As Coronavirus continues to affect the travel industry, and hospitality in particular, at an unprecedented rate, hotels and restaurants must have a solid COVID-19 hotel recovery strategy in place that addresses both the current state of business and the future when travel demand strikes again. When thinking about how to build a proactive recovery strategy, consider a three-phased approach as we detail below:
A few weeks ago, your hospitality business might have seen a steep decline in revenue due to the original response of the pandemic with governments taking strict measures to limit travel and institute shelter in place safety protocols. Most of your marketing budget might have gone in vain due to the unfavorable travel conditions stemming from these exogenous factors.
Previously, you used various offline and online marketing tactics to drive bookings to your hotel or drive more foot traffic or online orders at your restaurant. But, COVID really shook the foundation of normalcy. With bookings dropping off a click, it has become important to keep your guests engaged with your hotel during the lull in activity and to be a resource for information.
As Joe Chernov, CMO of InsightSquared has rightly said, “Good marketing makes the company look smart; Great marketing makes the customer feel smart.”
Go a step further to improve your current marketing strategy. It is high time that you must have a brand new and more effective strategy of Digital Marketing for your hotel.
You have to ensure that your marketing strategy drives more traffic and revenue while managing your hospitality operations more efficiently as we emerge out of this crisis.
You might miss out on focusing on small yet crucial aspects such as "Guest Reviews" when you are looking for ways to simply protect your hotel from Coronavirus. Reviewing your online reviews is a significant part of your hotel’s reputation management. If you might have just left a ‘Thank You’ response to your visitor’s reviews on various online platforms, you might want to actually spend valuable time to read these reviews carefully and parse out important details about your service levels.
It’s time for you to go back to those valuable reviews that your guests have provided. Dig into the suggestions that your guests have presented and work to improve your product and service.
Make a list of positive and negative points that the guest has experienced while they have stayed at your hotel or dined at your restaurant. Or you can leverage INNsight’s powerful Reputation Management System and take a look at our Sentiment Analysis Report to see what customers are saying about their stay at your hotel.
Laura Ashley, famous British fashion designer, quoted, ‘We don't want to push our ideas on to customers, we simply want to make what they want.’ After jotting down the points, you will have a clear picture of how your guest experience stacks up and what their wants and desires are. Introduce the changes that your guests expect so that your guests can have an even more comfortable and relaxed stay, and your business can benefit from better online reviews.
Pro Tip: Read the reviews of your competitor’s guests’ experience on Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and their Online Travel Agent property pages and look for the features and amenities they get rave reviews for and look to match or exceed their offerings with feasible changes to your product immediately.
It is your responsibility to declare your status of operations during the Pandemic. Communicate whether you are open or closed due to the pandemic outbreak. Demonstrate your knowledge of the crisis and how it will impact your hospitality and service.
Convey the steps that you have taken for your guest’s safety in your hotel. Let the potential visitors know that you are aware of the current situation and implementing necessary changes to operate your business in a post-COVID shelter in place order.
Many of your guests might have made a booking with your hotel pre-COVID. Tell them that you have modified your cancellation policy and allow for full flexibility and cancellation up to 24 hours before arrival. Guests are going to expect more flexibility going forward--we recommend a 24 hour cancellation period which is pushed out to all channels, including Online Travel Agents.
Ask your guests to contact you directly so that you can make the required arrangements before check-in time. Give them the leverage to cancel their reservations without penalty, even if they fall ill on the same day of their arrival.
Give them a clear message on your actions towards bookings from third-party travel agents and direct reservations.
Spread a positive message out that whether their travel plans are now or shortly, your friendly team members will be ready to welcome them. Leverage social media posts to communicate current happenings at your hotel, precautions you are taking to ensure their safety, and to be positive and uplifting. Clients of INNsight’s Digital Marketing benefit from active social media management performed by our professional content writers and social marketers.
People are stuck at home and on their devices connected to the Internet, especially on social media, as their outlet to The World. Isn’t it a perfect opportunity to engage with your guests? Yes, you do need to provide guests and potentials with valuable and entertaining content.
During this time, communication with your guests on social media is essential COVID-19 advice for hotels. Share your experience with the current situation and engage with customers with information, news, and uplifting messages.
