Red-letter days

05 March 2004 by
Red-letter days

Do you ever get the feeling that you're running your business from hand to mouth, struggling to keep up with endless swathes of legislation, dealing with staff shortages and ever more demanding staff? Probably, then, you're also feeling that there's no time to take a step back and consider the longer-term picture of events that you can promote to your customers.

But sitting back and looking at everything, not just things in isolation, is essential if you are to stay one step ahead of the competition.

"Never plan piecemeal," advises Stuart Harrison, principal of the Profitable Hotel Company, which advises hotels on their brand and marketing strategies. "All special events - whether one-off or celebration dates that repeat every year - should be thought through in a year-long, rolling marketing plan. All events should be listed and planned for. I use the phrase, ‘January always follows December, but still hoteliers can only think in short timelines.'"

How do you achieve that? The short answer is to include everyone and get those creative juices flowing. There is also the likelihood, if these are local people, that they will have knowledge of local services and could come up with creative solutions which you might not have considered. The next step is to bring all the ideas together.

Tim Hadcock-Mackay, chairman of hotel consortium Grand Heritage, says: "What every single hotel should do is to do a calendar, and this is particularly important if you are a country house hotelier and a bit out of the way. Hoteliers need to concentrate on all social occasions, not just Christmas and New Year, if they are to put themselves on the map."

Michelle Woodley, vice-president of distribution and marketing services for IndeCorp, which provides marketing and sales services to more than 300 hotels across the world, offers the following advice for independents. "Independent hotels have a great potential advantage over chain hotels, as there is no corporate formula for them to follow in their activities," she says. "This gives them complete flexibility, and means that their marketing tactics can go beyond promotions and advertising to fine-tune their product offering to match the needs of the calendar. Special accommodation packages can be developed - our spa resorts, for example, frequently pull together mother-and-daughter spa days." n

