The service doesn’t stop when the guests depart the resort. Shortly after returning home, guests are sent a thank you e-mail note for staying there and are asked to sign up for newsletters and special notices.
Social media is another way to connect with loyal customers and attract new ones. Galley Bay employs a two-fold social media strategy. It has organized contests where guests supply their favorite resort photos to boost its Facebook fans and generate comments. Moreover, it recognizes that new guests are searching for honest feedback about the resort from previous customers, which is included on the site. “The Facebook page is there for fans and it’s important to let it play out organically as opposed to strictly pushing deals and specials onto our followers,” Rovoletto says.
Creating a concerted strategy to retain guests makes good business sense for boutique hotels since “they don’t have the giant marketing machine and budget that large chains do,” explains Sean Hennessey, CEO of N.Y.-based hospitality consultant Lodging Advisors. “They want to be as focused and efficient as possible to compete effectively with the big boys.”
Many general managers are distracted by a hundred different tasks including putting out emergencies and dealing with constant employee turnover and don’t have the time to devise a retention strategy. But many guests “like to be recognized and feel they’re having a personalized experience,” Hennessey says.
Involving the entire staff in a retention strategy requires three action steps including: reinforcing the strategy at every staff meeting; recognizing employees when occupancy rates rise due to returning guests; and retaining staff so they can execute the strategy consistently.
Empowering employees to make the stay of every guest special inspires return visits, explains Bobby Johns, operations manager at Bunkhouse, a group of four boutique hotels in Texas owned by Liz Lambert, including Hotel Havana in San Antonio and Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin. “We don’t do advertising,” he notes. “Our guests are our advertising.”