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Marketing Tips for Hotels During the Coronavirus Outbreak

This is the third post in our series on crisis management and the coronavirus outbreak. Please check out our other recent posts:

In this post, Adam Wallace of Spherical Communications offers his top tips to help hotels navigate through this ever-evolving crisis. This includes ways to reassure guests about current travel plans and future trips, utilizing social media to showcase your hotel in a positive light, and updating your website so it strikes the right tone during this incredibly challenging time.

Flexible cancellation

As the coronavirus spreads and travel restrictions become evermore stringent, hotels need to focus on smart ways to capture a rapidly shrinking marketplace. Right now, nobody will want to take a trip without knowing they can easily cancel should the need arise.

For that reason, it makes sense to let guests change or cancel a booking if they’re staying with you at any point in the coming months. They’re more likely to book if they know that they could postpone if necessary. Given that the coronavirus is set to have a profound impact on society for many months, the longer you can extend your flexible cancellation offer, the better. If your hotel requires advance purchase before booking, now would also be a good time to consider scraping this too.

When it comes to existing bookings, hotels are letting guests change or cancel at no charge within a certain timeframe. And some are providing the option for existing bookings to be postponed until later this year.

In terms of communicating your cancellation policy, be sure to make it highly visible across all of your channels, including your hotel website, social media, and emails.

Boost revenue of existing bookings

For incoming travelers that have already booked with you, aim to maximize their overall spend where possible. One way to do this is through an “extend-your-stay” package — simply offer a tempting discount that incentivizes guests to stay with you for an additional few days.

To sweeten the deal, you could include a luxury room upgrade, free spa treatments, or a round of complimentary drinks every day at the hotel bar.

Given the need for social distancing, most guests will be spending far more time inside your hotel than exploring your destination, so they’ll be more likely to make more on-property purchases. Use the opportunity to actively promote services and amenities to help guests make the most of their time indoors.

Driving new bookings

For many hotels, new bookings are already coming to a standstill. However, there are still ways and means to try and deal with this situation.

Attract staycationers

Couple wheeling suitcases

At present, certain regions are reporting a low number of coronavirus cases. As a result, hotels in these areas may have success targeting staycationers who want to escape the confines of their own homes and enjoy a change of scenery.

However, assume the majority of travelers will be keen to limit interaction with others, and make this part of how you refine your staycation packages.

For instance, a growing number of hotels (pre-coronavirus) have started offering ways to help guests relax in the comfort of their own rooms (highly appropriate in the current climate). This includes partnerships with meditation apps to help guests relax and enjoy better sleep. Think about how your own hotel can offer products and services that focus on wellness, relaxation, and in-room entertainment.

Refine your target audience

Older generations are far less likely to travel given the associated risks between advancing age and the coronavirus. This warrants consideration within your hotel’s marketing strategy. For the next few months at least, it might make sense to narrow your marketing and focus on younger generations who are more able and willing to travel.

More broadly, you’ll almost certainly want to pause marketing in heavily impacted areas. As of the time of writing, mass travel restrictions and city-wide lockdowns are being imposed with increasing regularity, so this advice applies not just to international but domestic travel.

Change your call to action

Driving new bookings is a tough proposition at the moment. So instead of using “Book Now” as your call-to-action (CTA), something like “learn more” or “explore hotel” might be more appropriate. This CTA will still encourage traffic and interest, but it’ll feel less pushy and more in keeping with how travelers are behaving and thinking right now. You can use this CTA on your website as well as your marketing materials.

Get active on social

Keep a close eye on your social channels, and develop an action plan to address any concerns, comments, or feedback. At present, this will predominantly involve letting guests know about your cancellation policy, and explaining the steps you’re taking to keep your hotel clean and safe.

Of course, there’s always the chance for negative publicity. If a guest complains about the standard of hygiene at your property during this crisis (accurate or otherwise), you need to handle the situation swiftly. More than ever, it’s crucial that guests feel their concerns are taken seriously, and that your health and safety measures are beyond reproach.

As the situation evolves over the coming months, guests may want updates on whether it’s safe to visit your destination, whether your hotel is fully operational, and what local attractions are open.

Rethink your website content

Colleagues brainstorming around laptop

As countries ask citizens to practice social distancing, the imagery on your hotel website may need updating to reflect the global mood. For instance, pictures of bustling lobbies, buzzing restaurants, and busy fitness centers (all usually great for conveying your hotel’s popularity and atmosphere) are probably not appropriate right now.

Depending on your hotel’s location, consider replacing images of crowds and urban areas with photos of nature and open spaces — think woodland trails, uncrowded beaches, and leafy parks. Potentially, you could create a dedicated page on your website that highlights where guests can enjoy off-the-beaten-path activities in your destination.

Also, if you have properties in high impact areas, think about updating your homepage messaging. For example, let guests know about all the efforts you’re taking to maintain cleanliness around your property. Again, this messaging should be reinforced across all of your communication channels to ensure absolute consistency and clarity.

SEO and paid search

Is your Google My Business listing reflective of your current operating situation? If your business hours have changed, update the times when you’ll be open or closed. You’ll also want to update your business description so potential guests know whether or not your hotel is currently affected by COVID-19. In addition, your Google My Business listing can be used to share information about any precautions your hotel is taking.

Finally, with so many people working remotely and self-isolating, it’s going to be cheaper and easier than ever to capture online attention. This means you can take advantage of some unique content opportunities. For instance, why not create content with various members of your hotel staff that help people during extended time indoors:

  • Cooking Demos: Home cooking tips from your hotel chefs could focus on creating tasty dishes using affordable and easily accessible ingredients.
  • Homecare: Maybe your housekeeping could provide a step-by-step guide to disinfecting a room, and tips to keep a home feeling fresh and clean.
  • Fitness: Ask your fitness center staff to put together an at-home workout that anyone can do (i.e. all ages and fitness levels) without needing equipment.
  • Relaxation: See if members of your spa/wellness team can offer a guide to relaxing activities, such as self-massage, deep breathing, or meditation techniques.

All of this content could be promoted via an ongoing sequence of blog posts, emails, or even a short video series.

Managing through the crisis

There’s no denying that the travel industry is currently facing an unprecedented situation. People are losing their jobs and worrying about the future, and even the world’s most robust travel brands are having to rethink their business models.

But while there are difficult days ahead, there are also things every hotel can do to mitigate the impact on their own business. This is a time for the entire industry to come together, share best practices, and find mutual support in the coming weeks and months ahead.

By preparing now, you can place your hotel in the best possible position to drive new bookings as the crisis comes under control and travel demand returns.

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