How hotels are turning day-trippers into overnighters
At present, many travelers in the U.S. never set foot in a hotel during a business or leisure trip, even when it's several hours away from home.
It’s not just because of growing competition from home sharing platforms like Airbnb and VBRO. Whether they’re driving or even flying to a nearby locale for a cultural event or for a business meeting, people often prefer to head in and out of their destination in one day rather than stay overnight.
It’s a familiar phenomenon to tourism professionals. In recent years, there were 12 million day trips to Denver, Colorado; and in Minnesota, 57 percent of travel was comprised of day trips—with 38.2 million day trips, compared to 29.3 million overnights.
While not all day-trippers can be converted to overnighters, there are ways hoteliers can encourage visitors to extend their trip – which will also benefit their longer-term guests.
“The key is to create a guest experience that serves as a natural extension of the local environment,” says David Holder, Vice President of Tourism, JLL. “Hotels that offer memorable encounters in authentic atmospheres can help win attention from short-term travelers.”
Of course, the big question is how. Winning over business travelers, for example, goes beyond simply offering the facilities they need to conduct business, such as great connectivity and meeting space. It might also mean providing special packages with room rates and dining options included or offering more elements of home, whether it’s the ability to watch a favorite show via in-room streaming entertainment, or grab a ready-made breakfast bag for an early morning ride to the airport.
For leisure travelers, it’s often more about connecting them with the local events that sparked their interest in the area in the first place. Are they coming for the local music scene? Create a concert calendar to display in a public common area and provide easy-to-score tickets in the lobby. Even better, bring music in-house for live entertainment.Still, there are ways work and pleasure do mix, at least for hotels looking to woo both kinds of short-term travelers.
“What’s attracting people to any given destination?” asks Holder. “Whatever it is that drives your prospective guests, embrace it. Make it your own, so that you can build on it to create interest and engagement for your guests.”
Answering that question can be invaluable, considering the Global Portrait of American Travelers shows that 68 percent of all vacations were planned with a specific attraction in mind.
In addition, American vacation habits are changing. “Americans have been engaging in more localized vacations since the 2008 recession,” says Holder. “The staycation trend is blurring the lines between local and longer-distance travelers, so day-trippers may be more amenable now to the idea of staying overnight in a nearby city when it’s not strictly necessary.”
Tourism spend has increased steadily since the bottom of the recession, too, which bodes well for hotels that can convert day travelers into guests. This is especially true for American Millennial families, who intend to spend 19 percent more on their vacations in the next year. That means it’s time for hotels to get creative to convince guests that an overnight stay is worth their time and money.
Hotels are a key place to showcase local culture, from the artwork in the halls to the craft beer and food served in the restaurant and bar, explains Holder. “The lure of a soft bed isn’t the only selling point to convert a day traveler into an overnight guest. You want them soak up the local culture so they’re more likely to extend their visit or come back for more.”
Historically, hotels have served as community centers where locals and travelers came together and shared stories. It may be time to revive the spirit of those crossroads hotels. Mingling with locals can provide local experiences and insights that aren’t available in guidebooks. It can also make common spaces seem like more exciting places to be.
Food and drink are another key draw. But more than just a great menu, hotels can hook day-trippers by bringing local specialties to life with unique events. For example, wine country hotels might offer a sommelier-guided tasting evening, concluded by a champagne testing that tempts day-trippers to choose to stay the night just so they don’t miss the signature mimosa at breakfast.
Collaborating with local businesses, such as event organizers and theaters, might yield overnight packages and other deals that are more cost-effective than booking them separately, which will appeal to people who are daytrippers due to cost rather than out of choice. But it’s not just about savings—creating easy access to tickets to the best entertainment in town can help a hotel feel like a natural gateway to the area.
When hotels can offer a clear extension of the local experience whether for culture, sport or food, it makes it easier to see an overnight—or even multiple night stay—as time well spent.