What is the new normal for hospitality? Are hotel guests eager to return, or will they shy away from travel? Will corporate clients abstain from organizing and attending annual conferences? How do you raise room occupancy if your target guest demographic have withdrawn their interest in your establishment? And if so, to whom exactly are you marketing your establishment?
As governments begin to lift lockdown restrictions and businesses reopen, these questions are becoming more and pressing in the minds of hospitality providers. Figuring out where your hotel stands in the post-COVID-19 travel and hospitality industry will not be an easy task, so you should consider taking on an adaptive approach to your hotel business strategy for the foreseeable future.
The first issue you must tackle when reopening is how to approach guest acquisition and retention:
- Guest Outreach & Marketing
- Guest attitudes towards the Coronavirus will vary from cautious to reckless. In short, you will have two kinds of guest prospects:
- Group A is less populous but more than eager to book a room with you, having few to no concerns about their safety and health. However, Group B who greatly outnumber Group A and are far more conscientious hotel guest prospects whose leading reservations involve the health risk posed by Group A.
- So how do you approach increasing occupancy without locking yourself out of business opportunities by dismissing the concerns of one group or coming off as too preachy to the other?
- A soft marketing strategy would be best suited to resolving this debacle. In short, you need to turn health measures into a rewarding opportunity. If your establishment has taken additional measures to limit contact between staff and guests, and you have set aside separate bags for used linen and towels in each room with the request that guests use them and leave the bags for housekeeping. If hotel guests were to make use of this precaution they would be entitled to a gratis service, like a free meal at your restaurant, or transfer to the airport.
- Or maybe you’ve decided to market your service by advertising that each room comes with a gift basket of all the essentials a guest needs for their safe stay: towel, cosmetics, slippers, reusable bamboo cutlery, and maybe even a welcome drink. This is a great way to keep your room rates up by simply adding value to the charge. And if it’s a gift, they get to take it with them.
- Reframing the additional health measures taken by your staff to keep guests safe can help you appeal to both guest groups without alienating some of them in the process. Casting a wide net is still the best guest outreach strategy you can hope for. Hotel occupancy goals will need to be readjusted in favour of fewer visitors with a bigger upsell potential.
- Upselling as a Way of Improving Guest Loyalty
- For the more health conscientious guests, you can focus your hotel marketing strategy on emphasizing services that would instantly alleviate some of their concerns. If you don’t have a shuttle available for guest transfer then this is the perfect time to invest in the service. Many potential guests delay or straight up deny themselves the opportunity to travel to avoid the use of public transportation, but if you can meet them halfway then so can they.
- Self-check-in technology is probably your biggest ally in providing low-contact hospitality. Self-check-in kiosks and hotel self-service apps practically do the work for you. You don’t need to have around the clock front desk employees as every step of the check-in process can be performed by the guest at their leisure, the kiosk even provides them with a key card allowing guests to come and go without any assistance from your staff.
- Staff Retention
- Having been in a frozen state for the first quarter of the year, many establishments have suffered some pretty tangible losses. Everyone's had to make sacrifices. Some hoteliers have had to either dismiss staff or send them home on indefinite unpaid leave, while others have resolved to cut down wages as a way to keep afloat.
- Naturally, this will not sit well with many of your employees. With the job market slowly becoming more mobile you might find yourself short-staffed without notice. It is hard to give job assurance to your employees when the sector you service is one of the most affected industries in the world, but if you have a plan that will keep your business going, then it should involve your long term staff as well.
- Consider freezing salaries instead of slashing them to provide staff with some semblance of financial safety. You should also address their concerns directly as it will build rapport between employer and employee. If they can trust you to be a straightforward and reliable employer then they are unlikely to seek employment elsewhere at least for the time being.
- By minimizing staff turnover you will create a safer and more stable environment for your guests while also being able to build a coherent hospitality strategy with the people in your employee in mind.
- Time To Renegotiate Everything
- This is the time to be talking to creditors, banks, vendors, and service providers on how you can keep each other’s businesses on track. The contracts you signed pre-COVID-19 no longer reflect the reality we are living in so to get the deal that will best suit your business you need to seek it out yourself. Even if you feel like you’re in a good position with the contracts you have signed you can always improve on them and keep yourself from slipping too far into the red.
- This is also a great opportunity to seek out free trials and test out services that could add value to your business. Hotel property management systems and various associated tools such as a self-service app or a hotel channel manager can provide staff with the necessary tools to take actionable steps in your business recovery strategy.
- A PMS can be customized to fit your business’s needs without much fuss while also cutting down on labour costs associated with distribution channel management, automatic inventory updates, and check-in and check-out services. You might need to consider updating your tools to keep up with the fluctuating demands created by these unprecedented times.
- Lean Into Loyalty
- The distress caused by Covid-19 has made hotel guests distrustful of otherwise beloved businesses and past times. But once the opportunity arises to return to your establishment many will likely consider making the trip. Still, to get guests to take the actionable step, the way you approach loyalty will need to evolve for you to be able to profit off of the relationship.
- Some of the more guarded hotel guests who’ve had previous stays at your establishment will be more likely to pick you over your competitors simply because they trust what they know, or in this climate, they trust you more than the stranger they do not know. In this case, you should consider expanding your definition of loyalty to them.
- Guide to Innovative Hotel Loyalty Programs
- Your traditional loyal guest base might be severely hindered by travel restrictions and health concerns. If you cater to many corporate clients you might find approaching what used to be a lucrative niche for you, nearly impossible.
- Catering to corporate guests would entirely depend on the character of your services. If you were a regular location for organizing company events and promotions you might get the short end of the stick, as many companies have decided to extend work from home measures by the end of the year. However, if you cater to individual business travellers you might wish to consider, reactivating their loyalty. How do you activate loyalty? Easy, by targeting the point of attachment and addressing individual concerns.
- For instance, if your resort caters to corporate clients, you can be sure that many of them will resume travel activities the moment lockdown ends. But those activities would be performed under a stricter budget. Their point of attachment is said budget.
- You would need to approach corporate guests not with an offer per se but with an opportunity for a room rate negotiation. You could list the many ways in which you’ve taken precautions to keep your guest safe and offer to arrange a service that would allow the company to stay within its current means while also ensuring that they would be willing to book with you for a longer period.
- This can be done by offering quarterly suite packages that would guarantee their employees the safety and comfort of your establishment while also providing you with a steady revenue stream. Hotel employees can use your PMS to determine the spending habits of corporate guests who’ve stayed with you before and come up with a range of discounts that can be used to navigate them in the process of acquiring a new guest.
- Some companies would be wary to make a long term financial commitment of this sort which is where you can assure them that the offer is exclusive to them and their employees and it can be adapted to fit the unpredictable travel environment we are living in. If the company has a long history with your establishment you can give your staff more leeway with the offers they can make to ensure booking.
- 5 Lessons in Building a Successful Hotel Brand
- Loyalty has always played a huge role in branding while also carrying not a small margin of annual revenue; that said in 2020 it might be the thing that ensures your establishment can make it to 2021.
You may also find interesting:6 Booking Performance Ideas For Hotels in Crisis
How a Crisis Can Create аn Opportunity For Improvement in Hospitality
Six Tips on How to Increase Low Hotel Occupancy in the Off-Season
About Clock Software
Clock Software is a global provider of cloud-based property management systems (PMS), integrated online distribution, online & kiosk hotel self check-in solutions and mobile & in-room guest engagement systems with customers in more than 65 countries.