The hospitality industry has been one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other businesses that can operate remotely, hotels are highly dependent on the physical presence of their guests.
Successful vaccination programs have allowed international travel to restart in many countries and travelers are dusting off their passports to enjoy long-awaited vacations.
Despite the green light to resume operations, most hotels are struggling to reopen and stay open, mainly due to low demand and strong competition. The good news is that beyond standard marketing techniques, there are several winning strategies and action plans that hoteliers can implement to restart successfully and stay ahead of the competition.
The key question for hoteliers to ask is what are the new normal guest needs and expectations?
Recent survey results suggest that most travelers are looking to return to normality in their hotel experiences, preferring accommodation with lots of open space and easy access to the outdoors and are less likely to spend more time outside. relax in the bedroom now than before the pandemic. There was little variation in opinion by age, suggesting a universal interest in more space and better access to the outdoors. Frequent business travelers placed more emphasis with more than 60% expecting improved wi-fi service. So far, survey results suggest that travelers expect to start enjoying and experiencing hospitality again the same way they did before COVID-19, but with a new normal approach.
Let’s not forget the fact that the virus continues to spread with new variants appearing from time to time, and any mistake or negligence can cause it to spread. It is in the property’s interest to follow government guidelines on reopening businesses to protect staff as well as customers. Implementing safety measures such as social distancing and cashless transactions goes a long way to keeping everyone safe.
Social distancing is key in hospitality and to implement these protocols, the right tools such as wall and floor signs, access controls, contactless temperature checks, phone apps, wearable devices, etc are necessary. All protocols should be posted in public areas and guest rooms to inform guests of critical steps to take to improve health and safety.
The pandemic has changed a lot of things and hotels need to find innovative ways to attract customers. The critical factor is how to find new markets and ensure business continuity to stay above the competition.
Here are some strategies that can be easily implemented.
Start with an updated marketing and communications plan. The strategies you decide to implement must be adapted to meet the changing needs of your customers. Potential guests will have a lot of questions, and the easiest way to resolve those doubts is to update your website and social media FAQ page answering questions about safety protocols, cancellation policy, hygiene practices and everything that will make sense to the guests. of security.
Target the right customers and the right markets. It makes little sense to target business travelers if it is a resort for leisure travelers and vice versa.
Reach regular customers and let them know you’re back in business.
Rekindle the already existing rapport by offering them thoughtful discounts and special offers. It’s much easier to attract repeat customers who have stayed with you before and know what to expect than new customers. When you contact them, be sure to let them know about your health and safety measures, special offers and discounts for advance purchases. If you already have a loyalty program in place, offer them special perks like free cancellation, free changes, and even an upgrade to thank them for being loyal customers. Make them feel special so they want to come back and stay with you, especially if they haven’t traveled since Covid-19 hit.
Develop a new communication strategy create engaging posts on your website and social media, including entertainment and value-added services to attract new customers. Be sure to create new content that creates a sense of security and makes customers feel like you have their utmost security in mind.
Make sure you have up-to-date technology available such as contactless check-in, online reservations and mobile apps to attract new normal tech-savvy travellers. A good PMS (Property Management System) plays a vital role in improving the daily operational activities of the hotel, such as online reservations, contactless check-in/check-out, digital check-in, passport scanners, etc. .
Update your website and online presence such as Google My Business, Facebook and Instagram pages. Boost your social media campaigns and create posts that resonate with target markets. While you’re there, be sure to communicate the new normal ways of doing business at your hotel, such as contactless check-in, health and safety protocols, and cashless payments. When properly crafted, these campaigns can be cost-effective and measurable solutions for marketing your hospitality business to maximize return on investment.
Decrease spending. There are so many fixed costs associated with hotels, so it pays to consider cost reduction strategies across all operational areas. Try to negotiate new contracts, payment terms and other agreements with vendors and suppliers. Pay attention to human resources; ensure that your employees are versatile and multi-functional so that they can be easily moved between departments minimizing labor costs.
Strategies to maximize revenue
You may need to lower room rates and offer discounts and promotions to attract more customers. But consider offering packages that include additional services to encourage guests to stay longer. Packages are a great way to make your rates more attractive bundled with additional services. Most importantly, keep tracking and optimizing your performance to deliver the right rates at the right time on the right channels using a revenue management tool.
In summary, the key success factors include having the right health and safety protocols, focusing on marketing strategies, developing new strategies to attract new customers, and implementing practical revenue management.
No one said reopening a hotel after the pandemic would be an easy task, but with the right strategy and an effective action plan in place, you can set yourself up for success. Remember that you are not alone in this, there is help at hand and experienced professionals are available to help you if you need help.
Ranjith Chandrasiri is a seasoned hotelier, food and wine connoisseur, multilingual with a wealth of knowledge and international experience in hotel management at luxury hotels and iconic brands including InterContinental Hotels Group in Europe, Australia, Cambodia , Thailand and Sri Lanka. He is Chairman of Sirius Hospitality Consulting in Thailand, former Group Managing Director of Jetwing Hotels Group, Sri Lanka and Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Thailand, Founder/Chairman of Royal Cliff Wine Club and deVine Wine Club, Bailli Honoraire (Honorary Chairman) of Chaine des Rotisseurs, Pattaya, Thailand.