Table of contents
▸ Recent consumer surveys give hope
▸ How will travel look after COVID-19?
▸ How hotels can react and prepare
▸ 1. Show guests what you’re doing to keep them safe
▸ 2. Offer services built around staying safe and healthy
▸ 3. Create an amazing experience
▸ 4. Start marketing early
▸ 5. Place a strong focus on ROI and average spend per guest
In light of COVID-19, many people had to cancel travel plans they were excited for - be it a weekend getaway or the trip of a lifetime.
Either way, recent surveys show that people who can, will want to catch up on missed travel opportunities when the crisis subsides.
This has led to the hotel and tourism industry hoping for a wave of ‘revenge travelling’ - people going on extra trips or splurging after lockdowns and restrictions are lifted, because they were deprived of that possibility for so long.
But will demand really bounce back as quickly as some seem to think? Will the way people can travel change greatly after this pandemic? And how should hotels prepare to welcome back larger numbers of guests?
We have some ideas for you!
Recent consumer surveys give hope
When lockdowns and travel restrictions were partially lifted in many parts of the world in summer 2020, travel demand recovered well, given the circumstances.
A survey by Fliggy, Alibaba’s online travel platform, had predicted this development. In the pandemic’s early days, they had asked people who cancelled trips because of COVID-19, if they were considering rebooking. 55% said yes and many of them ended up doing so.
Fuel Travel, a US-based hotel software provider and hotel marketing agency, got a similar response from over 10,500 participants of their April 2020 survey. They found that 59% wanted to travel in 2020 and 14% in 2021. Only 3% said they wanted to stay home altogether.
One year later, Fuel Travel did a follow-up survey which proved that the desire to travel was as strong as ever. Over half of the respondents said they’d travelled during the pandemic which reflects last year’s responses.
Nearly 40% claimed they were planning a trip right now while 39% want to travel in May or June. It’s also noteworthy that 33% of people plan on taking more vacation days than in 2019. At the same time, they also want to take fewer trips, indicating a shift towards longer stays in a destination.
These figures give hope to our still struggling industry. But they also bring up an important question...
How will travel look after COVID-19?
The virus is progressing differently around the world. In a nutshell, China and South Korea seem to have gotten through the storm. Israel, the United States, the UK and many other countries are taking massive strides with vaccinations. But other countries are seeing new waves of infections overwhelm healthcare systems.
This means that travel restrictions for some countries will stay in place for longer while other nations will start easing them soon. Regional differences are also likely as some areas within the same country will recover faster than others and be able to welcome visitors sooner.
Travel has already become possible again in some areas and other regions have set reopening dates for source markets deemed safe. On the other side, new travel requirements have been imposed in many countries. This includes proof of immunity for COVID-19 or proof vaccination, mandatory testing and/or quarantining upon arrival (already practiced in countries like Hong Kong and South Korea).
Since all of this comes with increased cost and hassle for travellers, domestic travel will pick up more quickly than international travel, because it's not subject to the above restrictions.
Another aspect that will change, is that travellers will value flexibility more than before. In case you have a very strict cancellation policy, consider offering more flexible options (possibly for an extra fee).
How hotels can react and prepare
While it’s impossible to say exactly how and when demand will come back, we can be sure that it will.
After having been confined during lockdowns and deprived of going, people will want to travel and treat themselves. However, keep in mind that needs and expectations will have changed. You probably already noticed this during the period of increased travel in summer 2020. Use your learnings from that time and some of the following pointers to get ready for our guests’ return.
1. Show guests what you’re doing to keep them safe
With COVID-19 still in everyone’s mind, increased hygiene measures will be high on travellers’ priority lists. Tell guests what you're doing to create a sanitary environment to show them that you’re taking this seriously.
Advertise your staff training on keeping the hotel clean and safe, share how often areas are cleaned and use PSAs to encourage guests and staff to follow handwashing guidelines. This information should be on your website, social media and be communicated in pre-arrival emails, so guests feel comfortable every step of the way.
2. Offer services built around staying safe and healthy
Since people will be more concerned about their health than ever, they will be interested in services and products to help them stay safe and healthy, even if some of them come at an extra fee.
