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September Brings 3 Challenges To Hotel Sales And Marketing

August 3, 2015


Once the golden travel season of summer comes sadly to a close, September will arrive ushering in a crisp set of challenges and opportunities for hotels.

If you’re a hotelier who has systems in place, important dates marked on the calendar, and an eye for repeat business cycles, then you know what happens come autumn. For those of you who don’t (we know you’re working on it), here are three challenges sure to fall on your desk in September and how to deal with them.

1. The End of Family Drive Market as School Season Begins

Cue the violins. Summer often brings full occupancy and F&B outlets bustling with business. It’s no wonder then that once school starts, kids aren’t the only ones feeling glum. As easy as it is to see this as a loss, grab onto this transition as an opportunity to try something new with your hotel internet marketing. Spread goodwill with your brand and leverage a family’s different reason to travel. It’s the perfect time to consider:

•  Hosting Freshmen and Parents
Don’t forget the older kids. Parents will soon be making treks to universities to help their college student move in and spend one last family getaway. If you’re a university town, create school-related packages for visiting family and friends.

•  Feeding the Shopping Frenzy
Back to school shopping is a season in itself, and those without children see autumn as the perfect reason to invest in new fall clothes. Join in and create retail stay and shop experiences, such as Hotel Abri in San Francisco, located just two blocks from Union Square shopping. Starting at $275/night, the hotel’s shopping valet will pick up your purchases and deliver them to your room. Plus, guests receive a $100 to Westfield San Francisco Center, as well as a backpack with a pencil kit and notebook.

Read: Back to School Means Back to Basics for Hotel Marketers

2. Corporate Rate RFPs for 2016 Travel

Along with the fall of autumn leaves comes the flurry of RFPs from corporate travel planners seeking annual rates for their traveling colleagues. This RFP season is a boon for hotels, as these business travelers consume a sizable portion of bookings throughout the year. Here’s how to reap your share of the market: 

•  Dedicate the Time and Staff

Don’t expect your already busy sales staff to have the time and focus to respond effectively to these RFPs. That is, unless you’re okay with hurried writing riddled with errors. Empower one person – whether full-time or part-time – with responsibility to review and respond to the RFPs. Then, assign a second staffer to review and approve all responses before they are sent to the client.

•  Don’t Assume You Don’t Qualify

Don’t be so quick to take your hotel out of the running for a bid just because you think your rates are too high or you’re not what the planner wants. Because, truthfully, you don’t know what they want exactly. You don’t know if they’re tired of their budget options and now want more sophisticated accommodations, or if there’s a new planner in place who sees things differently from the planner before. So, always respond.

•  Trace Last Year’s RFPs

If you haven’t already, document when you receive an RFP and your response. Each year, go through that file to make sure an RFP you received last year is in this year’s pile as well. If not, follow-up. Like noted above, planners change jobs, and the replacement may not know you as well as their predecessor. So, keep track of every RFP you respond to, along with rates, client responses and questions, etc.

3. Obsolete Vendors and Their Contracts

Most of your contracts with marketing vendors, including those companies who oversee and manage your advertising campaigns, website, booking engine and digital marketing, are set to auto-renew at the end of the year. This also coincides with the holiday season, when you’ll be busy with December deadlines, holiday parties, family events, vacations, shopping…

No wonder you often find yourself stuck with vendors for another year, whether they produced a substantial ROI for your hotel or not!

Smart hoteliers get an early start.

Use September to dust off those 2015 contracts and review your vendors’ performances. For those producing subpar work, you’ll still have time to consider alternatives before those sneaky January auto-renewals pop up.

(Shameless plug: Switch to Tambourine and you’ll never have to sign a contract.)

About Tambourine

Tambourine uses technology and creativity to increase revenue for hotels and destinations worldwide. The firm, now in its 33rd year, is located in New York City and Fort Lauderdale. Please visit:

RFP: Request for Pain

October 30, 2012
In some industries (building highways comes to mind), RFPs are unavoidable and necessary to ensure that the vendor has the equipment and resources to deliver the work as required. But why do so many hospitality & tourism execs think exhaustive RFPs are the best way to find the right vendor partners?

