08 May 2017

8 Tactics for Transforming One-Time Visitors into Lifelong Guests

As a resort manager, a big part of your job is working to drive more first-time reservations for your resort. Your ability to attract new travelers and convince them to stay with you is crucial to your long-term success.

It’s not your only job, though. In order to build a profitable, sustainable business, you also need to be just as, if not more, committed to creating the kind of experience that leads guests to book reservations with you again after their first stay.

The question is: How do you do it? Traveling to new locations and booking reservations at other resorts is easier now than ever before—so how do you get your guests to think about you again the next time they’re planning a trip away? How do you convince them to return to your resort rather than going somewhere else?

Here are 8 tactics you can use to keep your guests coming back for more:

Tactic #1: Go the Extra Mile to Delight

One of the easiest ways to transform one-time visitors into lifelong guests is by creating an experience for them that they believe can’t be matched by anyone else. To build guest loyalty, you need to go the extra mile to delight them at every turn and in every possible way you can think of.

Remember: You aren’t in the business of renting rooms—you’re selling unforgettable experiences and memories that people can’t get anywhere else.

Going the extra mile to delight your guests can mean a lot of things, and it can vary a lot depending on your resort and the type of accommodations you offer. The point, though, is to make your guests feel special. You want everyone who books a reservation with you to constantly be thinking throughout the entirety of their stay, “I’m so glad we decided to come here!”

Not sure where to start? Here are a few creative ‘red carpet’ ideas that might help you think about how to delight first-time guests at your resort:

  • Send a handwritten thank you card to guests before they arrive for their stay. After they make their reservation with you, send them a personalized card expressing your appreciation. Include a small gift (local food, resort keychain, or a gift card to a local attraction) to help them feel even more excited about their upcoming trip.
  • Leave a ‘vacation survival kit’ for guests to find when they enter their room for the first time. Instead of including the classic survival items you would expect to find in a kit, fill your kits with food, wine, lotions, sunblock, and anything else that relates to your resort and the area they’ll be exploring.
  • Help your guests travel around by coordinating and paying for their first Uber ride, shuttle ride, or whatever other form of transportation they’ll likely use. Kick things off on the right foot and help your guests slip right into relax-mode. Traveling to a location can often be stressful. Take the stress away for your guests from the moment they step off the airplane, train, or boat. If your guests will have to rent a car, work with the local rental car companies to create a special discount just for your resort. Don’t advertise the discount to guests—let the rental car company surprise them when they arrive.

There are obviously many more ways to delight guests during their stay, so spend some time thinking about what makes your resort unique, and how you can make your guests smile at every turn.

Tactic #2: Incentivize Guests to Book Again

Another way to get happy guests to book again is by creating irresistible incentives. To make this tactic work for your resort, it’s all about coming up with the right offers, and presenting them to guests at the right time.

Here are some examples of the types of incentives you could offer guests for booking another stay with you:

  • Free day for a reservation lasting longer than 4 days
  • Upgraded room for same price as their first stay
  • Free meals (still charge for alcohol)
  • Guaranteed booking of the same room or lodge they were in last time
  • Major discounts on services and amenities (spa, events centers, local attractions and day-trip activities, etc.)
  • Spending VISA card that they get to use during their next stay (you decide the amount)

Here are the times when and ways that you should present guests with incentive offers:

  • Try to get a tentative reservation with happy guests at checkout
  • Include a promotional message about incentives in the receipt you print or email to guests
  • Include the offer in a handwritten Thank You card that you send to all guests after their stay
  • Add guests to an email drip that promotes the different incentives you offer and includes clear call-to-action statements and buttons on how to take advantage of the offer
  • Follow up with guests a year to the date of when they made their first reservation with you. You can do this by phone, email, or letter.

ProTip: If you really want to see if this tactic will work for your resort, make your incentive especially irresistible, but add an expiration date to drive urgency. See if your guests take the offer before they lose the opportunity. Alternatively, you could add a limited amount of incentives (i.e. “we only have 4 of these packages left for the year, and once they are gone—they’re gone!’)

Tactic #3: Keep in Touch

I hit on this a bit in the last section, but it’s important enough to mention again: in order to transform one-time visitors into lifelong guests, you need to keep in touch with them.

