The following article is part of a series on reopening tips and strategies for hotels, part of our Road to Recovery guide for hoteliers. Click here to access the complete guide.
Many hotels went dark on digital marketing during the start of coronavirus lockdowns, cutting budgets and turning off campaigns. As hotels slowly reopen, many marketing and e-commerce managers are grappling with how to restart their digital marketing efforts.
While it can be tempting to keep ad campaigns to a minimum until revenue starts coming in again, doing so can be risky. With travel demand at all-time lows, it’s more important than ever for hotels to optimize for profitability, which means prioritizing direct bookings and not over-relying on OTAs for driving business.
Winning direct bookings will require two important elements: attractive special offers and promotions, and investment in the right marketing channels.
Developing promotions and offers
In our Road to Recovery guide, one of the important tenets of your recovery strategy is understanding where your key source markets will come from and developing promotions that will attract them. During the initial phases, especially with border restrictions evolving rapidly, hotels will be relying primarily on domestic and regional markets with a large bulk of that business coming from leisure travelers.
Consider your hotel’s primary selling points as part of your special promotion. Is it positioned in a destination that is easily accessible by car? Include free parking, and perhaps offer a special long weekend getaway rate (i.e. book two nights for the price of three). Consider packaging “socially distanced” recreation, such as free bicycle rentals or an intimate dinner served in their room.
Hotels in city locations will need to take into consideration whether the destination’s main attractions are open or running at reduced capacity. As tourists may be staying away because local public health measures are still strict, city hotels may want to attract local residents with a special rate for staycations. Many hotels are also offering special rates for healthcare workers and first responders as a thank you for the work they are doing in the community.
Once you’ve developed your promotions and offers, the next step is to get the word out to the right target audiences and through the right channels.
Investing in the right digital marketing channels
Use this downtime to make sure your agency partners have fine-tuned your hotel’s SEO and content strategy, from revisiting page titles and descriptions to honing in on any non-brand keywords you’re looking to make gains on to increase visibility. A well-optimized website also helps with ad rank and relevancy for paid search, which can help increase the efficacy of SEM spend.
It’s important to spread your digital marketing budget smartly across channels so that you’re covering the entire booking funnel. Start by capturing the “low hanging fruit” by investing in brand name paid search (SEM) and metasearch. To fuel the upper part of the funnel and drive traffic, consider using inspirational ads on channels such as Facebook and Instagram, bidding on the niche non-brand keywords defined in your SEO strategy, or incorporating a display remarketing push to re-engage previous site visitors. Inspirational should not mean tone-deaf; ensure all ad copy, display banner creative, and social media creative reflect that your hotel is prepared to accept guests as they are ready to travel.
On the website itself, price compare and price matching tools such as Rate Match can help boost conversions. These tools help guarantee that your website has the best price, giving your guest the confidence to book direct instead of booking with an OTA.
For a limited time, Pegasus is offering access to Rate Match’s Parity Reporting tool free for one year. Click here to learn more.
As hotels slowly ramp up their digital marketing, it’s important to reset expectations for the initial period of reopening. Traditional revenue-based metrics like ROAS will likely be lower than normal to start, so marketing managers may want to look to upper- or mid-funnel metrics like clickthrough rates and conversion rates to analyze the success of ad campaigns. Establish micro-conversion rates to track small goals; for example, the percentage of users who headed to your hotel’s booking engine after landing on the website from an ad campaign is insightful in measuring campaign relevancy. It’s important that hotels communicate and work closely with their digital agency partner ahead of time to clearly delineate the goals and ROI expectations for any marketing dollars spent.
Looking for more tips on boosting your direct booking strategy during your reopening? Download our guide, The Road to Recovery, for practical tips, strategies, and checklists for your revenue, marketing, and sales teams.
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