What Hotels Can Focus on Now to Aid Recovery Post-Covid-19

By Hâfi Martinsdóttir

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes | 1661 words

With so much uncertainty in the air relating to the travel and hospitality industry and the role that COVID-19 plays, we wanted to provide some clarity and insight into exactly what hoteliers can be focusing on right now to give their hotel the best chance of recovery when travel restrictions begin to lift.

Audience Engagement

Throughout this entire pandemic we have been encouraging and helping our clients engage, engage, engage. Connecting with your audience is essential in mitigating some of the damage caused by the COVID-19 virus. A recent report released by 80 DAYS shared that hotels that have been actively engaging with customers saw a 55% drop in traffic to their websites and social media channels, compared to hotels who stopped engaging that saw an astonishing 84% drop.

For those hotels who were focused on proactively engaging right from the very beginning, a significantly lower drop of 40% has been reported. To add to that, the initial results being outlined state that these brands have also seen a smaller drop in transactions and revenue compared to hotels that didn’t engage or engaged with less enthusiasm.

The studies clearly state that hotels would do well to be hyper-focused on their engagement efforts across all platforms to continue building connections with their audience, in particular within their local markets as that is set to be the first to recover.

Shifts in Online Content

The way that we browse the internet has changed along with what we want to see when we visit hotel websites. According to the 80 DAYS study, since the beginning of April the way that people are choosing to interact with hotel websites has completely changed. With travel restrictions in place and uncertainty rife, there is little wonder that we are now browsing to satiate our unfulfilled travel desires, to daydream and plan for our future escape.

The data below shows the website content that has seen the most drastic changes and increase in traffic compared to the previous year:

Meeting & Events (including Weddings) +31%

About the hotel and location +37%

Gallery +41%

Rooms & Suites +52%

Golf +71%

Blog +180%

If you haven’t been closely analysing your audience’s shifting needs throughout this pandemic then this is the first place that we would suggest you study. What your customers are searching for from your brand is changing, and will likely continue to change over the coming months, and it’s crucial that your website reflects this and fulfils their needs.

We would suggest reviewing which aspects of your website’s messaging is on-point for the current climate and potentially rewriting copy if it appears out of touch or insensitive to our present situation.

If you are seeing an influx in people reading your blog posts, make every effort to keep this updated regularly. If people are browsing your gallery, ensure you are posting new pictures for them to enjoy.

We know that homepages are being viewed at a 26% increase to the norm, which again reiterates how important it is to have the homepage be informative and helpful for the viewer.

Marketing Message

With such a high level of uncertainty and a situation that is constantly in flux, hotel guests will be continuously doubting, reassessing and questioning whether they should be leaving their homes at all. Which is why it is essential in this time that you provide your guests with confidence. Confidence needs to be an overarching theme in all marketing messaging.

Continuous positive reinforcement of the hygiene and safety standards of your property along with showcasing the reasons why your particular hotel is better than, or different to, your competition. This could mean focusing on your brand’s high hygiene standards, the values that your team share and the attention to detail you place on everything that you do.

Above all, it’s essential that you continue marketing throughout the pandemic. We know from past crises such as 9/11, natural disasters and the financial collapse of 2008, brands that cease marketing and cut costs are likely to perform worse during their recovery period and take longer to recover.

We would suggest reducing investments within short-term sales campaigns but continue promoting your hotel and brand through brand-building campaigns. This ensures that your brand remains top of mind within your audience and will support a smoother and faster recovery thanks to the sustained momentum.

Shifting your marketing narrative from sales to engagement will benefit you in the long run as you connect with your audience on a deeper level. Email lists and social media are proving to have been essential in brands having meaningful conversations with their audience. We encourage all of our clients to utilise their email lists to connect, foster brand loyalty and display leadership throughout the uncertainty. If you haven’t already started building an email list we would highly encourage you to start doing so as soon as possible as its value cannot be overstated, especially when building trust is crucial in a brand’s recovery.

