marketing for Boutique Hotels is highly individualised. As each property has been developed and designed on a venue by venue basis, what works for one location will not work for another – even if they’re part of the same brand. How to market a boutique hotel will depend on the hotel and the long-term goals of the brand.
However, to be successful, Boutique Hotel Marketing needs to be tailored to the needs of the venue to promote its best qualities and highlights.
Most boutique hotel marketing plans will follow the same basic formula, however: determine who the audience are, the USPs of the venue, and promote.
This is the most basic approach, to go further and turn your venue into The Destination to Be, you need to look at what you can offer inside your property. You need to look at destination marketing strategies that play to the strengths of your brand.
Evaluate your venue and the space you have, could it be used for more than you’re currently using it for? For example, if you have a conference room with large windows that overlooks an interesting or beautiful view, you could think about holding workshops for artists to make use of the space.
Do you have interesting architecture and live in an area where they celebrate historical events (such as hosting a Victorian Week)? You could offer themed hotel stays that give customers an experience of that time period.
You might even have local legends or a haunted room which you could promote as an attraction and destination for people interested in those hobbies.
How you differentiate yourself depends entirely on your venue and your brand. You must always remember, the content you create and the way in which you engage with your audience needs to be done in line with your brand’s vision and values – and using your brand voice. This consistency will help you cut through the online clutter.
For example, these venues have looked at what they can provide and have created content which reflects not only the location but evokes emotion and a sense of want within the guest. By teasing visitors with what they can expect and putting it in an emotional context (such as “you will feel like”) these brands are forming bonds, encouraging interest and interaction, and calling their social media followers to action.
Marketing for a destination hotel is an ongoing process. Once you have your core idea (your USP), you need to continually evolve and grow, and encourage guest interaction online to remain relevant.
When putting together your plan you should:
- Use Technology to Help Market Your Hotel: Whether this is something simple such as 360 ° Photographs to show off a specific room, or as advanced as a Virtual Reality (VR) App that gives your potential guests a digital tour of your location will depend on your budget, needs and target customers.
But you should make use of the technologies that are available to create new and exciting content that encourages your guests to get involved with your brand.
- Optimise Your Social Media Channels: Create content which entertains, educates and engages your guests. Make use of the differences between each social platform to create a well-rounded content mix which highlights the most appealing and different aspects of your business.
Avoid cross-posting your content, it might seem easier to simply click ‘yes’ when asked if you want to post to Facebook and Instagram with one post, but you need to remember these platforms have very different optimum image sizes and posting styles (for instance, 30 hashtags on Instagram is perfectly acceptable, but on Facebook – any more than two is seen by visitors as a company spamming the post and engagement rates will actually drop!)
- Reward Guest Loyalty with a Unique Scheme: If you’re location is promoting a certain selling point, then make it central to your loyalty program. If you’re encouraging guests to visit for a specific reason, then it makes sense to reward them with continued access to it. Money off vouchers and upgraded bookings are certainly elements you can include in your loyalty program, but go that bit further and bring your unique edge into your rewards.
For example: If your destination is the place to go for learning to throw pots with a local artisan, then have a reward level which offers an exclusive one-on-one learning session – entice your guests back by offering them more of the things they’ve come to experience.
- Engage with Your Local Community to Create New Offers: When using tourism marketing in conjunction with destination marketing for your boutique hotel, it’s important to remember that it doesn’t just cover what you can offer your guests to do, but it can also influence how they stay, and what they take away with them.
You might consider partnering up with a local taxi firm to provide transport on demand to your guests, or agreeing with local attractions to provide a discounted rate for your guests.
You could also think about bringing in specialty and artisan foods created by local suppliers to enhance the guest experience; you could then (for example) offer the purchase of picnic / lunch baskets, or gift boxes to take home.
- Specifically Target the Advertising for Your Boutique Hotel: It is a fact of life that everyone has different tastes, and some people will not be interested in your venue. There is absolutely no point trying to appeal or advertise to everyone and hope that you get some interest.
You need to know who your customers are, what they’re interested in, where you can find them, and the best content to produce to gain their attention.
Once you’ve done this, you will be reaching a smaller audience (compared to marketing to everyone), but these are now the people who are most likely going to stay with you and become your important paying customers.
It’s often said that specifics fade, but people don’t forget the way you made them feel, by giving your guests a stunning experience and a unique stay, you will make a lasting positive impression that encourages word of mouth referrals, positive reviews and increased bookings.
“You need a first-class team to be successful so making them the focus has to be your priority. If you can give them the best possible employee experience, then they, in turn, will deliver the same to your guests and commercially for your business.”
If your internal team isn’t used to destination marketing or doesn’t have tools to do the job properly you should invest in a dedicated team who will work with you to promote your venue to its fullest.
Virtual Solutions specialises in working with hospitality brands. Our team of experts have years of dedicated experience, qualifications and a creative flair that will see you gain the best return on investment.
We keep on top of all the latest news and trends, cutting through the digital chatter and bringing you exactly what you need. Instead of spending your budget on learning which tools you need, training to use them, and struggling with trial and error – invest in Virtual Solutions, who already have the training, techniques and tools and can make your budget work for your goals and long-term success.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you achieve success, you can: