This is the fourth post in our series on crisis management and the coronavirus outbreak. Please check out our other recent posts:
- Post One: Crisis planning for hotels: Best practices in communication, revenue management, and marketing
- Post Two: Revenue Management Tips for the Coronavirus Pandemic
- Post Three: Marketing Tips for Hotels During the Coronavirus Outbreak
In this post, we discuss what hotels can do now to prepare for the eventual resurgence in travel demand, and how that demand may outstrip supply for the first time in years.
In the US and Europe, hotel occupancy rates have tumbled since the outbreak of the coronavirus. Yet while it’s hard to imagine in the depths of this crisis, the industry will pick itself up and demand will return. In fact, China has already started to see the green shoots of recovery, while Singapore has had a sizable spike in domestic hotel searches following the first wave of the virus.
When the US and Europe also start their own recovery, travel will quickly return to the forefront of peoples’ minds. And when that happens, the hotel industry will find itself in unfamiliar territory: there’ll be a boom in demand that outstrips supply.
Will your hotel be ready when this moment arrives? After months of stagnancy, many hotels simply won’t be in a position to scale up their operations quickly enough. But by taking some of the steps outlined in the following article, you can put yourself in a prime position to capture more direct bookings
Monitor your feeder markets
It’s vital to track your feeder markets and identify those that are recovering faster than others. You can then deliver a strategic marketing campaign aimed at these resurgent areas to maximize bookings. Initially, staycations and domestic travel will come back strongest before international demand returns, so now’s the time to consider how you might target local audiences.
Focusing on gaining advanced bookings should also be a priority. But instead of slashing room rates, think about offering added-value incentives to win more business as the market recovers.
Also, consider removing advance purchase fees and maintain any flexible cancelation policies you have in place, at least until traveler confidence returns. Bear in mind that there may be a significant lag between when the coronavirus outbreak is suppressed and people feel genuinely reassured enough to book a trip.
Social media — target the dreamers
In a world forced into lockdown, billions of people are increasingly reliant on digital technology to stay connected. Social media has become even more valuable for chatting with friends and family, sharing information, and frankly, seeking out entertainment and positive stories to stave off anxiety and boredom.
This gives travel brands a unique opportunity to connect with customers. For instance, social media is a great way to promote your hotel’s community spirit. Various hotels are now helping with the coronavirus, from contributing to food banks to housing healthcare professionals. If your own hotel is supporting the local community, use social media to post feel-good updates on how you’re helping — it’ll give your followers a reason to stay engaged with your brand.
In addition, be sure to provide updates on your destination so your audience can make an informed decision about when to visit your destination. This could include posting when travel restrictions are lifted, or when certain attractions are up and running again. Just be sensitive about promoting large social events or crowded tourist areas in the early stages — social distancing restrictions may still be in place, or people may be nervous about large gatherings.
Finally, social media is a powerful tool to inspire guests about traveling again. When it feels appropriate, post images or videos of how your property and destination are getting ready to welcome back guests. Or ask your followers to let you know what they’re dreaming about doing on their next trip, with a prize for the most inspiring example.
Define your messaging strategy
Now more than ever, your messaging strategy requires careful consideration. People are looking for reassurances about current trips and future travel plans, so you need to give them the information they need with regular updates.
In addition to using social media and email, consider creating a FAQ page on your website to address common concerns and queries. This is a good place to feature your cancellation policy and flexible booking options. But it can also answer questions such as what your hygiene protocol will be to ensure the safety of guests when travel restrictions are lifted. Or how your hotel will respond if there’s another outbreak during their trip.
Even when the coronavirus is brought under control, lingering doubts will need to be addressed. As such, your messaging should remain sensitive to this fact, demonstrating that your hotel is well-prepared and takes all guest concerns seriously.
Inspiration and support
Through these difficult times, your messaging can also help steer the conversation back towards a more positive place. COMO Hotels and Resorts is sending out a regular newsletter full of helpful tips from its experts, including how to increase the body’s self-defences, keep fit at home, stay optimistic, and get more sleep.
Each image in these newsletters link to a dedicated article on the COMO website.
This self-care messaging is certainly of the moment, but Jet2holidays is already trying to inspire customers to start dreaming about their next trip. Below, you can see a clever example of Jet2holidays’ email marketing to its subscriber list.
