With the world in a state of emergency due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, businesses around the world are being forced to reinvent themselves to stay alive. The tourism and hospitality industries are facing their biggest test since the 2009 recession, which is expected to have far-reaching consequences for many years to come.
As of April 2nd 2020, over 150 countries have imposed travel restrictions, with more than half of the world’s population now in lockdown. Click To Tweet
Across the world, bars and restaurants have lowered their shutters, hotels have closed their doors and international travel has ground to a halt. In the face of a global economic meltdown, it can be all too easy to have a glass-half-empty outlook. However, it’s important to remember that the current crisis will pass – and the world will inevitably go back to business as usual.
For now, hotels have an opportunity to focus on preparing for the inevitable tourism boom that’s expected to follow when restrictions are lifted. There are plenty of opportunities to be had if you know where to look, which could help see you thrive not only after the crisis has passed, but also during.
Steps for hotels to take now
Current governmental guidelines for travel restrictions and social distancing vary from country to country. Looking at current infection rates and countries that are successfully flattening the curve, lockdowns have been declared for between 14 to 90 days, with extensions or reductions being determined by its spread.
Taiwan, Canada, South Korea, Georgia, and Iceland have already successfully managed to almost completely halt infection rates, with the rest of the word quickly following their lead. This means that hotels will have approximately three to six months to work on marketing strategies, communication and other important areas of business before things finally start to pick up the pace.
Areas to pay attention to should include:
- Keep content production flowing, such as blogs, articles and web copy.
- Focus on improving SEO (Beneficial as CPC has started to decrease).
- Start developing your post-pandemic marketing campaign.
- Increase the availability of hotel-specific gift vouchers and coupons.
- Get to work on your social media accounts – communication is key.
Keep on top of content production
Content is the lifeblood of the internet – and for every business that is online. It might be tempting to cut back on advertising, SEO and blogging; after all, nobody is looking to book a hotel room now, right? Wrong. It’s true, bookings may be almost non-existent for the next month or two, but people are looking to the future and transactions are still being made.
With current estimates of most restrictions being completely lifted within the next 90 to 120-days, people are already searching for somewhere to escape to after the isolation period. The world may be at a standstill for now, but travel intent is still well and truly alive. If your content production comes to a complete stop, you’ll potentially be passing your future customers to your competitors (especially if they are still working on content.)
As businesses across the leisure and tourism industry cut back spending on SEO and content, it’s a prime opportunity to gain more exposure. Remember, sales may be quiet for now, but they won’t be for long. Brand recognition is a key player in sales and customer loyalty. And the only way to build on brand recognition is to be visible.Transactions for hotel booking during COVID-19 are still taking place, with an average lead time of 90 days from booking to arrival date.Click To Tweet
The thing to focus on here is not driving hard sales pitches, but capturing people’s imaginations in creative ways. It’s easy to list 10 reasons why your best for business or what facilities you have, but creating journeys and experiences are what works best.
Tell a story about the local area. Look at what visitors can do there. Play on freedom elements. Feed their dreams of escaping and paint a picture with a thousand words. If you don’t have time or the staff to create brand new content, you could look at repurposing older content.
Start working on your social media strategy
According to a recent survey performed by Statista, up to 50% of people are spending more time browsing social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
With social media usage at an all-time high, platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can help ease the minds of your customers while improving brand recognition. It lets you broadcast important information to your customer base in an instant, connect with them directly and be a beacon of light in the darkest of times.
Of course, the current situation is extremely delicate. What you say and do right now can be crucial for your post-pandemic success. Failing to reach out and be seen can give you a selfish and uncaring face. Focusing solely on COVID-19 can lead to customers associating you with distress and negativity. Playing the ‘sales’ games can make you look selfish.
Right now, people need a mix of up-to-date information, a little bit of escapism and hope for the future. The following is an excellent way to move forwards.
- Post 3 to 4 times a week using a mix of status updates, images and videos.
- Answer customer questions regarding refunds, rebooking and the steps you have taken to keep things safe and clean.
- Inspire people. Take the opportunity of quiet times to get some fantastic visual media of your hotel and highlight the key USP’s.
- Talk about the changes you are making. How is the current situation driving them? How will this benefit future guests?
