Preparing for the year-end holiday season

The winter holidays (or summer holidays, for those south of the equator) are a time for family gatherings, warming your feet by the fireplace (in much of North America, at least) and hotel promotional packages. In fact, these days it’s rare to come across a property that doesn’t have some enticing offer on the table for prospective holiday season travelers. So, in this period of hyper-competition, how do you cut through the noise to stand out from the herd? And secondly, how do you tempt consumers to impulse-buy your product when they might not have splurged on any vacation during December?

It boils down to designing promotions with finely tuned messages that cater directly to people’s holiday-specific desires along with a novel or adventurous component. Here are five suggestions:

1. Decadence

For many, the fall months are a time of long hours at the office and austere diets — a marked contrast from the languid summer months. But come the holiday season, people are looking for excuses to indulge, both in terms of satiating the palate and general slothfulness. Knowing this is on their minds, you can craft room or spa packages that feed this urge with subtle, marketable touches like rich chocolates for turndown service or special cookies served with coffee in the lobby. You can think bigger, of course, like elaborate spa coupons or all-day buffets, but the point is to add decadence through small, quickly implementable extras rather than anything exorbitant.

2. Tis the season

Consumers aren’t just looking for generic, unfocused decadence; they want themed, holiday-centric indulgences. Instead of just rich chocolates, how about sugar plum chocolates? Why stick with any regular cookie when you could have shortbread or artful gingerbread cookies during lobby reception hours? Some people might hate the taste, but you damn well better have eggnog stocked at the bars. And when it comes to your spa, think of ways to incorporate frankincense and myrrh.

3. Warmth

Come early December when you’ll start to accrue those last-minute buyers, unless you run a resort in the Caribbean or some other tropical paradise, this one might not be immediately intuitive. But with some well-crafted advertising copy and a few flashy photos, you can easily appeal to those mulling a week-long retreat or semi-locals looking for a weekend getaway. Again, think small. Do your facilities have a sauna, Jacuzzi or steam room? Is there any way to incorporate such heat-inducing features as an additive in your holiday package? Or, how about something as simple as an image of a happy couple sipping on hot cocoa?

4. Authentic local experiences

What is unique about the holiday season in your region? What do the locals in your neck of the woods do differently than everywhere else? Are there any special winter festivals worth highlighting? Does your neighborhood produce any unique delicacies? The point here is to give guests a flavor of the novel or unknown while still adhering to the holiday theme.

5. Family getaway

Last of all, and most important, this time of year is all about socializing with friends and family and reconnecting. Everything else is peripheral to this. With that in mind, I stress that each package you design should have at its heart a concentrated appeal for the nuclear family, extended family or loved ones.