Low season: two words that will make even the most established hostel owners shiver in their boots.
Unfortunately there is no way around the sad truth that running a hostel has its seasons, and sometimes you just won’t rake in enough tourists to keep your beds full.
There is hope though, and if you’ve found this post by stumbling around the internet, you are probably more clued in on how to improve those dead months than you think. Basically it all comes down to this:
Your website needs a strong online presence.
Check out our five tips that will have your hostel making noise (and getting bookings) during the low seasons, high seasons, and just plain old seasons:
1. Web Design
I’m going to go ahead and say it. If your hostel’s website is looking old and tired, you aren’t going to gain much traction with your target audience. They are looking for a website that is as hip and as cool as they (think) they are.
Your website should be easy to navigate. It should be aesthetically pleasing. It should have strong and specific content that’s backed up with social proof.
And it absolutely, unquestionably needs to be responsive so it will look great across any platform. Seriously.
With 60% of internet access(opens in a new tab) happening on mobile, you will lose some serious sales if your website doesn’t show off its beauty on those snazzy smartphones that backpackers are toting around with them.
Check out how the website we designed for Walia Adventures(opens in a new tab) looks just as great on mobile as it does on a laptop.
2. Get Listed on Google My Business
Now that you have a super sleek website for your hostel, it’s time to start making its presence known on the King of the Internet: Google.
Obviously Google won’t wait for an introduction to get to know all of the ins and outs of your site, but it will allow you to make an introduction to all of those Googlers out there.
All you need to do is list your hostel on Google My Business(opens in a new tab). That way your hostel will be listed when people are searching for hostels in your area. Not only will viewers be able to find your hostel site’s URL, but they will also be able to see other relevant contact information about your hostel.
Pro-tip: To generate some serious buzz for your hostel, make sure to get at least five happy backpackers to write you a review on Google.
3. Befriend TripAdvisor
Google reviews are great. TripAdvisor reviews are even better.
Given that TripAdvisor and its branded sites reach 350 million unique visitors a month, you really need to make sure that your hostel is a) listed and b) getting some reviews.
And once those reviews come rolling in, you need to respond to every single one. Not only will it help you build a better rapport with your current customers, but it also makes tentative customers feel more comfortable about booking a room or bed in your hostel. In fact, in a 2013 survey done about TripAdvisor, over 60% of survey respondents(opens in a new tab) said that seeing a management response generally makes them more likely to book.
Don’t fret, though. TripAdvisor makes it easy for you by notifying you via email when you get a review. Just make sure that you are registered with the TripAdvisor Management Center(opens in a new tab).
4. List Your Hostel on OTAs
By now, your hostel should be developing a pretty solid online presence — but you need to keep that momentum going and start listing it with Online Tour Agencies (OTAs).
OTAs are hugely popular. Most don’t have listing fees, and they charge pretty minimal commissions per successful booking (usually around 10%).
There are two tactics when listing your hostels with OTAs. You can either go for the institutions like Booking.com(opens in a new tab) and Expedia(opens in a new tab) that reach millions upon millions of unique viewers every single month — which is obviously great. But you are competing with hundreds of thousands of other accommodations listings and targeting your specific audience will be harder.
Then there are the niche OTAs that cater to all of those wet-behind-the-ears backpackers that you are probably seeking out.
5. Get to Know Hostel Management
Hostel Management(opens in a new tab) offers loads of information about how to promote your hostel online, as well as anything else you might want to know about running and promoting your hostel.
They run an online forum that is frequented by all of the movers and shakers in the hostel industry, and they have a super-comprehensive hostel directory which you can add your hostel(opens in a new tab) to.
This is really a great all-around resource that we can’t recommend enough.
There really are so many great ways to use the internet to boost your hotel’s online presence during all of those slow months! The proof is in the pudding, though, so make sure that you are testing and analyzing your online marketing campaigns to know how much it is affecting your ROI.
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