- Look to the future. Ask the community what they’re most looking forward to when they can travel again?
- Provide reassurance. Talk about how you are supporting guests and employees. Have you helped in the local community?
- Run a weekly competition. This could be a spot the difference image, a live quiz, a raffle or a funniest caption competition. Some light-hearted fun goes a long way right now.
Remember, this isn’t about making direct sales or promotions. It’s about being seen as standing strong, rewarding customers for their loyalty and building more personal connections. When things start to improve, chances are that your time spent reaching out on social media will pay for itself over the coming months.
Start selling hotel-specific vouchers
If you’re dealing with customers and clients on a daily basis, automation through the implementation of a ticketing tool could magnify efficiency and boost your ROI significantly.
Different customers have different needs and upselling is so much simpler when you’ve got a platform that clearly outlines all the different offers and packages available. Showing the right offers at the right time can have a bigger effect on revenue than all other marketing efforts combined.
Oceanview upgrade plus free minibar and spa bath for $50? Yes, please! How about an extra $27.50 to throw in a spa treatment? Travelling with kids? Upgrade to a family package and enjoy 70% off hotel restaurant meals! See where we’re going with this?
As an example, you could start pre-selling vouchers for:
- Exclusive dining vouchers.
- Entertainment packages.
- Spa treatments.
- Accommodation upgrades.
- Hotel events and experiences.
- Hotel credit vouchers.
- Advanced purchase discount vouchers.
- Facility access vouchers for non-guests.
- Wedding makeup/preparation.
- Early/late check-in and check-out.
- On-site parking/valet service.
- VIP shuttle service.
A ticketing tool removes the middle man and gives you complete control over the types of vouchers you sell, how much you sell them for and the terms and conditions you want to implement. It can be fully incorporated into your website, perfectly blending in with your branding. Best of all, opting for a subscription-based platform eliminates a percentage per sale fee, giving you more bang for your buck.
Introducing promo-codes and flash sales are two great ways to encourage gift voucher sales. You could offer 20% vouchers for those who purchase in the next 7 days or when someone makes a booking of 3 days or more. Ultimately, the choice is yours and that is the great thing about an integrated ticketing tool on your website.Selling hotel-specific vouchers with an integrated booking tool can boost revenue 24/7, even during the lockdown.Click To Tweet
Focus on domestic travel first
Once the pandemic starts to loosen its grip on the world, millions of people will be looking to escape from isolation and businesses will be ramping up their efforts to rebuild. As restrictions start to be lifted, it’s expected domestic travel will be the first to recover. After all, many will be wary about international travel for quite some time, and ‘staycations’ will likely see a considerable increase in interest.
As an example, UK searches for domestic flights in early 2021 have seen an increase of 59.8% from the previous year – a clear indication that the desire to stay on home ground is increasing.
This means that local SEO and geo-targeted marketing should be something to implement. You could start by creating content with a real focus on local SEO. Latent semantic indexing will play a big part in your success, as will updating your Google business listings.
Write content that highlights the local area, including distances and times from regional locations. Offer promotions and discounts for domestic travellers. Roll out an SEM campaign that plays on the benefits of staycations.
The local market may be much smaller than the international one, but it’s important to remember that recovery needs to start with small steps first. When interest from overseas guests starts to increase, you can begin to revert to more ‘traditional’ global marketing.
People are already looking to the future
With many vacations cancelled this year, are the British a signal that post-pandemic getaways are set to take off again? An explosion in flight searches to some of Europe’s top holiday destinations in early 2021 offers a glimmer of hope for the tourism industry.
As an example, searches for flights to Spain in January 2021 went up by a whopping 1,626%, while France and Italy saw increases of 409% and 385% respectively. . These early signs of travel intent offer encouraging signs that post-COVID-19, travel and hospitality industries should see a return of trade; possibly bigger and better than ever before.
Ultimately, cutting back on your marketing efforts right now could have an adverse effect on your future success. Consumers appreciate stability. If you disappear from their minds now, there’s a good chance that your competitors will be the ones to benefit from your absence.
A solid and forward-thinking digital marketing strategy can be the ultimate antivirus for your business. COVID-19 will pass on by soon enough. Can you afford for your customers to do the same? Contact us today and let us help you come through the other side – stronger than ever before.