The impact of Covid-19 on the Italian hospitality market

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This article was originally written in Italian. To read the Italian version, select 'Italian' from the dropdown menu top right.

One of Oaky's Customer Success experts, Maria Giovanna Argiolas, explores the various consequences of the pandemic on the Italian tourism industry. Read on for her advice on adjusting your upselling strategy to get the most out of market recovery. 

Worldwide, the tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit industries by the current Covid-19 pandemic. In 2019, Italy was the fifth most visited country in the world, with 94 million foreign tourists. In 2020 it will presumably register 55% less admissions.

A survey carried out by Horwath HTL, highlighted that after China, Italy was the first Western country to become aware of the first cases of the Coronavirus in February. Early cases were predominantly spotted in northern areas, particularly Lombardy and Veneto. After a few weeks of severe emergency, the pandemic’s rapid spread slowed down, allowing much of the country, in particular central, Southern and the island regions of Italy to be less affected. Unfortunately, Covid-19 took a nonetheless heavy toll on the national economic system, and particularly on the tourism sector and all of its associated activities.

 

Hotel Overnights in Italy, Horwath HTL


Signs of recovery

As soon as the borders reopened, tourists wasted no time in returning. In Italy, as in the rest of the world, the sale and purchase of increasingly personalised "experiences"  has continued growing in accordance with the trend that began before the pandemic. Indeed, in several cases the so-called experiential activities being touted represent the very motivation Italian tourists have in choosing a destination.

However as we know, the guest’s travel experience can begin even before they set out on their trip. Here at Oaky, we certainly have a lot to say about that! With all things considered, it is also time to discuss what will happen now we know we won’t be seeing the back of Covid-19 for some time yet.

The social distancing imposed as a response to the virus has birthed a growing demand for contactless solutions during the travel experience. This is sought after not only for payment but also, for example, for check-in and check-out. This will likely also lead to the need for new levels of security for digital services and identity protection.

But that's not all: we’ll probably see the further spread of online concierge solutions and robots, already present to a lesser degree before the pandemic. Innovative solutions of this variety are still not widespread in Italy – smartphone keys to open rooms have not yet seen a surge, and the phenomenon labeled ‘undertourism’, that is, the promotion of alternative, equally fascinating places to those hit by mass tourism, have not yet been fully explored.  

 

Oaky as an ally

Here’s where Oaky comes in. Throughout the pandemic, Oaky has continued working towards its aim of connecting with customers to enhance their guests’ experience. Before guest journeys begin, we see more hotels receiving interest on offers linked to the aforementioned contactless needs or offers supporting Covid-related health and safety, such as face masks or various sanitising requirements. What’s more, we’re also seeing runaway success with offer ideas adapted to the "new normal", as it is now defined.

For our customers who already use Oaky pre-arrival communications and are continuing to see strong performance of our "evergreen deals" such as: Parking, Breakfast, Taxi pick up, Early Check-In and Late Check-Out, it might be high time to consider how else you can make your guests’ experiences unforgettable. But how can you sustain this level of service into the guest’s stay? How do you make yourself aware of their initial experience and perception of your hotel?  

At Oaky, we've also thought about this, namely the possibility of sending the guest an in-stay email on the same day of check-in– as a gesture of warm welcome, to communicate necessary information, and most importantly, to avoid easily-resolvable issues and bad reviews for the hotel. 

We can all agree that a primary goal for the guest’s experience is for them to feel safe. What better way to show them the actions and measures taken to create a healthy environment than through a promptly delivered pre-stay email? In this climate of general uncertainty, you may have noticed an increase in last minute bookings, in which case you are free to change the timing of your pre-stay email in line with the booking window.

The delicate nature of running a hotel during a pandemic must not limit your creativity. On the contrary, what better time to think outside the box and push your loyalty programme? Think of adding an exclusive dinner or a discount that your most loyal customers can use at a future stay. You may also want to target such offers exclusively to them, using segmentation. In addition to new, more socially-distanced versions of breakfasts, dinners and lunches that the new normal requires, there are several ways to make your guests feel pampered (i.e. wellness treatments in a Covid-proofed room) and to entice them to extend their stay with special packages for long stays (discounts on catering, internal services in general and free parking for example). 

You can also differentiate your offers by reserving some for those who stay at your facility on weekends compared to those who stay during weekdays. Last but not least, at the end of the trip, you can’t underestimate the importance of a post-stay email to stay in touch with guests, collect feedback and reviews or promote direct bookings.

 

Conclusion

To refer back to the survey carried out by Horwath HTL Italia: despite the dramatic effect of Covid-19 on the national hotel industry, the sector has kept its considerable entrepreneurial strength intact.

It is interesting to note, with positivity, how few have postponed investments into their hotel’s future. On the contrary, Italian hoteliers have taken advantage of their closed periods to complete renovations. The survey reveals a unanimous opinion that domestic tourism will be the sector that will return most quickly, given the persistence of cases in many other parts of the world.

At the beginning of 2020, when there was little to foreshadow the spread of the pandemic, and the growth forecasts for the global tourism sector were on the rise, it was believed that digital innovation would continue steadily.

Despite obvious setbacks, this is even more true today. While we attempt to revive a heavily damaged sector, new technological tools can pave the way for interpreting and responding to the unprecedented situation we are experiencing.

In this scenario, anticipating signs of change, the evolving needs of the tourist and emerging trends becomes fundamental. Oaky, as we have seen, can be an excellent ally to you in optimising your journey back to full-throttle operations and staying on top of this rapidly changing situation.