The cascading effect of the novel coronavirus (COVID 19) outbreak is nothing short of severe — it has cost the global hospitality industry major losses. To cope with this abysmal down-business situation, hotels around the world are making panic decisions. While some are dramatically increasing and decreasing room rates, some are doing all-out marketing to get more bookings. And nothing seems to be fail-safe!
According to a report, the latter half of 2020 is predicted to be the worst hit. However, there’s still a strong silver lining – the end of this pandemic is inevitable!
After the virus is contained, travellers will have itchy feet and will want to leave home. This is when hotels will have to make sure they are bouncing back the right way.
So, how should hotels do that? The answer by utilizing this current quiet time wisely by focusing on specific aspects that will serve them well in the future. One of the key ones is how to attract returning customers.
Is a loyal guest more important than a new guest? Well, the answer is both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, but when it comes to strategic decisions to revive a struggling hotel business, focusing on returning guests is more important than ever.
So, here are some key things to keep in mind while building guest loyalty and trying to attract more returning guests to your hotel.
1. Help your guests deal with issues
You may not be seeing them at your property now, but you can always communicate and deliver ideas that will help them. One of the best ways to do it is through calls and emails.
Reaching out to guests, showing a simple concern about them helps build a strong emotional bond. Remember, human decisions depend on emotion, so this is where concepts like ’empathy-based’ marketing comes into the picture.
- Deliver value-added content right to their mailbox
- Help your guests identify and solve problems
- Deliver content on safety measures
- Let your guests know about the safety measures you are taking in your hotel considering the current COVID-19 pandemic
These are a few things you can do when it comes to communicating with your guests. Add a few more things if you have something in mind. However, make sure you are not trying to be salesy; rather, genuinely deliver value.
2. Loyalty programs
Without a doubt, loyalty programs are one of the best ways to drive more repeat bookings. Over the years, loyalty programs have proven successful with some of the biggest hotel brands in the industry.
What strategy do you have for this?
While many hotels are closed amid this crisis (including possibly yours) why not reach out to your guests and let them know what you have planned for them, like what gift you have for them when this pandemic ends?
For example, curate a package for your guests at a discounted price and let them know about it. How about something like this: “Hey Alex, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected all of us abysmally and I hope this ends as soon as possible. And as a gift, we at XYZ hotel would like to welcome you back to the world of #wanderlust (when this crisis is contained) by offering you an additional one stay for free!”
Furthermore, loyalty programs are not just about providing free stay — this may also include free amenities, such as a welcome gift, an upgrade or free breakfast. Curate yours according to your understanding of your guests.
Words to the wise: When it comes to welcoming back your returning guests, do it all with enthusiasm and respect. Do not treat it just like any other marketing strategy!
3. Prepare your staff for the rebound
While you are planning on strategies to attract more repeat guests to your hotel, do not forget that your hotel staff might lose the grip on their day to day activities.
This is quite normal with people irrespective of their work domain. When some stay a little away from work for quite some time, they tend to miss out on their flow of working. I am sure, you don’t want this to happen to your hotel staff. You want your hotel staff to be as good as they were before this crisis.
So, how do you make sure your staff is not losing out their grip on their work?
One of the best ways to do so is by having a system that allows your staff to perform hotel operational tasks even when they are not in the hotel or working from home. There are many online training programs that will train your hotel staff effortlessly on all aspects of your hotel. All they need is a smart device, a tablet or a computer and a steady internet connection.
Guests come back to your hotel not only for offers but also for the top-notch service they receive. So make sure your staff is well-trained when this pandemic ends and guests start to come in again.
4. Have a simple booking system and quality technology
First things first. People are already going through tough times and are expecting things to go smoothly when this pandemic ends. This includes the systems in your hotel that takes care of your booking activities.
As mentioned before, guests return not only because of the perks they get, but also for the service. So when you get back to the business after this crisis, you need to have the same level of services (or maybe better) that you used to have at your hotel.
If your hotel’s booking process is slow, difficult, and demanding, it might end up affecting the guest experience and it would be difficult for you to be in the game.
When you are attracting repeat guests, you have to ensure that you rise to their expectations.
Make sure you have a system in place that streamlines and automates your hotel operations, leaving your staff with ample time to focus on the quality of the guest experience.
5. Have multiple channels to communicate
When it comes to guest support, hotels either focus on email or calls. However, you as a hotelier must explore other channels. You have to make sure that you are answering and solving guest queries as efficiently as possible. And when you have only two channels to communicate with your guest, this task of solving queries may take a little longer.
So what other options do you have? Get dedicated guest support on social media as well. At present, guests prefer to take to social media as well when they have a query and when you have dedicated support, you can solve their issues more efficiently!
As they say, it’s the right support that makes a good product/service great!
The entire world is dealing with a serious virus and it may take some time to return to normal. This might be one of the toughest times, but the end is inevitable and we have to make sure that we are utilizing this time efficiently and be ready for the rebound.