Room service breakfast, for example, is extra attractive now since it offers the chance to avoid crowds at the buffet. A paid upgrade to this service could boost F&B revenues and give guests an option they are more comfortable with.
In the rooms, masks and hand sanitiser could become part of your amenity set. Alternatively, they can be offered as a paid add-on to generate ancillary revenue.
Services like airport transfers in sanitised cars are another way to combine an opportunity to make guests feel at ease with generating additional revenue at the same time.
There’s also a growing demand for wellness and wellbeing-related offers. Think about what you can offer at your property or which local partners you can work with to fulfill this need.
3. Create an amazing experience
During lockdowns and travel bans, people were forced to stay home and were severely limited in how they were able to move around. This caused a lot of frustration for many and they will want to celebrate having their freedom back.
Others may have faced extra stress and workloads during this time (think of all the healthcare and frontline workers) and will finally be able to go for a hard-earned break.
As a hotelier, it’s your job now to create the best possible experiences for these guests. You can do this in two ways.
Create ‘treat yourself packages’ which allow guests to splurge on things they may not go for otherwise. This can include dinner at your fine-dining venue, a spa treatment, a special outing or all of the above. Allowing guests to customise their stay with special add-ons will not only make them enjoy their time with you more but will also give you the chance to increase average guest spend.
While revenue management experts advise against crazy discounts to protect your rates, you can still find ways to offer great value to guests, especially those who have been financially impacted during the crisis but still want to travel. This can include 3-for-2 offers for nights, meals or other add-ons or pre-paid vouchers with bonuses, e.g. buy an F&B voucher for $20 and get $25 or book a spa treatment and get a 20% discount at the snack bar. Feel free to get creative here!
Keep in mind, personalised and attentive service is always important, but it’s even more critical now. The first guests who come back will tell others how amazing their trip was and motivate them to travel as well. So, do your best to generate as much of this positive feedback as possible with excellent service and customised offers.
4. Start marketing early
While it’s a huge challenge, this downtime can also be an opportunity to review some of your processes, test new tools and implement improved systems so you are in better shape than ever when things pick up again.
This is especially true for your marketing. Now, while things are slow, you can start thinking about how to attract people when demand returns. Don’t wait for your competition to start advertising, get in the game yourself!
Firstly, keep an eye on your market and monitor what local authorities are saying about travel bans and lockdowns being lifted. This will help you create a timeline for your marketing efforts, so ads and promotions will be ready to go in time. Then, since you will be focusing on your domestic market first, create localised content and share it on channels popular in your country or region.
To gain traction in your immediate surroundings, leverage your F&B venues and start using apps like UberEats, Deliveroo or your local equivalent. Apart from boosting revenue, this can also help build your restaurant’s reputation in your city and grow your client base once things go ‘back to normal’.
These initial marketing efforts don’t have to be expensive. You can leverage your existing social media presence or start curating content to grow a new one. For example, you may already be on Facebook. Use your presence there to connect with your audience and update them on how your property is doing.
And how about engaging with your audience on Instagram or even via TikTok, that latest channel to skyrocket in popularity? This fun app now has an estimated 800 million active users a month and has quickly climbed to 7th place among the world’s most-used social platforms. Sounds like it’s worth a shot, right?
5. Place a strong focus on ROI and average spend per guest
Since at first occupancy will be lower than you’re used to, a strong focus on ROI and the average spend per guest is crucial for your business to survive and grow post-crisis.
Identifying where your most profitable bookings come from is the first step. Which OTA or agent do your biggest spenders book through? Where do you get the least cancellations? Whatever source it is, that’s where you should focus your marketing dollars to get more of these high-ROI bookings.
Next, you can encourage guests to spend more at your property by offering them relevant upgrades and deals. The more personalised your offer, the higher your conversion rates and the resulting revenue will be. For the best results, try a variety of deals for different groups of guests, analyze what works per segment and optimise your offers. This may seem like a daunting task, but that’s where a tool like Oaky can help you quickly get good results with a strong ROI.
Now it’s your turn… which of these steps are you already applying? And which ones could you implement most easily?
Don’t forget, this is not an ‘all or nothing’ situation. Every step you take can help your hotel do a little better when business comes back, so start taking action now!
Got questions on how to best move forward? Reach out to our team via the chat - we are happy to help and have tons of ideas.
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