Summer’s over: Time to get back to work

With the summer season behind you, now is a great time to spend a few minutes taking stock of your situation and planning your push through to the end of the calendar year. Here is my “top 10” list of items that should be on your radar as we drive towards the final quarter.

1. Reflect. Where do you stand through the end of August in terms of GOR and occupancies? What is the current forecast for the balance of the year? How close are you to being on track with budget? Are your promotions and other marketing programs meeting expectations? Are you getting any insight from your STR reports into competitive rates?

2. Review capital expenditures versus plan. Often adjustments are needed to reflect unforeseen situations or delays. No one likes year-end surprises. Better to get these changes addressed now.

3. A property walk should also include that of your key competitors. A little bit of field research can go a long way — maybe even inspire you. And while you’re at it, does your property still say “summer” on in-room and in-house collateral?

4. Talk to your sales team about 2013 rates. You need to build your base of meetings and conference rooms for next year. While your budget may not even be finalized and targets not yet established, rates and bookings through the fourth quarter are critical to succeed in the first part of next year.

5. Time to ensure that all your 2013 rates are loaded for online bookings. I understand that you do not even have a marketing plan yet, but you need to have rates available for FIT at least 366 days in advance. Rates can be changed, but customers who can’t book your property are off to the next hotel.

6. By this point in the year, you’re already late with your marketing plan. Remember my previous comments and suggestions: brevity is key. You are out to grow your business, not kill trees for photocopy paper.

7. Thanksgiving is coming. Begin your plans for this late-year program now. The earlier you get your program established, the earlier you can spread the word and get bookings.

8. Start thinking Black Friday. It is the number one retail day of the year, and you want to ensure you get your fair share. At the very least, brainstorm ideas with your team.

9. Give some initial thoughts to the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas period. For most, this is traditionally a lull. Advance planning and special incentives can serve to build revenues. Don’t forget to tie a charitable cause into your Christmas program.

10. Plan an end-of-year thank you to your past guests. This doesn’t need to be a particularly grand gesture, but something of value, and definitely something with a little more punch than an email. Physical is always better. Perhaps a small end-of-year gift basket for your key customers and a mailed coupon on future purchases for everyone else? Just something to show you care.