Review Your Reservations Strategy for 2021

Fall is the traditional time when operators of seasonal guest ranches, hunting and fishing lodges, establish their reservations strategies for the next year. Because 2020 saw remarkable shifts in the travel industry, these businesses are weighing an entirely new set of factors. The decisions being made now will go a long way towards shaping their financial results in 2021. As you cross the t’s and dot the i’s of your strategy, keep these key topics on the top of your mind:

Direct Bookings
There is no booking like a direct booking, and the more direct bookings a business can capture, the greater control one has over their business. These reservations are more valuable simply because they come without any third-party fees, but direct bookings also afford you the opportunity to strengthen your client relationship. This provides control over the guest experience, which in turn makes it easier to exceed guest expectations, and then convert first-timers into repeat clients. Driving more direct bookings depends on the effectiveness of your reservations team, your property management system, and your marketing initiatives. Assess how your business performed in these areas in 2020 and focus on identifying areas of improvement for 2021.

Packages and Promotions
People love the idea of something new, so give the people what they want, and get creative with packages and promotions for 2021. Ranches and lodges that run all-inclusive programs have incredible advantages for creating custom packages with added value. Perhaps this is the year to include a backcountry overnight experience with a weeklong stay or you might offer complimentary airport transportation for those that book before the end of December. Whatever the “it” is, keep in mind that your potential guests are no doubt considering other destinations. Design packages that capture the elements unique to your property and promote those features in a way that helps you stand out from the competition.

Cancellation and Deposit Policies
If your cancellation and deposit policies have not changed in years, this might be the year to take a second look. Travelers appreciate flexibility more than ever. Make sure your terms are not overly restrictive. One-time industry standards: such as a 50% deposit due at the time of booking, or full payment 60 days before arrival, can now deter guests from making a reservation. Consider more client-friendly terms that may give you an advantage over your less-flexible competitors. And by all means, recommend the purchase of trip insurance to each one of your clients.

Photo Courtesy of Justin Casey