The COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the entire travel and hospitality industry. With millions of people stuck at home and governments enforcing lockdown measures, it can be tough to see how hotels and other accommodation establishments recover from this.
But there is a silver lining. Once lockdowns begin to ease and people feel more confident to go out while following health precautions, the industry can experience a significant rise. According to data from Triptease, South Korea has experienced a considerable rise in bookings after COVID-19 has been mostly contained around mid-March.
When other parts of the world reach that point, it’s crucial for hotel managers and staff to be prepared to take advantage. Below are three strategies to consider:
Continue engaging customers
Even though people are quarantined at home and canceling their travel plans, this should not be an excuse to reduce engagement. If anything, this is a crucial time for hotels to boost their presence through online content. The goal is to maintain customer relationships with your brand.
Review content on your website—social media accounts as well, if you have them—to ensure that information is up-to-date and accurately reflects the current situation. You can post blogs and other pieces geared toward stoking the desire to travel once the pandemic lifts. Give people a reason to hope for something better.
Use email campaigns to your advantage. This tried and tested platform is one of the key gateways where you can reach a broad range of customers. If the hotel plans to open before the year ends, publish relevant information to set people’s expectations. Will there be new rules? What will be the business hours? Be sure to also provide specifics on health and sanitation measures to ensure the safety of guests.
Create an evolving marketing plan
Develop a marketing plan that adapts to the uptick of travel demand. As we progress toward the end of 2020 and beyond, hotel managers must have specific strategies in engaging customers as the overall situation improves.
Seriously consider tapping the expertise of consultants specializing in hospitality marketing. Some things to look out for when you create the plan:
- Prioritize loyal or frequent customers when thinking of engagement strategies. They are the ones most likely to make a reservation or booking once your hotel can accept guests.
- As you publish content and stories through different platforms, promote special offers that can gain the interest of your audience. Whether it be a booking discount or special family package, these can help you ensure a steady stream of guests when things go back to normal.
- Find a way to determine the travel intent of your target audience. For instance, at the end of each blog post or email blast, you can include a link to a short survey that will gauge how likely people will make a booking once lockdown measures ease significantly.
Implement flexible policies
When you reach the stage where you can accommodate a reasonable number of guests, consider adopting flexible policies around bookings and cancellations.
The goal is to encourage people to book and be more confident in following through with their plans. If certain restrictions suddenly prevent guests from pushing through, don’t penalize them. Give them a full range of options to resort to—whether it be a full refund or hassle-free rescheduling.
If guests do cancel their reservations, this isn’t the end of the engagement. Send content and email updates prompting them to consider rebooking. Add additional perks and benefits, such as discounts and free memberships, that can augment their experience when they decide to revisit your hotel.
Think ahead and prepare for the new normal
There are many more strategies to consider that can help hotels successfully get back in business. Likelihood of success will ultimately be determined by how well management can use digital tools and quickly adapt to changing circumstances.