Presence not presents: how hospitality businesses can engage with emotion at special times of the year.

From promotional discounts to weekend-long events, Founder & Creative Director Tony Matters discusses how the hospitality sector can seize the spirit of seasonal spending…

I don’t know about you, but at this time of year my calendar starts filling up and people seem to want to plan a get-together. It’s not just family and friends, but clients and co-workers too. It doesn’t seem to matter about their budget, people want to get together outside of their homes—and be it for a coffee and cake or a weekend away, they want to connect with people at this time of year in particular. This transcends demographics, there’s just something about approaching the end of a year that makes people want to get together. 

And it’s got me thinking about how the hospitality sector can make the most of this feeling and seize the seasonal spending spirit. As I’ve said before, there’s been a general trend over the past few years of consumers choosing to spend on experiences rather than material items. In fact, with age, people often forgo traditional gift-giving for a meal or night out during the festive season. And we’re still smarting from ‘the Christmas that never was’, keen to celebrate despite the financial squeeze caused by a rising cost of living.

Annabel's, Mayfair - Image Source: Unknown

Seasonality is part and parcel of the hospitality industry—and making the most of busy times is key to success. So how are you doing this? And when? One of the most important things you can do as a business is to know your customers and what makes them tick. Why do people choose your establishment? The reasons for visiting a coffee house are different to a restaurant or hotel and this will obviously affect how you will take advantage of key seasonal events. Festive flavours, promotional deals, and discounts against a backdrop of seasonally appropriate decor will work a treat in a cafe environment. However, restaurants and hotels will likely roll out a festive menu and may want to invest in entertainment for themed nights and corporate events during the same time of year. The possibilities are endless with inspiration being taken from history, music, film, and literature. And events don’t need to be particularly linked to the season. While you may want to put on a spooky Stranger Things night at Halloween, you may also want to offer something different like a ‘Roaring Twenties’ evening during the festive season. You can even create a tropical island escape in November if you think your customers would enjoy it! While something different will increase the potential for PR due to the element of intrigue, elaborate events aren’t necessary for every business. And whatever you decide to do, making sure people know about it and can easily access it is the most important thing.

Sketch, Mayfair - Image Source: Amara

So once you’ve established how you’d like to harness the ‘holiday’ feeling (to use an Americanism) you obviously need to get to work on promoting it. Timing is as important as the method you use and the earlier you can start teasing information about your ideas the better. In terms of communication, a blend of online and offline approaches works best—with traditional promotions like posters and displays alongside email and social media. Local and trade press can also be a great source of free PR and paid advertising as well, as can working in partnership with relevant social media influencers or subscriptions and apps.

Discussing what worked well (and what didn’t) last time is also an essential part of planning. Of course, photos, videos, and testimonials are perfect for promoting future events, so don’t forget to capture the occasion on camera! And it’s a good idea to put together a calendar so you’re able to make the most of the opportunities presented at different times of year. 

Alberts Schloss, Manchester - Image Source: Alberts Schloss

Hopefully this article has got you thinking about how effective planning can enable your business to really benefit from seasonal spending and engage with your customers more deeply. If you want to learn more about how you can build a complete experience to engage with your customers, why not check out our free to download pocket guide, How to Craft Your Experience >

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Header image: The Top Hat, Monopoly Lifesized, London - Image Source: Monopoly Lifesized

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