Saturday, June 23, 2018

Don’t diss free parking!

Even in this day and age of ride sharing, public transit, car service apps and a myriad of other options to take you from one place to another, driving is still very much the norm.

Just as one’s home is one’s castle, the automobile also acts as an extension of one’s private domicile. It’s a personal space that elicits calm and even joy.

As such, when hotels charge extra for allowing guests to park their cars overnight at their respective properties, it strikes a deep emotional chord. Putting this fee in context, what guests severely dislike is ‘drip pricing’ where the nightly rate they sign up for is only the start and the final bill comes with a slew of previously unknown line items like resort fees, additional housekeeping fees and so on.

While it’s a given that the maintenance of the parking facilities is nowhere near cheap, especially in a densely urbanised location, and that the cost must be forwarded onto the consumer, there are far better ways to wield your parking spaces than just to charge extra for them.

Firstly, you can use free parking as a feature incentive for a suite up-sell or bundled package. For example, listing this off in the bullet points for your one-night spa getaway or two-night gourmet dining offers can help to round out these kinds of packages so that prospective customers feel as though they are getting a lot of bang for their bucks. Similarly, including free parking as a part of any suite or premium accommodation purchase, and advertising it properly, will help to drive room upgrades across all sales channels.

Alternatively, like giving complimentary access to high-speed WiFi, free parking can act as one of several perks for your loyalty program. But don’t forget to offer a hotel credit, perhaps good towards F&B, for those who do not have a car. This will prevent major headaches at reservations and front desk.

Moving beyond overnight parking considerations, this feature can be leveraged to directly build ancillary revenue streams in restaurants, spa and retail. The two most often form of this is on a timed basis for services rendered, where visitors are given, say, three hours free if they get their tickets validated at whatever facility where services were rendered.

Thinking broader again than just the ability to store one’s vehicle for any duration of time, there is a powerful psychological motivation behind the word ‘free’. Unlike offering a percentage discount where one needs to do a quick mental calculation to derive the meaning of the benefits, when something is totally gratis, albeit with strings attached, it instantly garnishes positive sentiments from the recipient.

This is Sales 101 and any opportunity you have to deploy the word ‘free’ would be to your advantage. Parking is but one instance that will surely help to attract road trippers and any other customer psychographics most likely to arrive at your locale via automobile.

About Larry Mogelonsky

Larry Mogelonsky
Larry Mogelonsky is the founder of Toronto-based hospitality consulting agency LMA Communications Inc.

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One comment

  1. I’m a member of a service club which meets monthly over dinner in the private dining room of a CBD Hobart hotel. We are not charged for use of this facility and until now, members were able to park FOC. As it’s becoming ever more difficult to find somewhere for any service club to meet, we probably won’t move. However, the food is pretty awful and as of tomorrow evening I’m going to have to pay $10 for a couple of hours parking. As I live some hours away at Coles Bay, if I’ve had things to do in Hobart the next day I’ve stayed in the hotel after my meeting. Not any more. I’ll go round the corner to another hotel where parking is free.

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