Audience Mindset

One of the current most searched phrases is ‘when can I travel again?’. This displays a keen desire for people to start moving once more and the ever-increasing build up of demand. However, people are still feeling cautious and by all indications will begin by tip-toeing back out into the world starting with local trips accessible by car and weekend escapes into the countryside. We are anticipating a recovery of the local and domestic markets first, followed by international as the very last to recover.

Due to this level of uncertainty, it’s essential that hotels adapt their cancellation policies along with their terms and conditions in order to remain as flexible as possible. It’s likely that guests’ plans will remain fluid for the foreseeable future with potential last-minute changes that hotels must prepare for to assist their guests and their needs without causing undue anxiety.

It’s also worth mentioning that China has reported a rise in revenge-spending on luxury goods which has also been noted within initial reports of increased interest in high end luxury UK and European hotels. This new trend is indicative of the pent-up demand that consumers are feeling and it will be interesting to see how this evolves as hotels begin to reopen.

Brand Positioning

There may be several aspects of your brand’s suitability within the marketplace that need to be reassessed. One of which being the experience that you offer your guests. If you previously marketed your property as being at ‘the vibrant centre of bustling London’, you may want to change directions and consider remarketing your hotel as ‘a refuge from the masses tucked away in..’ or as ‘a hidden gem providing a soothing respite from the crowds’. Your previously central location may no longer be as appealing as before and so switching up your positioning to reflect the current mood and desires of your guests will be essential in your recovery.

If your hotel is located amongst nature or has access to open spaces and harbours a peaceful environment, ensure that this message is amplified across all platforms as this will likely be your strongest suit moving forward along with strict hygiene protocols.

As we can expect hundreds and thousands of hotels all to be opening up at the same time, it’s important that we ask; how will your brand stand above its competitors who are all clamouring for attention from your target audience?

There has never been a more important time to market your brand and hotel as different, to draw on its unique characteristics, the one-of-a-kind experiences that guests can expect there and distinguish your hotel from your competition that are jostling for the attention of your audience. This will take creativity and intelligent marketing to amplify your brand’s unique appeal to be heard above the masses.

It’s also worth noting that brands will all be promoting the same messaging in relation to hygiene standards, as their property being an ‘ideal escape’ and with some even offering discounted rates (please see our article How Should Hotels Manage Room Rates After the Coronavirus Crisis? that covers this topic for more insights on why you should avoid discounting). Because everyone will be echoing one another along similar lines, it’s important that your brand stands out for something different. This means ensuring that the unique aspects of your brand are amplified. The experiences that you offer that are unique to your brand can set you apart.

Guest Demographics & Services

It’s important to consider where the majority of your guests come from. If a large swathe of your guests are international travellers, we would highly recommend refocusing your marketing campaigns on your local and domestic audience for the next 12 months at least.

“Airbnb said travellers are showing a penchant to journey within 200 miles of home, and such bookings rose from about one-third of all bookings in February to more than half in May. To reflect these changes, Airbnb is updating its app and homepages to emphasize discovery of local travel.” – Source: Skift 

Along with a shift in demographics, it is likely that your services will need to adapt to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your guests and staff. To ease the anxieties of your guests, we would suggest highlighting the reasons why you are offering certain services and how this helps keep guests safe. Maintaining a clear and ongoing dialogue with your guests and team will ensure that your leadership is trusted and will be more likely to encourage a sense of confidence when booking a stay.

Summary

To ensure as smooth and swift a recovery as possible, hoteliers are encouraged to maintain an ongoing assessment of their audience’s needs by monitoring website and social media analytics to understand the sort of content that is being sought out. By observing and engaging with audiences continuously and across all platforms, brands are more likely to come out of this with stronger relationships, increased brand loyalty and a more in-depth understanding of their guests and their needs.

It is worth reiterating that flexibility and leadership are key assets for hotel brands and this will likely draw a strong response from audiences much in need of guidance throughout these times of uncertainty and unrest.

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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