Make sure you post a perfect mix of positive, productive, and entertaining content. Be among the one who is ready to provide a helping hand in the current pandemic.
You can schedule your posts utilizing the following subjects:
Try to create the content which engages your audience and leaves a good impression of your hotel.
Paid advertising, specifically pay-per-click (PPC) ads on search engines, is vital for hotels to maintain. Pay-Per-Click is undoubtedly the best advertising avenue to continue in the face of an economic slowdown, for you are only paying for the clicks that you get in relevant searches.
A direct booking strategy, with the help of paid marketing, gives the highest profit margin. Even during this pandemic, OTA's are going to bid on your brand keywords.
Continuing paid campaigns will give you an upper hand when travel picks back up. If required, you can lower your ad budget at this time or you can shift your focus on your highest converting keywords while you keep your paid campaigns running.
At INNsight, we run PPC campaigns for hotels, and our focus is on targeted campaigns that give high ROI. We help our customers to reach their target audience via right channels/mediums and drive more direct bookings at higher margins.
During these unprecedented times, INNsight recommends focusing on the current customer base through remarketing. It is going to be increasingly important to cultivate sales directly to save on cost of sales.
It is a known fact that email marketing can provide the best ROI amongst your various marketing channels.
Email is a great way to connect with your customers rather than simply relying on social media. You can expect to get a higher CTR on emails than on tweets. It can be more effective in acquiring new customers. That’s the reason why so many hoteliers are interested in growing their email mailing lists.
If done strategically and appropriately, email marketing can do wonders for your hotel or restaurant business. You can use email to get your marketing message out to customers and prospects.
Make sure you collect as many valid customer emails in your mailing lists to target your customers and prospects for the upcoming announcements and offers you want to communicate from your hotel.
Be honest and serious about collecting the emails as David Newman, Founder of Do-it Marketing, has rightly said, ‘Email has an ability that many channels don’t: creating valuable, personal touches - at scale.’
INNsight offers a powerful Email Marketing System which collects email addresses on your website, guest emails through solicitation, and provides you the tools to craft customized emails directly and send them to targeted audiences.
An average person receives hundreds of emails daily, most of the emails being promotional. Your emails need to stand out to avoid getting lost in the sea of emails that the average person receives.
Loyalty program emails that include offers can catch your user's eye!
Who wouldn't love to receive an offer from a hotel that's personally aimed at THEM?
Make your loyal customers feel special. Let them know that they are significant to your hotel or restaurant and that you love hosting them as guests. Loyalty programs can be highly effective in encouraging repeat business.
Keep in mind that personalized offers should be on the user's personal preferences. As a hotel owner, the essential data of a person is their name and address. You should also know the number of times that the person has already stayed at your hotel or dined at your restaurant. The offer would be different for a repeat guest vs. a guest who hasn't yet stayed at your hotel. If it's their first time visitor, sending a personalized offer along with the welcome email can make them convert from a regular member to a valued return guest of your hotel or restaurant in no time!
Millennials aren't just looking for a place to stay at when traveling. They're looking for an experience! Don't forget that Millennials represent a significant opportunity for your hotel that you might have never explored before.
If your hotel has beautiful and cozy guest rooms, a friendly vibe, and unique spots to hang out nearby, you need to boast about these features loud and clear!
Millennials are always on their smartphones! Make sure that your hotel website is mobile-friendly and has a clean User Interface. Providing free high-speed WiFi is the least you can do in terms of technology to please this generation.
Keeping your Hotel Website and Google Business Listing updated with lots of high-quality pictures and videos is also equally important.
Is there an event happening in your hotel? Update it on your social media. Social media is one of the best ways to reach millennials. Keep posting about regular activities, offers, updated guest rooms, and property images on various social sites.
As a hotel owner, users will expect to see holiday discounts, weekend offers, group discounts, and many other offers to help them save money during their stay.
Create a separate tab on your hotel website to showcase the deals, discounts, and packages that your hotel offers. You can also highlight some latest offers right on your website homepage. Present your suggestions in a creative way that has never been seen before.
