Within the last five years, the term “travel like a local” has resurfaced as a resounding credo among modern travelers. Travelers no longer seek souvenirs, they covet unique experiences. Today, leisure and business guests are spending their hard-earned travel dollars on hotels where they’ll have front-row access to authentic, locally inspired experiences – not simply a room with a bed.
In Google’s recent report, “The Traveler’s Road to Decision,” the search engine giant revealed that destination-related terms far surpassed brand name searches when consumers began to plan their travels.
Forward-thinking hoteliers are responding to this new hunger for local experiences by moving beyond their traditional normal hotel marketing efforts.
Besides the major attractions that get top billing in your city, what guests really want to know is:
What’s right outside your front door?
What can they walk to?
Where can they find the best local fare?
Where can they catch a good happy hour?
What’s a good running route?
Where can they buy locally made items they won’t find anywhere else?
The good news is that you can quickly and easily remedy your hotel’s deficiency on local and neighborhood content.
Follow these tips to turn your hotel internet marketing efforts into magnets for experiential travelers:
1. Create Content Focused on Your Immediate Neighborhood
Whatever neighborhood you are in, own it.
Become synonymous with your neighborhood. One of the major allures of Airbnb is that it allows travelers to “live like locals” in neighborhoods that are off the beaten tourist track. But, hotels can do that as well. Create a page on your website dedicated just to your immediate neighborhood (or a downloadable/printable PDF). Got a cool winebar around the corner? Flaunt it. Are you within walking distance to a lake where the locals go jogging each evening? Share it. Write blog posts, post pics to Instagram, and upload videos to YouTube of one-of-a-kind things to experience in your neighborhood.
2. Offer Secret Tips for Major Attractions
Yes, guests DO want to know about your city’s major attractions. But, stand out by giving them more than the same generic information they can find on every other hotel’s website or from the attraction themselves. Instead, share what every traveler covets: Local secrets and Staff Picks (handpicked recommendations from your local employees).
Replace the often-used attraction descriptions that are currently on your website with:
– How can travelers save money at the big attraction?
– How they can save time?
– Where can they find free parking?
– What is the best day and time to visit?
– Is there a less crowded entrance?
– Is there a more local alternative (such as the Columbia Tower vs. the Space Needle)?
– What’s worth seeing and what’s worth skipping?
– What’s worth the splurge?
3. Look Beyond the Concierge Desk
Notice that we haven’t mentioned your concierge once until this paragraph. That’s because hotels lean way too much on concierges as their sole destination experts. The truth is, modern travelers are smart. They know that most concierges won’t give them the “true story.” Sadly, concierges will often point them to a restaurant that is ‘safe’ or ‘good for tourists’, while rarely mentioning the ‘hole in the wall’ that locals are raving about on Yelp.
Some attractions even award concierges with commissions for sending travelers their way. Plus, concierges don’t work around the clock and there is usually just one at the concierge desk anyhow.
So, to supplement your concierges’ destination expertise…
4. Turn ALL Frontline Staff into Neighborhood Experts
Again, this is where Airbnb shines. The local host lives and breathes their neighborhood. They chose to live there. They frequent the businesses there daily. They know where to go and how to get there. Unfortunately, many hotel staffers are not true local hosts. They may not live in the same neighborhood as the hotel they work at… Instead, they live 30 minutes away and rarely – if ever – frequent the neighborhood your hotel is in.
Nonetheless, travelers are depending on your hotel staff to be locals. If a guest asks, “Where is the best coffee around?”, your staff’s answer should not be, “Well, we have a Starbucks cart in the lobby” or “I don’t know, you should ask the concierge.”
Take the time and allocate the funds to have frontline staff experience the neighborhood themselves. Head to Yelp, have staff visit eateries and shops that have the highest ratings. Or, make a competition out of it. Create a checklist of neighborhood experiences and whichever staff member submits selfies of themselves at each place first wins a prize.
5. Create Packages With One-of-a-Kind Local Experiences
Look to small vendors offering immersive local experiences to supplement your regular room and attraction ticket packages. Local experiences could be a meal at a family-owned ethnic restaurant, farm tours, tastings at mom-and-pop businesses, tours or scavenger hunts by a small local company.
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: www.Tambourine.com