Small hotels can be difficult to manage. Not only do owners have to be smart about how they use their resources, but they also have to get creative in order to compete with larger, well-known brands. In this guide of small hotel ideas, you’ll discover expert business, design, and marketing tips you can apply to your very own property, both now and in the long term.
Maximize your property’s potential with these 7 small hotel ideas
1. Create mini experiences
Mini experiences at a small hotel are free activities guests can participate in for a few minutes in between their comings and goings. Mini experiences are often unique, unexpected, and fun. They help small hotel brands stand out by providing moments they couldn’t have had anywhere else.
For example, The June Motel in Sauble Beach offers multiple Instagram photo opportunities throughout their property. This is especially effective for their audience due to the fact that they cater to millennials and bachelorette party crowds. From their pink June Bug car parked out front to their hammocks on every balcony, the June Motel’s mini photography experiences provide guests with a ton of content.
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2. Use a forecast-based pricing model
Nick Edwards is a Director at Snowfinders, a travel agency offering catered ski hotels, ski chalets, and all-inclusive holidays. In an interview with Cvent, Edwards told us what they’ve noticed firsthand has worked for small hotels over the past year or so.
“The use of forecasting to establish prices based on projected demand is the single most important pricing approach for hotels to master,” said Edwards. “Essentially, this means that the hotel room rate charged will be determined by the level of demand.
“For example, to optimize revenue, increased accommodation rates may be implemented during periods of high demand,” Edwards said.
But how do you know when there will be periods of high demand? “Accurate records are essential for a successful forecasting strategy, with historical data – such as occupancy, revenue, room rates, and average spend per room – being particularly important,” Edwards said.
“Furthermore, it is critical to make use of existing data, such as reservations, as well as any broader market trends. Pricing decisions can then be made based on this information.”
3. Perfect your online presence
Edwards also offered some insight into this simple yet important small hotel idea.
“In my opinion, social media and digital marketing are excellent instruments for instilling positive attitudes and increasing visibility. The world is changing, and hotels that are ready for it will do better,” he said.
Edwards went on to say that not only has the pandemic brought on unique challenges for the industry, but the competitiveness we’re used to seeing has remained.
“There are so many hotels to pick from, all of which are there in front of you and all of which appear to be wonderful, that choosing a decision can frequently come down to first impressions.”
But how are small hotels supposed to stand out among big-name chains?
“Simple measures like responding to internet reviews in a courteous and friendly manner will help the searcher feel better in this climate,” said Edwards.
Guests will be attracted to your small hotel because of little details like these. They show how professional your business is and they also showcase one of the greatest strengths a small hotel can have: personalized attention.
RELATED: The Complete Guide to Hotel Digital Marketing (for properties of all sizes!)
4. Eliminate single-use plastics
Small hotels can help do their part to help the environment by eliminating single-use plastics from their rooms, lobbies, and dining areas. Although convenient, this specific type of waste is responsible for over 15% of methane emissions at landfills. Simply put, reducing the amount of single-use plastics you offer guests will reduce the amount that ends up in the trash later. Here are some easy and cost-effective ways to start:
- Offer guests 50 cents off coffee orders at the cafe every time they bring their hotel room coffee mug or their own container down to the cafe.
- Sell reusable products such as basic cutlery kits and metal straws at your gift shop.
- Install refillable product dispensers in each bathroom.
5. Start a vlog
Cvent spoke to Thomas Danielsen of DMC Baltic, a bespoke destination management team leader that is constantly researching and collaborating with hotels of all sizes across the world. Via email, Danielsen said that most small hotels are missing one major channel of communication with potential guests: YouTube.
“My advice for small hotels trying to stand out from the crowd and succeed is to start a weekly vlog on YouTube,” shared Danielsen.
Not sure what to post?
“Bring the people behind the scenes of running a small hotel! Build a digital relationship between the viewer/guest and your staff and make them want to come to stay with you. Be personal and relatable — be real!”
To Danielsen's point, original vlogs offer a personal, intimate touch that’s perfect for small hotels and fits right into the power of personalization that we talked about earlier.
“Video is an extremely powerful tool to build relationships,” Danielsen said. “And by connecting with your guests online (through YouTube) they will feel like they already know your hotel and the staff even before arriving. It will feel like meeting a friend.”
That’s not an exaggeration either. According to parasocial interaction theory, many people who view videos online develop an emotional connection to the creators behind them. Psychology Today investigated the phenomenon and found that YouTube uniquely offers a powerful bonding experience between host and audience member.
In addition to being a potent bonding tool with your audience, YouTube also offers a slew of other benefits for small hotels. As Danielsen points out, “once a video is done you can easily distribute it to other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok” in just a few clicks.
“At least not forget, YouTube is the second-largest search engine after Google,” said Danielsen.
6. Install blackout curtains and blinds
General contractor and small hotel design expert Don Adams of Regional Foundation Repair spoke to Cvent via email about small hotel ideas he thinks are worth investing in this coming year. Adams said the easiest way to boost revenue quickly is to “optimize practicality while keeping with a pleasing interior decor”.
What’s one of the most pleasing interior decor items, according to Adams? Blackout curtains.
“People choose to book into small hotels for a variety of reasons. One of those is to relax and sleep. By putting blackout blinds into your rooms, and advertising it, you will have many happy guests."
Adams' pro tip is to also add in some blackout blinds wherever possible. They may be pricier or take extra installation, but blackout blinds allow for decorative curtains to take center stage while providing better light blockage.
7. Collaborate with influencers
Devin Schumacher is the founder of digital marketing agency SERP and has helped many brick-and-mortar SMBs in the hospitality industry jump-start their operations. Schumacher shared his number one small hotel idea for new brands with Cvent in an interview: Influencers.
“To keep your ad spend to a minimum, collaborate with influencers instead of photographers,” he said, adding that “while professional photographers create artistic, beautifully crafted shots, millennials prefer a vlog’s raw, unfiltered experience.”
Instagram agrees. According to their recent trend report, low-production value videos are said to have a high impact. Low-production value means videos that feel raw, less edited, and more personal, like something you would capture on your own phone while away on vacation or a business trip.
Why does this work so well? In Instagram’s own words, you have to “blend in to stand out." As users grow weary of the carousel of paid ads, perfectly polished sponsored posts, and obvious brand shoutouts, a more down-to-earth approach can simply be more appealing.
But before you run out and start spending money on influencers, learn more about the market value of their offer. As Schumacher said, “Just make sure that the influencer’s services match your offer.” For example, “do not give out $3,000 rooms to micro-influencers with a few thousand followers.”
Start putting these small hotel ideas to use today!
Remember, it's not the size of the hotel in the fight, but the size of the fight in the hotel.
Up next, check out 7 hotel marketing trends to help you stay ahead of the curve.