The RFP process is an antiquated method for bringing nuts & bolts vendors to the table to compete for your business. Now, it certainly is a healthy exercise for your company to articulate your needs to outside agents in a clear, succinct document. But the final request is often unrealistic; many RFPs demand deep planning and insight, in-person presentations (thousands of miles from home) and mind-numbing written submissions that kill entire forests.

Imagine if you asked 20 accountants to describe in excruciating detail how they would handle your taxes BEFORE you hired one of them... Or, if you asked numerous doctors to meet with you to diagnose your ailment and only get paid if you liked what they said! You probably wouldn’t get many quality doctors to participate. And the same goes for other outsourced professional service providers; there’s just no way that any worthwhile firm can divert meaningful time away from paying clients to meet the criteria of many of the draconian RFPs being circulated.

So why do so many firms actually participate in these RFP cattle calls?

Two reasons:

1. They don’t command enough respect to win the business on reputation/previous work

2. They believe they can put forth the absolute minimum viable effort and still win the business

So what’s the solution? How do hospitality & tourism companies toss out the broken RFP process and find quality vendors?

Here’s a few suggestions:

– Who did that?

When you see work being done for competitors or peers that you think is good, find out who did it… and call them first. Chances are, they see things the same way you do. And you already know you like their style and methods!

– Look under the hood:

In the digital age, vendors are transparent. You need look no further than their website, LinkedIn or Google to get an inside look at the potential vendor’s capabilities and personality. Almost every RFP requires the same typical boiler-plate information that you can easily find publicly on the vendor’s web site. These items usually include information on leadership, team members, company background, client roster, awards, current portfolio and any social or news presence. If you can’t find it online, then just ask. Check out the vendor’s Facebook page carefully, you may discover their principals have a lot in common with you… or they may not be a good cultural fit for you at all!

– Talk to the specialists:

If you had a problem with your toe, would you go to an eye specialist? Find vendors who specialize in your sector/geography/industry… Why pay a new vendor to learn your business when someone else has already gained valuable insight into your business category? A vendor working specifically in travel and tourism should have volumes of previous work experience and the clients to show for it. Looking at what an outside firm is doing for your peers should give you a solid feel for their capabilities and understanding of the market.

– You get what you pay for:

Over the years we have learned that it takes a significant investment of time to understand our clients’ business in order to produce work that has a measurable impact on their business. Don’t expect to get much value from the ideas in any RFP response… the vendor is assigning it to junior-level staffers and fitting it in between paying clients! This is why its increasingly common to pay a professional services firm a small fee to provide an initial discovery document outlining their plan or developing conceptual ideas. Dipping your toe in the water first can go along way to establishing some trust with the agency and putting value on the agency’s work product.

– Get a room.  

When it is all said and done, it’s about the people and the relationship. Get both your teams in a room together. Take a trip to the vendor’s office or invite them to yours. Have lunch. Get to know each other and share ideas. Discuss your business and the vendor’s philosophies. This will level the playing field and give both sides the opportunity to see if it is a good fit. After an hour or two together, you will easily know whether you can work with those folks or not.

If you are currently preparing an RFP, consider the thoughts above and avoid asking dozens of vendors to join a frivolous cattle call. Break away from traditional RFP processes that result in low quality responses and high quantities of wasted time. The dynamic that is established early on will set the tone for a healthily and long term relationship with the vendor you ultimately choose!

About Tambourine: Tambourine is an ROI-obsessed marketing agency driving demand, revenue and brand awareness for travel and leisure clients since 1986. The Company creates inspiring digital experiences and engaging campaigns that produce measurable results. Based in South Florida and New York City, Tambourine recently received Gold and Platinum Adrian and Magellan awards, the largest and most prestigious travel marketing competitions, representing this year’s top marketing campaigns from across the global hospitality industry.

We are the instrument many of the world’s most advanced marketers use to create a steady beat of traffic and revenue growth. We provide a 360º integrated marketing program that delivers predictable ROI and a sustainable sales and marketing rhythm for your brand.

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