During the week of January 23, one of the country’s leading hotel chains released details of an upcoming bonus promotion to a small group of web bloggers attending an industry event. Naturally they promptly went public with the information.
Not having attended the event in question, I requested details of the promotion and was advised by the hotel’s P.R. representative that a news release wasn’t yet “approved,” and in any case it was embargoed until February 1. As it happens, February 1 was the start date of the promotion.
What’s wrong with this picture?
As even the most infrequent traveler knows, travel plans are normally made weeks if not months in advance. And the bonuses associated with booking this or that hotel can only be factored into that planning if they’re known in advance.
So by restricting advance notice of the promotion to a niche group of bloggers and their followers, the hotelier in question was denying many travelers the chance to consider the bonus when planning early-February trips.
If this were an isolated incident, it wouldn’t merit mention. But such last-minute announcements have become a trend among major hotel chains, and it’s a negative trend for all concerned—unless you subscribe to a conspiracy-type theory where the hotels deliberately withhold information to moderate participation and thereby reduce the associated marketing costs, in which case it’s bad for everyone but the hotels.
My recommendation? Hotel promotions should be widely communicated at least two weeks in advance of a promotion’s start date. That means:
- Program members should be alerted at least two weeks prior to the promotion’s effect date via email.
- A landing page on the hotel’s website with complete promotion details should be live at least two weeks in advance.
- Registrations, either by phone or on the hotel’s website, should be accepted at least two weeks in advance.
- A news release with complete promotion details and a web link should be sent out to all legitimate media at least two weeks in advance.
There’s nothing magic about two weeks. It just seems to me that anything less is a disservice to the traveling public in general, to a hotel’s loyalty program members in particular, and to the media who cover the industry.
What makes the hotels’ behavior so puzzling is that it’s also a disservice to the companies’ own bottom lines—because they don’t get the full revenue effect of the promotion—and ultimately to the hotels’ stockholders.
Reader Reality Check
How far in advance do you think hotels (and airlines for that matter) should publicize their upcoming promotions?
Is two weeks enough?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.