Repeat guests for a hotel or vacation rental: a dream or reality? You definitely can bring people back, but it doesn’t bear much resemblance to the retail or restaurant business simply because your guests are not locals.
Let’s start with reasons why guests return (they do!) and then move on to the solutions that can help you improve the retention rate.
Why do people prefer to come back to the same place? The first reason is their initial motivation:
- work/business-related travelers who found the location and services affordable and suitable.
- recreational guests, e.g. families or couples that love to spend their vacation in the same location.
Both types of guests are there for the location and things they have/love to do there. Your main task is to provide them with the satisfactory hospitality experience so that when then need to get back to the same area, they’d stick to the tried-and-true option.
There are three main reasons that are taken for granted by repeat guests who are willing to get back to the same place:
- A clean welcoming place with quality facilities, aka services quality.
- Enjoyable personal touch with hosts/staff.
- Freebies, discounts, and extras.
You may add the ease and convenience of the booking procedure to the last point, too. However, even if it’s satisfying but you fail to meet the first two options, the reservation process doesn’t matter that much.
Generally speaking, regardless of how outstanding pre-vacation experience you might manage to provide, the only after-departure experience will influence the guest’s decision on whether or not to come back, but then that’s par for the course.
If all the above criteria are met, in result we have the following decision-making pattern: “So if I have things to do in that area and I enjoyed my previous stay, (and perhaps I’m already a member of the loyalty program), why should I waste time comparing and assessing other options?”. Bingo! This is your potential repeat guest.
Your task is to help your past guest to not forget about you, still consider your hotel or vacation rental as beneficial and relevant.
Hence, in this article, we’ll talk only about the things that can make your good services even better, how to implement more automation for communication with guests, email marketing tips and tricks to bring people back and many helpful things.
A manually curated post for you to improve the pre-vacation experience: 20+ ways to increase your vacation rental website traffic.
Email marketing is your best friend to return non-locals
First of all, you need to maintain contacts with your past guests. The easiest way to reach them is via the email address. We are working with WordPress hotel websites, so here are a few ideas on how to automatically collect email addresses and send custom automated messages to guests:
- If you run an independent website and accept direct bookings with the Hotel Booking plugin, you can collect email addresses of bookings even without third-party email marketing services and send after-departure emails in many days after check-out. For this, you can use the Hotel Booking Notifier add-on that allows you to set up conditional emails based on different triggers. You’ll be able to email anything that can evoke the curiosity of your guests (discounts, tour booking ideas, etc.).
There is no limit to the number of days you can send emails to the past guests, so you may even set up elapsed email campaigns. To encourage return at the same time, you’ll need to count the approx number of days to make sure the email will arrive at the guest’s inbox during the same season/period/event.
2. If you want to use the dedicated email marketing software, it’s easy to automate all types of after-departure emails to the fullest. Connect Mailchimp, one of the most important popular platforms for email marketing, design your email templates (it’s really easy to do that with a drag-and-drop handy interface), designate the settings and you are all set!
The tool allows you to automatically build a list of contacts in Mailchimp associated with the booking actions on your website to send automated emails to past guests and prospects.
The huge benefit of the Mailchimp add-on is that it does a very intelligent analytics work by analyzing the properties your clients booked, their preferences, the amount of money they spent, etc., which can be your perfect database for segmenting the audience, identifying VIP clients and sending more relevant emails.
Thus, your segmentation list will better reflect the realities of your business and you’ll be better off sending data-driven emails. Moreover, since you can track clicks and conversion, it’s possible to tailor emails even better for future campaigns (A/B testing, which is, by the way, the secret weapon of success of Booking.com).
With this addon, you can set such after-departure emails on autopilot as “Reward your best customers”, “Follow up on purchase”, “Win back lapsed customers” (to reach those who haven’t visited your place for a long time), etc. To turn one-time travelers into repeat guests, you can also send regular newsletters telling about local events or notifying about hot deals.
The extension complies with all the GDPR regulations allowing you to ask for a customer’s consent (to use their email address for sending promo materials) at checkout when the booking is placed.
At the same time, you may even opt out of this option and subscribe guests to your lists automatically.
3. If you’re using any other solution for accepting property bookings, Mailchimp still can be a way to go since it’s available as the Mailchimp Integration block for WordPress. You can do the same things Mailchimp has to offer but since this block is not tied to any booking software, it will only be useful for outputting an email subscription box.
