How To Improve Your Small Hotel & Increase Bookings

Owning and operating a smaller hotel property can sometimes feel like an uphill climb. Although your size means you can provide guests with more personalized attention, you have to struggle just to build awareness in the face of the giant chains and larger-scale properties. They have the marketing budget, the name recognition, and the resources to completely overwhelm you if you’re not careful. However, just as David defeated Goliath by being smarter and more agile, you too can compete with your bigger counterparts by making the right moves.

There are numerous steps you can take right now to improve your small hotel or boutique inn and increase bookings. Even though the obstacles might seem insurmountable, there are plenty of ways you can move them and sneak in front of your competition. One of the most important advantages you have is that your smaller size makes it easier to enact change and adapt to trends. In this way, you can turn what appears to be a disadvantage into the quality that puts you in the best position to succeed.

How You Can Gain the Edge

Here are some ideas hoteliers can use to help their smaller properties stand out more successfully and earn more revenue:

  • Know your guests: No matter what type of business, it’s difficult to market yourself if you don’t know what your customers want. This is where it can help to spend time understanding who your typical guests are and why they choose to stay with you. For instance, being located near a theme park or water park most likely leads to a large number of families staying with you.

    This means you should craft your marketing message around being a good spot for those traveling with kids. It’s wise to build and review these guest profiles throughout the year, as your demographics may change depending on the season.

  • Enhance your website: Without the luxury of a national advertising campaign, your hotel’s website may be the first impression most prospective guests have of you. This means it’s crucial to put as much time and effort into polishing it as you can. First and foremost, make sure the architecture of your site is as user-friendly and intuitive as possible.

    Your customers should be able to navigate directly to important information such as your location (you’d be surprised by how many property websites don’t make this easy to find!), a list of amenities, check-in/check-out times, proximity to points of interest, and most importantly, how to make a reservation. Make sure you’re using a lot of high-quality photography to show off your common areas, guest rooms, and special extras like gourmet breakfast or spa services. Help visitors visualize what it will be like to stay there.

    Another critical factor is making sure your site is just as simple to use on a mobile device as it is on a desktop. With so many more travelers researching on the go, you need to meet them where they are (which is likely on their cell phone!). In fact, over 42% of people have booked a lodging reservation on a mobile device and up to 80% of last-minute bookings are made on mobile devices.

image of woman standing outside looking at a cell phone with text overlay sharing that over 42% of people have booked a lodging reservations on a mobile device (source:
  • Use a booking engine and channel manager: The internet can be a great way to level the playing field for hotels, but only if they take advantage of the opportunity. The rise of online travel agencies (OTAs) makes it much easier for travelers to see all the options available to them at their destinations. Using a channel manager makes it easy for you to gain the full benefit of OTAs for small hotels. Rather than update each of these sites individually whenever a room is booked, this automated tool updates them across the board instantly.

    Your prospective guests expect booking directly through your website to be as easy as it is using these popular third-party travel sites, which is why having a booking engine integrated into your site is necessary. It should be easy to get to (don’t hide your Check Availability button!) and simple to use. Visitors should be able to quickly see real-time availability, pricing options, room details, packages, special offers and more. Don’t make it so they have to leave the booking engine to get the information they need.

  • Find what makes you unique: It can be extremely difficult to stand out among your large-scale competitors, especially if you’re in a big market with lots of options. However, many times, a smaller property can continue to thrive even in such a crowded marketplace by focusing on what makes it different. Being able to sell your guests on an experience rather than on rates and amenities can be a major differentiator in your marketing message.

    The obvious way to do this is to focus on providing white glove customer service, but there are other ways. For example, if your property has historical value, this could help you appeal to those looking for something different from the modern look and feel that’s become quite common in our industry. Essentially, think about what you have to offer that only you can deliver, whether it’s a particular view of the city, proximity to the best hiking trails, or personalized service.

    image of apples, mostly green with one red, with text overlay What makes your business unique? Ask your guests! Survey them to find out why they chose to stay with you. You might be surprised!
  • Drill into your data: There’s a potential gold mine of information locked in your guestbook. If you’re not taking full advantage of the latest developments in hotel management software, you could be missing out on most of it. These platforms help you collect and analyze data about your guests in as much detail as you want.

    When you know more about who your guests are and what they have in common, it becomes much easier for you to target them in the future. Your data can also help you determine which packages and amenities are worth keeping and which aren’t pulling their weight. You may not be able to host as many guests as your larger competition, but with the right analytics by your side, you can be more successful at drawing in the ones who are most likely to become loyal customers. And who doesn’t want more of those?

Don't Be Intimidated

Even the largest hotel chains in the world started small. It took them years of experimentation before they found their way and grew into the global juggernauts you’re competing with today. It may be hard to see your operation thriving in the same way right now, but there’s a great deal of inspiration to find in that simple fact.

You also have an extra advantage in the sense that the technological tools available to you today didn’t exist when these businesses were growing. By utilizing the full potential of what you have access to, embracing your unique identity, and understanding your guests, you can put your boutique hotel or inn in a position to not only survive, but thrive.

We look forward to helping you discover new ways to grow your business!

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