This positive piece of messaging feels refreshing amid the gloomy (albeit necessary) content travel brands are having to put out right now. While Jet2holidays has spent a great deal of time communicating its own cancellation policy, it’s also quickly turned customer attention towards the dreaming stage of travel, placing its brand top-of-mind when people are ready to book.
These examples demonstrate a clever way to market to customers in a deeply challenging time. How can your hotel adapt its own messaging to match the changing mood and behaviors of your audience?
One way is to include plenty of vivid sensory-rich language and imagery in your email marketing. Find a way to tap into the emotional reasons your own audience might have for visiting you in the coming year.
For instance, you could focus on themes such as escapism and freedom, noting how your destination boasts sprawling beaches or epic hiking trails that are made for outdoor adventure. Alternatively, you may wish to reinforce how your hotel is ideal for enjoying (long overdue) quality time with friends and family, thanks to your kid-friendly pool, game room, and babysitting service.
As life slowly gets back to normal, travel will represent a celebration of the experiences people have had to temporarily put on hold. Consider what your own guests are most looking forward to when they can travel again, and make this the heart of your marketing efforts.
Upgrade your website to drive direct bookings
If budget allows, now’s a great time to invest in your hotel website. When travel demand returns, your website can play a key role in earning an unfair share of direct bookings. Here are a few areas worth thinking about now.
Optimize your user experience
Is your hotel website optimized to deliver the best possible user experience? Take the time to conduct a website audit to look for ways you can reduce customer friction. Key areas to consider include:
- Intuitive navigation: How easy is your website to explore? Ideally, you want it to offer a clutter-free experience with simple navigation and bold call-to-action buttons. This will help users easily find the most important information to inform their booking decision.
- Quality visual content: Quality photos can boost engagement levels, communicate your brand story, and showcase your property and destination to excite guests. Creating new visual content is tricky at present, but our photo selection guide offers plenty of tips to at least start planning how to get started.
- Easily identifiable room descriptions: Can users easily compare your room options? Rather than have all room information crammed onto one page, split it up across multiple pages. And consider using bullet points to signpost each room’s core amenities.
- A dedicated reviews page: Once the coronavirus is under control and travel ramps up again, hotel guests will likely need more reassurances before they book. This can be aided with a dedicated reviews page on your website. Populate your reviews page with positive comments on social media, TripAdvisor, and past guest surveys.
Conversion-focused tools and tactics
When travelers start actively looking for hotels again, expect them to shop around widely to get the best deal. To drive more bookings from these price-savvy shoppers, the latest conversion-focused tools can give your hotel a competitive edge.
For instance, our Rate Match widget carries out a real-time price-check with the OTAs, and can then automatically adjust your hotel’s Best Available Rate to match or beat any lower rate it finds. This means a visitor to your website can instantly get the best deal without needing to shop around elsewhere.
In addition, consider using OTA-style urgency messages on your website. These messages can be used to highlight limited availability or high demand for a certain room type. Again, if travel demand surges but overall hotel inventory remains initially low, scarcity messaging on your website can be a powerful way to drive conversions.
Refresh your content
As mentioned earlier, many people might have new priorities or reasons for traveling when it becomes possible again. A refresh of your website content can serve to promote the services, amenities, and experiences that are in the highest demand.
Examples to consider over the coming months:
- Update your homepage with images of your destination’s natural beauty spots or outdoor-based experiences/trips (spending time outdoors again will likely be high on the list for many).
- Produce a dedicated Events page that promotes the local experiences and activities guests can safely enjoy again.
- Include a personal “Welcome Back” message on your homepage. This could let guests know that you’re delighted to have them back, and reassure them about the efforts you’re taking to keep your hotel clean and hygienic for their safety.
Prepare now for a spike in demand
By planning ahead now, your hotel can take advantage of a boom in travel demand when the coronavirus is brought under control. While not all hotels will be adequately prepared, there are specific things you can do now (at little or zero cost) to keep your brand top-of-mind and market yourself effectively when demand returns.
In the meantime, we’re here to help! If you require help implementing any of these practices in the Pegasus CRS, please contact your account manager directly.
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