Summer is fast approaching and here at THN, we are committed to providing hoteliers with the best tips, techniques and tools to ensure a successful summer season.With many border restrictions still in place, it’s clear that domestic travel is going to continue to play a crucial role for hotels as they open up their doors to guests this summer. As a part of our coffee catchup series, we decided to speak with Amanda Du, Head of E-Commerce at Penta Hotels, to get first-hand insights on how the brand has been elevating its domestic travel strategy.
Amanda Du, Head of E-Commerce at Penta Hotels
Penta Hotels are lively neighbourhood hotels with properties across Europe and Asia targeting modern-minded individuals and business travellers, offering them comfort and style in a relaxed environment. The brand's unique value proposition is its Pentalounges, a combination of a lounge, bar, cafe and reception that brings forth that “living room” feel for travellers.
At THN, we’ve been working together with the Penta team since 2019 to help grow the brand’s direct channel strategy. Knowing how the team always looks for innovative approaches to take, we caught up with Amanda over a virtual coffee chat to hear about how they are effectively welcoming more and more locals to their properties. Let’s see what she had to say...
Thank you so much for joining us Amanda! Can I first ask, what is your favourite way to enjoy your morning coffee?
My morning coffee always comes from my partner, every morning he makes me a black coffee and himself a cappuccino after our yoga session. We take the time to enjoy the coffee and the moment together before we start our busy days.
That sounds lovely! Now let's dive in. At Penta Hotels, which domestic markets do you target?
So, Germany and the UK are our biggest domestic travellers destinations. We have 9 hotels in Germany and 6 hotels in the UK that have always had a lot of local travel. Besides these two main markets, we are targeting Belgium, Austria, France, Czech Republic and Russia for domestic travellers this summer.
All the market trends indicate that domestic travel is more important than before. Have you also seen a shift in the percentage of demand coming from the domestic market?
Yes, although it varies amongst countries. Germany and the UK have always been the largest markets for us in terms of domestic travel, but for example with our hotels in Belgium, we saw less than 30% domestic travel before Covid-19. However, since 2020 we have seen 50% come from domestic. There has definitely been a huge shift in terms of percentage of demand for this market.
Interesting! And what tools are you using to be able to monitor these shifts?
There are several tools we used to see these shifts since we like to have a holistic picture of what is going on. We use Google Analytics for our brand website, our CRM and PMS system, market insights, OTA data, Demand 360º and THN’s new BenchDirect tool that tells us how demand and traffic is trending on our brand website and how we compare with our compsets in terms of our direct channel performance.
Fantastic to hear that you are already getting valuable insights from BenchDirect! Thinking about this shift in travel patterns, has it been necessary for Penta to reshape its product, services or offerings?
Yes, however there are a few factors other than domestic travel that have also required us to rethink our offers. For example, the shift from business to leisure travellers, the changes in expectations of guests, and government regulations have meant that we have had to adapt our offers as well as the shift in travel patterns to cater to domestic travellers. Luckily, as hoteliers we have always been quite creative and I think Covid-19 has actually made us more creative than we were before.
Is there any specific package or offer that has proven to work particularly well at capturing the attention of local guests?
There definitely has been! A very good example where we really thought outside the box was a campaign we did at our hotels in Belgium called “Les Chambres du Chef” which turned out to be very successful. In November 2020, when dining was impossible in a restaurant, our local sales team came up with the idea of transforming connecting rooms in the hotel into a dining room. They thought of partnering with popular restaurants in the city to offer guests a restaurant quality meal on site during their stay with us. The idea was all about bringing that unique restaurant experience to the hotel.
We sold out in 24 hours most days and the package marketed itself after people found out about it from our initial emails, social media and Google ads. This campaign came to an end in April 2021 after restaurants opened up again but for this period of time it was a great experience for local guests.
I love that concept - really unique! Are you partnering with any other local businesses or tourism initiatives to help attract more domestic travellers to your hotels?
We are always looking at different channels to promote summer offers and welcome guests. Working with governments and tourism boards has been very impactful for us and a great way to get our hotel brand out there. Especially for our hotels in hotspots within their region; they definitely benefit more from these types of connections. So we are making sure that we jump on any opportunities to collaborate with these campaigns and get our hotels known within their local areas.
We have also partnered with local businesses to create new experiences for guests, something we feel is impossible to do without local partners. For example, our hotel in Leipzig is piloting an E-bikes program for guests to use during their stay, allowing them to explore the surrounding nature as part of their trip.
Penta Hotels - E Bikes program
What are your thoughts on the growing audience of remote workers and digital nomads? Are you targeting domestic travellers who are looking for a cool place to work from rather than their own home? And if so, what sort of actions have you taken?
Well, the digital nomads trend existed already before Covid-19 but got more popular and really accelerated with the current situation. We have been looking more into how to capture this group of people. Some of the things we have done since last year have been to create long stay packages but this year we went the extra mile and did some room renovations at our hotel in Wiesbaden. We turned some of our rooms into studio apartments to include a kitchen and work space to be comfortable and remote friendly for digital nomads.
Also, our hotels in Birmingham signed up to be part of a remote working platform to be included in an official database of locations for remote workers since their PentaLounge is located on the second floor. It's a great place for remote workers since it's so quiet and well laid out.
Which channels work best to communicate and connect with your local audience?
All the digital channels are quite crucial for us, especially during the pandemic since we try to capture the whole customer booking journey along all digital touchpoints. One channel that really stood out for us, which was quite surprising, was our email communications, specifically our newsletters. We sent out 2 letters to our customer database, one at the beginning of the pandemic and one later on from our Managing Director, which addressed our clients and informed them about what was going on with the brand. I think this showed our customers that we really care about them and allowed them to give feedback and get responses from us. We realized people really needed that emotional engagement with our brand and that this form of communicating was very well received by our customers who felt connected to us in a more personal way.
What would you say are the 5 key elements to take into account when building a strategy to attract your domestic visitors?
Well first of all I think you need to identify who your target audience is. Secondly, you need to know what your customer wants and needs are. Today, valuable insights related to this can be found using Google Trends, keyword searches etc. And then you need to match your offers to this target market/audience.
At the same time you can’t forget to do competitor checks, so you know what others in the market are doing and so that you can emphasize your hotel's unique selling points. All of this is important plus making sure that you have a great content marketing strategy behind every campaign you launch so that you convey the same message across digital channels.
That makes a lot of sense, thanks. And if you had to give just one piece of advice to hoteliers who would like to capture more of the domestic market this summer, what would it be?
This is a really difficult question! Even before we think of any offers, packages or strategy, as a hotelier it is always important to bear in mind that you are not just providing accommodation but a memorable experience for guests. So make sure you create an experience that's so memorable that local travellers crave it even after Covid times.
We would like to thank Amanda Du for taking the time to share her point of view with us about how hotels can capitalize on the growing demand from domestic travellers. It’s always great to hear about real experiences and examples from brands who are very proactive in the industry. Looking for more inspiration about hotel strategies for this summer? Check out our blog where we share our top 5 techniques to boost your direct channel summer bookings.