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Van der Valk Hotels: Discovering A New Market Position

Van der Valk Hotels is the largest Dutch hospitality chain, with hotels across the Netherlands, throughout Europe, and the Dutch Antilles.

Most of its hotels are located close to highways and have traditionally targeted business travelers. However, in the past couple of years the team has had to re-think their target market, guest segmentation, and product offering, pivoting to focus on the leisure market instead.

Originally, the team at Van der Valk Hotels considered their hotels’ location as a disadvantage, but soon it became apparent that for the new leisure market, their location was perfect.

“For the target market right now, which is mostly domestic tourism and visitors from The Netherlands and Belgium, who are traveling by car, for them, there are a lot of efficiencies of having hotels next to the highways with big parking lots,” explained Gerk van der Poll, Director, Van der Valk Business.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on business travel, Van der Valk Hotels has adapted its product to better suit domestic and regional travelers.

“By just tweaking our product a little bit we have been able to tap into a huge market which is okay with staying in our type of hotel because the product itself is great and offers good value for money,” van der Poll told us.

Adapting Product & Packages

By making subtle changes to the product, Van der Valk Hotels was able to better meet the needs of its new leisure guests.

“We’ve added wellness areas and added rocking chairs to balconies. Because we saw all the products that had it, regardless of their physical location, or if it was a new or old property, or it was surrounded by a lot of leisure activities or by nature or not, it didn't matter, as long as the physical product had elements of leisure in it, it would attract the leisure customer,” van der Poll explained.

“The other part, which I think is important when it comes to focusing on a new segment is to be very conscious about how you position those rates into the market, your content, and your description of your rates, because the leisure customer is very sensitive to the buying journey and to what they are purchasing.

“How you guide them through buying your product and doing the upsells of all your add-on items is truly important. It is a different ballgame selling a leisure product to selling for business,” he added.

Adopting Duetto

In addition to changing hardware, Van der Valk Hotels has also been busy changing out its tech stack. The majority of properties in the Van der Valk Hotels collection are now using Duetto GameChanger, ScoreBoard, and BlockBuster applications to optimize revenue and streamline operations.

“From an RMS point of view, Duetto is already delivering some of the tech efficiencies we wanted to see within our organization. That is why we very consciously chose Duetto over our previous RMS provider,” van der Poll said.

“We are benefiting from the Open Price principle already in our room type yielding and we've seen an uplift in ADR of our better room types.

“And it is a more user-friendly system than the system we used before. System friendliness encourages people to spend more time in the system. For the primary daily user, you need a system that you want to work on, and you can find your way around easily. When we started to use Duetto we simply saw that it is more efficient.

Building Strategy

With a refreshed product and the new efficiencies brought through using Duetto, van der Poll and his team are already getting ready for summer 2022.

“If we did not have the pandemic, we would not have focused on the leisure segment, we would have been trying to optimize the business months because the ADRs are normally higher, with a lot of meetings and events, so we would have been optimizing small pieces within the segment and not looking at the leisure segment as a window of opportunity,” van der Poll said.

“We are depending more on traffic from our own channels. Around 70% of bookings come through our website or our own channels, so, therefore, we can do a lot of data analysis on this. We see when there are peaks in customer behavior as far as booking behavior, and from that, we can tweak our online marketing. We feel strongly that using our own channel data is giving us good guidelines as to how to project demand, not so much by months but by days of the week, length of stay, and product. If you look at the patterns you can build your strategy on that.”

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Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications.

Sarah joined Duetto in 2015 as a contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Content, EMEA, and in 2022 promoted to Director of Marketing Communications. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.

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