You and your reservation agents should be regularly and proactively nurturing relationships with former guests after they leave your resort. There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Email Campaigns: After your guests stay with you, you should add them to your email marketing list and send them regular emails that include updates about your resort, photos and video, reservation offers, exclusive package offers, etc. In addition to these mass emails that are sent out to a large group all at once, you should also be sending them personalized 1:1 emails from one of your reservation agents. These personalized emails can be incredibly effective in driving engagement and additional reservations.
  • Phone: Without overdoing it, occasionally call your former guests and check in with them. If possible, present them with special incentives and get them to commit to another reservation. These calls could happen every 6-8 months, or more frequently depending on how soon your guests typically return for another stay with you.
  • Physical Mail: Send your former guests catalogs, postcards, and handwritten cards from your staff. Again, don’t overdo it with this one.
  • Social Media: Encourage your guests to engage with you on social media. You could even create a private Facebook group that only former guests have access to. In the group, share exclusive offers and deals that only former guests get to take advantage of.

The important thing to remember with this one is to not overdo it. You don’t want to annoy your former guests, so communicate with them sparingly—just enough to keep them interested and thinking about you.

Tactic #4: Make Them Part of Your Story

To get travelers to come back to your resort again, help them understand how they fit into your history and legacy. One of the best ways to differentiate from other resorts and lodges in your area and around the world is by taking the time to craft amazing stories about your resort, your employees, and your guests.

Make your guests feel like they’re part of what has made your resort what it is today by:

  • Asking them to share photos and videos of their stay with you
  • Asking them to write in guest logs or on guest walls
  • Including media from guests on your website, on your social media pages, and in your physical marketing material
  • Help your guests understand where to go to see their photos once you do post them online or incorporate them into printed material

When you’re guests feel invested in the success of your business, they’re much more likely to come back to support you, make new memories, and continue helping you craft your story.

Tactic #5: Find Out What Would Bring Them Back

If you’re not sure how you could convince guests to come back for a second, third, or fourth visit, take the time to actually ask them! Get feedback from guests about what they loved, what they missed out on, and what specifically would persuade them to come back for another visit.

You can get this type of feedback in a number of ways, such as:

  • Leaving feedback forms in the rooms for guests to fill out
  • Sending survey emails after guest have checked out and left your resort
  • Posting the question on social media for guests and followers to respond to
  • Having an informal, in-person conversation with guests at check-out
  • Asking former guests the question when you call them on the phone to get overall feedback about their stay

Make an effort to collect and compile all guest feedback into one place, then meet with your team to identify common themes and develop incentives that will drive one-time guests to book again. Work with your reservation agents to follow up with anyone who gave you feedback and update them on the new incentives that were recently put into place.

Tactic #6: Stay Active on Social Media

When you’re not intentionally and individually following up with one-time guests to see if they might be interested in booking another stay with you, spend time engaging with your guests and followers on social media.

When your guests are staying with you, encourage them to stay connected with you on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Keep your followers updated and their memories of their time at your resort fresh in their minds by sharing:

  • Updates or changes relating to the resort
  • Photos and videos of happy guests
  • Links to interesting articles that relate to the area and local businesses
  • Messages from employees, managers, and owners
  • Photo galleries of the grounds, the rooms, and other areas that make your resort unique
  • Special packages or offers that followers can take advantage of
  • Live video or streaming webcams that allow followers to see certain areas of your resort while they are away
  • Blog posts written by you about your resort and the surrounding area

You should also take the time to reply and communicate with guests who post messages on your page, leave comments on posts, or send you direct messages.

Your goal with actively participating on social media sites is to continue nurturing the relationships you established with guests when they were staying at your resort.

Tactic #7: Upsell & Cross-Sell

If you can, try to get to know your guests while they’re staying with you. Try to ask informal questions during check-in or check-out in order to learn more about their hobbies, interests, and preferences for vacations. Take notes and include them in their account file. If you find that your guests stayed with you but potentially missed out on an activity or a part of your resort that you think they would have enjoyed, tell them about it when you’re ready to convince them to come stay with you again.

For example, if your guests commented on the pool or spa area while staying with you, but didn’t have a chance to use it due to the weather, bring it up the next time you engage with them. If your guests came without their kids, but you know of a number of kid-friendly events and attractions in the area, bring it up when you’re trying to convince them to come again.

Your goal with this tactic is to upsell and cross-sell one-time guests in order to convince them to book another reservation with you in the near future. Help them understand what they missed and what they could experience if they were to come back.

Tactic #8: Brand The Experience

The final way to convince one-time visitors to return to your resort again is to simply brand your resort as a place that people return to again and again. Feature stories of guests that have come back year-after-year, allow guests to book the same room during the same weekend every year, and position yourself as a resort that people never get tired of visiting. To knock this one out of the park, you’ll need lots of help from happy guests—work with them to collect stories, photos, video, and testimonials that explain why they continue to come back to your resort so often. Incorporate this content into your website, sales collateral, and email marketing campaigns.

Over to You

What other tactics and strategies are you using to get guests to book reservations with you again? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Ryan Bailey

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