How to Market Your Luxury Guesthouse or Resort During the COVID-19 Outbreak

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes | 1369 words

There’s nothing more heart-breaking than turning away guests who have booked to stay at your family run guesthouse or having people cancel last minute at your small independent resort due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As someone who has spent over 7 years working in the tourism and hospitality industry my heart goes out to the small, independent hotels and guesthouses that are trying to navigate their way through these stressful times thrust upon them, all while trying to keep their own family, friends and guests safe.

As a company who is heavily invested in the health of the luxury guest experience economy as well as in the mental well-being of the owners who run these small businesses, we wish to share some actionable steps to help you navigate this storm and mitigate the impacts this might have on your business.

Although the luxury guesthouse and hotel industry is currently taking a hit, industry analysts at Bernstein predict “a near complete bounce back in 2021”, showcasing the resilience of the hospitality industry. (Source: Skift).

It’s important that at this time you continue to market your guesthouse or resort, but how you market it needs to adapt according to the current climate.

Here are our top recommendations to take back control:

Focus on staycations

Take a leaf from Sheepwash Bay’s book and reach out to people in your local area to fill out the spots that were cancelled by international guests.

It’s time to focus your efforts on the domestic market. Aim your advertising towards people who are already in your area or country. Google have shared that the search term “staycation” has increased by 50% in 2020. Encouraging people in your area to book with you will also counter the impact of international travel restrictions and border control concerns. 

There are many people out there who have had to cancel or postpone their trip abroad and are therefore looking closer to home for a relaxing place to escape the current economic climate. You can provide that haven of solitude for them, especially if they are coming from an urban area. Many feel that they want to escape the city during times like these, so if you’re in the countryside you should use this to your advantage and market your guesthouse as an option to “escape the crowds”.

Do continue to market internationally

If your budget allows, continue to market your hotel internationally as people are still actively seeking hotels and places to escape to, but they are simply too nervous to book at this time. Which brings me to our next recommendation..

Remove cancellation fees

Many people who still wish to holiday at your location are temporarily being put-off by potential cancellation fees. We would recommend temporarily removing any cancellation fees and stating this clearly on your website, social media and within emails to your subscriber list. Leave no room for doubt, that you are still very much welcoming bookings (whether you are still welcoming guests now or are encouraging bookings for the near future) and that guests won’t be penalised if they need to reschedule or cancel if a lockdown comes into effect in your or their area, or if they become unwell themselves. Utilise “booking flexibility” as one of your core marketing messages. 

Share your humanity and understanding with your guests as this will provide much comfort and reassurance to anyone who is lacking confidence when it comes to making a booking.

Meet your market where they are

If your budget allows, ensure you have PPC advertising (pay per click) wherever your target audience are, which at this point should predominantly be in your area, state or country as you focus on the domestic market. Use remarketing campaigns to convert those potential guests who might still be undecided.

Avoid discounting if possible

Try to not offer discounts at this time as recovering this rate degradation and your position within the luxury market can be difficult when demand for your services returns. Instead, opt to add additional luxury services to your offerings when people book with you during this time. This could be a welcome hamper, to help them “self-isolate in luxury” or the use of your kayaks or bicycles to help them escape deeper into the wilderness to find more tranquility. Get creative about the experiences or services that you can uniquely offer to your guests to go above and beyond the usual guest experience.

Encourage self care

If you offer any particular wellness or self-care options such as access to a guided meditation app (ie. Calm) and yoga mats, a luxurious bath or pool, a sauna, ensure that you are advertising these front and centre, along with your booking flexibility. 

Wellness while travelling has been a fast growing trend before the COVID-19 outbreak, and is even more so now. Ensure guests that if they book they will have access to your health and wellness facilities to help them reduce anxiety and sleep better during these turbulent times. 

You could even offer a “wellness pack” upon arrival which might include fresh and locally-sourced fruit and vegetables that they can blend using your accommodation’s smoothie maker or juicer, as well as luxury toiletries, facemasks, candles and a vase of fresh flowers. Emphasising your consideration when it comes to the self-care rituals that are so important to travelers, especially right now. If you have a well stocked bookcase then don’t forget to mention that too. 

Slow travel is a growing trend, using these keywords in your marketing will ensure you’re targeting the right people while offering your wellness options.

Reassure your guests

Ensure you are highlighting the actions that you are taking to combat the spread of the virus, such as deep-cleaning the guest rooms. It’s also important to reassure that you are minimising risk by actively following all Government guidelines and best practices. Be sure to send a reassuring statement out to your email list to let them know you have the situation under control.

Sell your luxury guesthouse products in an online store

If anyone didn’t believe in the importance of investing in their online presence before, this period of self-isolation and closures will be a rude awakening to so many businesses about the importance of shifting their services online. 

As the owner of a guesthouse or small independent resort, you don’t have the option to do so for your accommodation. But you can however begin selling products online. 

Perhaps you offer luxury wellness products for guests, you could sell these as individual or bundled products on your website along with gift vouchers and branded bathrobes, towels or even homeware that guests will have enjoyed during their stay with you. This gives past guests a chance to support you from afar and be reminded of the small luxuries they enjoyed during their stay with you. This is especially important if your products are labelled with your own branding. 

Providing as much opportunity for people to still purchase from you while perhaps the income from bookings are temporarily down, is a smart way to stay afloat until the market returns in your favour.

Prepare for the industry to bounceback

Most of us are accruing holiday leave while we are not travelling and the fact that we are mostly self-isolating will ensure that when everything calms down we will be booking holidays for some much needed socialising and relaxation en-masse. Prepare for this by ensuring any changes you need to make now for this increase in demand gets done during this quiet period. Whether that’s an interior renovation, adding to your services or even just rebranding your business and revamping your website. Now is the time to prepare, as history and industry analysis (the predicted “a near complete bounce back in 2021” by Bernstein) suggest that returning demand is inevitable.

Summary

Most importantly, have faith. We are all experiencing losses and setbacks in some form or another, regardless of which industry we are in. We can ride this storm out together as a community by allowing our lives to slow down and embracing the opportunities that come with these quieter times.

Already we are seeing bookings increase in China where the active cases of COVID-19 are beginning to decrease, proving that leisure travel bounces back rapidly once a global virus or threat is contained.

If you need a helping hand, we are currently offering free professional advice to support as many small and independent luxury guesthouses, resorts and hotels through these current challenges as possible. 

As we shared in yesterday’s article, What You Can Do to Give Your Business a Fighting Chance During These Turbulent Times, taking action during this time is crucial. Ensure that you are active online, including social media, openly communicating with all guests and anyone enquiring. We must be vocal and proactive to instill confidence in our guests, customers and clients and see this as an opportunity to be a guiding light in the darkness.

We are in this together, please apply for your business & website review below and let’s ensure your business can weather this storm.

Unsure of your next step? Get clear on your hotel’s recovery strategy

Gain access to our COVID-19 Hotel Reopening Checklist

As COVID-19 is unlikely to disappear completely without an effective vaccine, it’s expected that we will have a W shaped recovery with lock downs repeatedly being enforced, relaxed and enforced again over time. Being prepared for this tumultuous recovery will stand you and your hotel in good stead to ride the waves to come.

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About Magpie Creative Co.

Magpie Creative Co. is a digital marketing and design consultancy with a worldwide client base. We provide branding, web design and online marketing for businesses that offer luxury guest experiences and require an efficient online booking system.

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