Here are a few more general email ideas for sending to the past guests to turn them into repeat guests (you can send them regardless of the software you use) –
- Discounts, VIP offers, loyalty programs with rewards
- Personalized offers or promotions in exchange for feedback
- Refer-a-friend email: offer some perks for the past guest and their friend for the next stay
- Invitations to local venues with possible discounts
- Tell them about new exclusive services or renovation of your accommodation
- Bring value by offering eco-friendly conditions
- Celebration offers – offer interesting holiday-driven experiences and always try to be on the lookout for special occasions
- Limited-time offers to drive FOMO (fear of missing out) effect; it works best during the high seasons.
Make sure that the frequency of your emails has commonsense and doesn’t sound like spam.
Encourage past guests to book directly with you
If you list your property on OTAs and run a website for direct bookings, which is fairly easy to connect both with the MotoPress Hotel Booking, don’t lose your chance to ask guests to book directly with you next time. Why should they?
Well, they already know you so they don’t need to read through reviews; explain that OTAs charge either you or them a specific commission fee, or offer some extra perks for booking directly. This way you’ll kill two birds with one stone: get a loyal customer and reduce expenses. If are curious to know more pros for you, here is an extract from our previous research:
The Pros for hoteliers
Of Booking.com, TripAdvisor and other similar platforms
Of independent property booking site
Employ a “tell a friend” strategy
Traditional marketing tactics to encourage return clients work for restaurants and retail but they don’t justify for the lodging business. But not this one.
Want to have two repeat guests instead of one? Reach out to new audiences with the help of past guests by developing a “refer-a-friend” campaign that should work as a motivator to drive ancillary revenue for your property. If you manage to create this loop of a guest-friend-family for each booking, this is your revenue for the long-run!
SMS texting solutions: make guest’s communication with the staff easier
Using SMS marketing, namely, texting your guests in quite a long time after their stay is controversial advice. But you can employ the texting solutions while guests’ stay, for example, allow them to order food, buy extra services or ask for help… via SMS. You can even automate hotel check-in and check-out procedures by employing texting, autoresponders, etc. It’s easy to implement such solutions by using cloud services like Simple Texting or any other that works for your area.
Keep your social media followers engaged to win back repeat guests
Email is fine but if you manage to make your past guests follow you on social media, you’ll be able to be “closer” to them catching the eye of a prospective guest more regularly.
In addition to posting engaging videos and images, you’ll be able to employ all traditional social media marketing techniques, such as contests, brand advocates; impress your followers with sponsoring shows or even supporting/organizing fundraising events for charity.
Offer more discounts and free stuff
Free breakfast, candles, flowers, food baskets, etc.
Offering discounts, free nights and other perks of the loyalty program are all very important things. This is a real incentive for guests to save up a little bit, but it’s also crucial to not overdo here. Find your happy medium in this tactic and don’t make people feel you are giving discounts right, left, and center.
PPC advertising to turn one-time travelers into repeat guests
This refers to paid advertising through the search engines. It will help you put your property in front of prospects who are searching for the stay in your area. If they already were in your hotel/property, they might even recognize it. The main benefit of PPC is that it helps your ads appear at the right moment before the right person.
Last but not least: improve guests’ experience while they are there
Ok, this is going to be a list of obvious things you are most likely already taking care of but if you are not, here are the most effective tips:
- Offer guests an easy way to pay online by offering familiar region-specific payment gateways and super intuitive user experience.
- Hire enthusiastic, outgoing staff to provide excellent service.
- Think out attractions and events you could bundle in with a specific booking/stay.
- Find your ‘wow’ aspect – something that makes your service different from the others in your area. This will help you build a more memorable image of your property even without a need to remind about yourself in the next email.
- Provide insider local information.
- Offer more value by providing extra food basket, fruit, fresh flowers, scented candles or anything guests don’t expect to see.
- Speak the language of your guest or at least English!
Final thoughts: how to keep guests coming back to your property
Any marketing ploy is effective before the stay but this is not the same for the past guest. All your marketing efforts of turning one-time travelers into repeat guests pretty much depend on the service you have already provided.
Guests are free to choose a stay among a sea of options, so how to make sure that at least a certain percent of them will come back? Provide a perfect sensation during their stay and then just do your best to stay in touch and bring value. Here are the key things:
- Email marketing automation (employ different types of emails)
- Freebies and VIP offers
- Social media engagement
- Encourage direct bookings.
And there is one more simple thing that works – ask guests directly when they are coming back.