Social media is another way to remind your followers about the various offers and their specifications, and how booking those offers can help them save. Marketing about these offers on social media can help increase your hotel's exposure.
In the previous points, we understood how growing an email marketing mailing list can be a great way to connect with users. Send regular emails about the latest offers and packages. Highlight the key points of your suggestions in marketing emails and drive guests back to your website to convert from lookers into bookers.
Many hotels and businesses have different cancellation policies. Make sure you maintain a detailed cancellation policy on the hotel's website. However, having a relaxed cancellation policy can positively differentiate your hotel from others.
Recent incidents such as the Coronavirus pandemic can disrupt travel plans for many people throughout the globe. Having a flexible cancellation policy can leave a positive impact on your customer. If they can cancel their stay due to any reason, without any problem, it will leave a good impression in your customer's mind, thus, making them choose you as their choice of hotel again when they're ready to travel.
You can use the INNsight Content Management System to quickly and easily update your policies and even associate multiple cancelation policies based on booking parameters if you utilize INNsight’s powerful zero-commission booking engine.
Your website is the face of your hotel. It acts as a significant factor in driving website users to your hotel. More than 57% of all travel reservations are made utilizing the Internet. This is why it is vital to keep your hotel website content updated at all times. Make sure that your website's content is original and exciting to read.
Specific points to consider while drafting your website content:
When you subscribe to INNsight’s Digital Marketing System, professional copywriters draft all of your website content, and our dedicated SEO Team continuously manages your social media and online reputation.
When the travel constraints of COVID-19 subside, hotels can expect a spark in travel demand and while recovery will be slow, expect an emergence from the doldrums which may come more quickly than you expect, especially if you are located in certain destination markets where people may feel they can safely escape while still maintaining social distancing and safe interaction. To cut the clutter and grab a share of bookings during this time, hotels will need to execute a well-defined digital strategy.
If you stretch your mind a bit, you will realize that we have advised you to grow your email list under Phase No.1.
[Yeah, you got it.]
Now it's time to make the most of those bunch of email addresses! Since the people on this list are already familiar with your brand, they are more likely to book. Prompt the groups who once canceled their booking and consider offering them an incentive such a free add-on or discount.
Pro Tip: Be careful while restarting your email campaigns. Email frequency is one of the most important factors Google uses in its algorithms to measure email reputation. Thus, make sure to maintain your email frequency and volume!
As the travel demand increases after the pandemic peaks and health authorities slowly begin to open up the economy, hoteliers and restaurateurs will have a golden opportunity to recover the loss and get on the right track again. Any business with a website should understand the value of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and their Local Listing.
Following are the top considerations for SEO post-COVID:
Following are the considerations for optimizing your Local Listings:
Why invest in paid social initiatives? Let's take an example. Imagine organic social media as sailing and paid social media campaigns as powerboating. They both have the same destination. But, in the latter case, you have to spend resources but you can reach your destination more quickly and more directly.
Eventually, paid social media ads can help hoteliers to protect their profit margins by prioritizing direct bookings through the official hotel website vs. more costly channels such as Online Travel Agents.
What to consider?
Regardless of which social media platform you choose for your paid campaigns, keep track of the results, and compare them with resources spent.
Social media platforms are the first place where your guests will be informed about their travel options, whether your hotel is open and running, and what precautions your staff is taking. It is the least expensive form of marketing. You can create a tremendous social impact using a tiny budget.
What type of content to consider?
Be creative! You might have the most fabulous hotel or restaurant in the world, but if your social presence is in a conventional or unappealing way, you lose!
Humans are social beings and have adventurous spirits, and Coronavirus certainly has made a lasting impact on the human psyche, not to mention the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic will become less intense over time, and people will start traveling again. To generate maximum revenue after travel demand picks up, hotels need to steadily engage their guests, be supportive, and adhere to a strategic recovery plan which includes appropriate health and safety protocols, communicates such information, and then executes on a marketing plan for a post-COVID world.
During times of crisis, INNsight can help your hotels to thoughtfully and swiftly develop a risk mitigation and COVID recovery marketing plan. Our Digital Marketing Services include Reputation Management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Paid Search (PPC), Social Media Marketing, Hospitality Website Design, and much more!