There can be no doubt that recent months have been incredibly challenging for luxury hotels with new bookings plummeting, an increasing rate of cancellations and hotels having to close, often at short notice.
A strategic approach is the key factor in generating direct booking as hoteliers look forward to recovery and plan how to revamp their business.
Now is a good time to review your digital marketing plan, upgrade your website and booking engine, restructure your online bookings and audit your property management system provider.
Here we have outlined some important marketing elements which will help you to maintain your rate and direct bookings through COVID-19. Maximising your direct bookings is the most profitable way forward.
8 marketing tips for hoteliers during the Corona crisis:
1. Use your brand image to deliver safety messagingWhile the outlook remains uncertain, it is crucial to maintain the image your hotel presents to the public, and if possible, steal a march on your competitors. Using your using hotel website, leverage your position as a trusted brand to assure your guests that cleaning, safety and their comfort is your top priority.
To promote this idea, you need clear and transparent communication with your guests. Be honest with them and include cleaning, disinfecting, and health policy in your management system and train your staff in this regard.
2. Target your guest demographics Hotels traditionally have been dependent on leisure and corporate guests but now, because of COVID-19, many of these are not travelling. Targeting potential bookers based on your guests’ demographic profile with the right message is a key action. A personalised email marketing campaign will help you to reach a new audience. Offer value-added special deals such as welcome gifts, room upgrades or free spa treatments to strengthen the relationship with your guests.
3. Keep in touch through content marketingKeep up your marketing efforts with online being the most effective platform. Maintain contact with your guests through a comprehensive digital content strategy. This means creating relevant and valuable content and distributing it through your website, email newsletters, social media, and other marketing channels. You will boost organic traffic to your website and create future opportunities for your brand.
4. Control your costs
When reservations decline many businesses understandably reduce their budgets. Hoteliers should be mindful to plan out a strategy
that doesn't hurt their brand value or long-term business opportunities.
Accurate demand forecasting helps you plan budgets and your hotel's staff requirements. Managers of departments which are dependent on guest volumes should provide their projections of requirements. Don’t depend on previous budgets – reforecast. By doing so, you can readily manage your housekeeping needs, restaurant budget and staff numbers for each area.
5. Continue advertising
Don’t stop advertising especially now as OTAs have been reducing their Google Ads during the pandemic. As we have written previously
, marketing and advertising are proven success factors in a downturn.
Use the lower cost of marketing to appear in the top rank of Google ads. Maintaining your spend will give you more real estate on results pages with higher ranking. Take this opportunity to position and strengthen your brand and keep your hotel at the top of customers’ minds.
6. Maintain your rate
Try and maintain your market rate by offering value add propositions rather than a rate cut. This could be a free meal, entry to a local attraction or a discount on a future stay. The experience from the previous recession shows that once you reduce your rate it is hard to increase it again. It took 2-3 years for some hotels to return to their previous room rates once the recession had ended.
7. Offer free cancellation
Even if it is not your usual policy, offer free cancellations and refunds. Travel plans are currently subject to daily change and guests are far more likely to book with the knowledge that they won’t be left out of pocket through no fault of their own.
You could offer a discount on a future booking or a voucher with a 5% or 10% uplift on the booking price.
8. Target your local market
With international and even inter-county travel bans, it is key for hoteliers to focus on local communities with offers and advertising messages. Many visitors are choosing to pay more at a nearby hotel which they may have considered as too expensive previously. This is especially true if your hotel has a great restaurant, spa or leisure facilities.
To generate revenue, promote all your services to your new target groups. You need to define your rates and offers in regard to geo-segmentation – for example offer a discount to visitors from your county or city.
The ability of hotels to communicate directly with their customers, adjust their own rates and direct booking policy give them the leverage to win direct business from the OTAs. Combined with their local knowledge, this gives them a powerful boost in the fight to maintain their bookings and rate.
A refocused marketing strategy will help hotels to reach better ROI and conversion. Direct booking channels are the tools which will help hotels to recover.