### Mother's Day is 21 March. here are some offerings from hoteliers around the UK… St Pierre Park Hotel, Guernsey Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 March £115 per person to include two nights' accommodation and breakfast, Mothering Sunday jazz luncheon, and use of Le Mirage health suite. When two people book at full price, mum stays free of charge. Quality Hotel, Norwich Carvery lunch, after which a photographer will be available to take a portrait as a keepsake for mum. (£15.95 per adult; children under 12 half price.) The Vermont, Newcastle The Vermont hotel has created a Geordie Mother's Day Gesture for those mums who have had to endure a year of family football fanaticism. The offer includes suite accommodation with three-course dinner, breakfast, unlimited Champagne for mothers, a private butler, and a limousine to take you to St James' Park (Newcastle United's home ground) - where you can tell your mum how much you love her, on the centre spot, for £3,000. Singers Robbie Williams and Tom Jones are known to have stayed in these suites on several occasions, but have not yet booked the package for their mums. The Portobello, Notting Hill, London The Portobello hotel in Notting Hill is one of the most extravagant of Britain's romantic hideaways. Following a recent request from one family, the hotel's general manager, Johnny Ekperigin, is having to scatter the room with Liquorice Allsorts (their mother's favourite sweets). He is now making provision for any other sweetie weaknesses by ordering jars of strawberry bonbons, lemon sherbets, rhubarb-and-custards and sugared almonds. So, even if these rooms aren't sold, the hotel staff will be happy. Rooms start from £160 per night, excluding breakfast but including VAT. 42 The Calls, Leeds The acclaimed 42 The Calls in Leeds is promising to make any mother's day with an offer of its most luxurious accommodation, a Clarins Makeover Masterclass, and smoked salmon and champers breakfast, served by a butler, in bed. Rooms cost £199 per night including VAT.
### Calendar girl One hotelier who keeps an eye on the calendar is Tracey Hatton, general manager of the 99-bedroom Down Hall Country House Hotel in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire. Hatton has produced a schedule for the whole year, covering obvious celebrations such as St Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Easter, and more manufactured attractions such as falconry, hot-air ballooning and murder-mystery events. These are all documented on tent cards distributed around the hotel, encouraging guests to tick the ones they are interested in and leave their details. This data is then captured and guests are mailed further details. All members of staff are encouraged to collect the cards, making them proactive in the selling process. "I have changed the culture by making everyone in the hotel a member of the sales team," says Hatton. "Heads of departments now give staff members objectives to collect as many of these cards as possible - which is good even for housekeeping, where staff may have little English." Hatton says the system is also a non-confrontational way of selling to guests, as they get to fill in the cards at their leisure. Having come from a large corporate environment to the country house hotel, Hatton says the sector is entirely different and that being proactive on the marketing front is key to survival.
### The HMA The Hotel Marketing Association (HMA), formerly the Hotel Industry Marketing Group, has been operating for more than 30 years and is the official branch for the hotel industry of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. One of the key objectives of the HMA is to promote good marketing practice in the hotel industry. Its Hotel Marketing Awards, now in their 11th year, are given every year to individual hotels or chains that are judged to have provided the best examples of marketing in a number of fields, including leisure breaks, brochure work, use of technology, and public relations. In addition, the HMA holds a series of workshops and meetings throughout the year, attended by major figures in the industry. The HMA is supported by 14 major hotel groups in addition to a number of small, independent operators, and is sponsored by American Express. It costs £54 to join as an affiliate member. People who join work in hotel marketing but can also be operators or owners of small independent hotels - or just be interested in the subject. For more details visit the HMA's website at
### DIY occasions Pamela Carvell, chairman of the Hotel Marketing Association, says: "Traditionally, events like Mother's Day and Easter tend to fill restaurants rather than hotel rooms. However, leisure packages marketed effectively and given PR support can certainly boost revenue streams, particularly for UK provincial hotels that might be a bit off the beaten track." Here are a few DIYmarketing opportunities to play around with: Caribbean evening - with a buffet and steel band, perhaps? Arabian evening - why not get a belly dancer along or offer a belly dancing lesson? It's a fabulous way to get fit. 1970s evenings.US Independence Day - burgers and popcorn in abundance. Murder-mystery nights.Mediterranean evenings. Father's Day - 20 June this year. Falconry, if you have the grounds. Summer balls.
### Got the idea? Now put it into action Stuart Harrison of the Profitable Hotel Company offers the following advice: Getting started - Plan for promotions: identify your trough periods well in advance, so that you can put your promotions together properly. - Select your target market, identify whom you are trying to track. Remember: one promotion to one target market. - Match your offer to your needs. If you have busy Friday and Saturday nights in your hotel, why not offer Sunday night for a nominal fee? - Set a budget and stick to it. - Tell people about your promotion. Printed material can be produced locally using low-cost high-street printers. Promotional flyers These can be distributed: - As local newspaper insertions. - At trade shows. - On car windscreens in business parks. - At the front desk. - Through tourist offices. - In shopping centres. - As magazine inserts. Posters These can be costly but seen by lots of people, if distributed to bus stations, railway stations and shopping centres. Adverts Places to advertise: - Local newspapers. - Local newspapers in an area you know generates business for you - this could be 100 miles away. - College or university newsletters in the build-up to graduation time. - Wedding supplements in regional papers or brochures for wedding fairs. - Tourist office guides. - Local attraction guides and websites. - Direct mail promoting local events such as county shows, pop concerts and pantomimes. - Trade fair direct mail. - Regional magazines for the business community. Banners Use banners to: - Raise awareness of your existence by giving easily remembered location details. - Tell people about value-for-money offers. - Tell people about the product. Direct mail Direct mail is a method of communicating with a known set of current, potential or lapsed customers by mail. To do this: - Find your databases of current or past customers. - Collect names and addresses on a database so you can print labels. Make sure all addresses are complete. - Choose your target market by subdividing your database into business and leisure customers. - Decide on your message by crafting a suitable message that will appeal to the target market. Make sure the offer is simple, good value and relevant to your target market. - Track the response. Data Protection Act You need to be aware of the Data Protection Act 1996, which protects the public from unsolicited mail and entitles them to privacy at their address. To find out more call 01625 545700 or visit - For more information go to and click on Manager's Office. Stuart Harrison can be contacted at
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