INTRO: 2023 The year ahead – Go with the flow
Advertising and filling your rooms can be one of the biggest business challenges you face. Returning loyal guests who have become friends are one way of lessening the pressure and keeping footfall high, but sitting in plain sight are the often-untapped opportunities afforded by nearby festivals, concerts or other events that attract mass crowds, many of whom need a room for one or more nights.
Throughout the year and particularly during the Easter and Summer seasons, all around the country are festivals of all kinds, drawing crowds from far-afield. With the overwhelming majority of the public clued up on how to navigate the online world, it has never been easier for guests visiting the area for a concert for example to be made aware of your high-end property. Pictures speaking a thousand words, so visitors travelling from afar to all kinds of event may be tempted to treat themselves on their trip after seeing your rooms online rather than slumming it knee-deep in mud in a throwaway tent.
Check out nearby events
Before business picks up this year, now is a good time to take a look at what festivals, concerts and other crowd-attracting events are set to take place in the vicinity of your hospitality property and planning your strategy well ahead of the events themselves.
Contacting the venue operators themselves well ahead of time will usually be met with a positive response. After all, any publicity you are giving your own business will serve as a free advertisement for their own planned crowd-pleaser.
As well as one-off events there are many music festivals or even sporting events that occur annually and at the same time of year. Close to the Cotswolds, for example, Cheltenham racing festival takes place around the middle of each March. This year it is four days from 14 March, culminating in the Gold Cup on Friday 17 March. Last year the event attracted more than 35,000 visitors. There will certainly be a significant proportion of this year’s visitors to the races who will welcome the chance to stay somewhere comfortable for the night, particularly if they’ve been lucky on the horses.
If your venue isn’t even in the immediate vicinity of Cheltenham you should not overlook the opportunity to capitalize on these potential March guests. Easter this year is not until April, so it won’t interfere with any plans you may have in place and it’s a great way to fill rooms before the season begins. A B&B in Stratford-on-Avon for example, 30 or so miles of picturesque driving on the A46 through gorgeous North Gloucestershire countryside to the Prestbury Park racecourse, would make for a bonus excursion for visitors wishing to tie in a bit of a flutter with a country holiday.
Far from the madding crowds
Whether you offer a high-end B&B, a boutique hotel or glamping facilities, if your property is located in Somerset not too far from Glastonbury, you should consider making it known to festival-goers in late June this year that they are welcome to stay overnight in comfort away from the crowds. With the average age of Glasto-goers now nearly 40, there will clearly be a great many at the older end who will be crying out for a bit of comfort, provided they can arrange transport.
The same principle applies with late August’s Reading rock festival. If you use social media to associate your property with the event, you could follow the same path and fill up empty rooms as the end of season approaches.
Planning well ahead is a good way of sounding out the strategy of associating yourself with an event or putting your property in the minds of those who are attending and will give you an opportunity to see which events are hits and which are misses. For instance if you are in the vicinity of Harrogate in Yorkshire then why not contact the organisers of next year’s five-day Harrogate International Youth Festival to see how you may be able to accommodate visitors or performers during the event.
Contact the organisers
After a very successful Houghton Festival in 2022 this huge music event will return in August this year. Houghton Music & Arts Festival has gained a reputation as one of the must-go-to electronic festivals and visitors. Tickets go on sale this month for the four-day event so if you are nearby in rural Norfolk, why not contact the organisers?
Beat the Tourism Tax
For Scottish hospitality businesses in or near Dalkeith Country Park, grab the chance while you can to get ahead of the game ahead of the inevitable Tourism Tax by drawing crowds visiting the 18 June Let’s Rock Scotland concert, featuring a host of big-name bands. Tickets are already selling out fast for this particular event but there’s no harm associating your business with the concert, which attracts guests from far and wide, many of whom would be happy to stay in your high-end accommodation rather than competing for overnight accommodation that may be thin on the ground on the doorstep of the park itself.
Down South in Essex, the We Are FSTVL at Upminster Aerodrome is celebrating 10 years and is selling out for its biggest event so far over the August Bank holiday weekend. You don’t of course need to feature on the organisers’ website to get your accommodation in the sight of the crowds attending the event. You might put a link to the event on your own website, making it likely many attendees will become aware of your business well in advance for them and you be able to plan their stay.
Advertise room availability
A music event of a somewhat different nature up in the Northwest this year is the Liverpool Country Music Festival, which takes place over the second weekend in April. This event’s website has an open invitation to hospitality business owners to advertise their available rooms, actively requesting your permission to show details of available overnight local accommodation.
Impose a minimum two-night stay
Concert-goers in need of a night’s stay either side of the four-day Green Man event in the Brecon Beacons would love to at least know of your Welsh property where they could relax before the event or wind down after It ends before exploring a bit more of Wales. If this is successful for you then for events such as this you have the chance of imposing a minimum two-night stay.
Explore new opportunities
It’s February. The chances are business is not too demanding at the moment. Take the time now to use the Internet and seek out local events that are taking place during the rest of this year – or into next year. They do not have to draw large crowds. If people are travelling from afar the chances are they will want to treat themselves to a stay for the night in a comfortable, friendly high-end property like yours.
The opportunities for attracting guests attending festivals are immense, according to the B&B Association. Chairman David Weston says one recommended way of drawing the crowds is by contacting the event venue themselves and asking if they have a list of accommodation nearby, or whether they have links to them. He also suggests you can ask whether they have a page on their website and, if so, whether you can your feature on that page too.
He also suggests using facilities such as Google AdSense, so that when people type the name of an event into a search engine, your business name comes up with an offer for that night.
“As an association, often we often advise people to get in touch, to look at all the local events that are going to be happening over the next over the next season, and we also advise them to look at the prices, because if it’s going to be very busy, then they might want quite reasonably to charge a bit more,” he says.
He adds, “You should obviously look at how you can get out the message that you’re you’ve got an offer for that that day. Put it on your own website, of course, with something on the homepage saying don’t forget, we’ve got this festival, three miles away on whatever the date is. And add, ‘We’ve still got rooms available!’”
Even if B&B-owners do not want to necessarily change the price, they might want to employ other techniques such as imposing a two-night minimum stay, depending on the event, especially if it’s a longer event. “You really don’t want to have nine single bookings that subsequently prevent you from selling a single four-night booking,” he says. “I understand that if somebody wants to come and stay, you really do not want to turn them away. That’s always difficult. So you might want to commit to the principle that if there’s a big three-or-four-day event nearby at a certain time of year then have a minimum stay for that particular period.”
Provided your property is located reasonably within the vicinity of a popular event, the opportunities are vast.