Local leisure is the first stage of coronavirus recovery

With the COVID-19 curve flattening, it’s time to look to how we are going to ramp occupancy back up and drive revenues in this new normal. For this, all signs are pointing towards a staggered lifting of travel restrictions, starting with local (non-airport) leisure, then continental leisure, then groups, and finally intercontinental travel.

Hence, if you want to gradually restart operations, focus on the first segment. And why I stress no involvement from airports is that while the virus may soon be gone, fears of large crowds and highly trafficked places will linger, with airports and airplanes top of the list.

In working with a couple GMs to see what strategies and tactics will work to attract guests from the nearby community and drive markets during this first stage of recovery, my consultancy developed a playbook for what steps hoteliers can take. Think staycations and visits from ‘rubber tire’ territories – those accessibly by car with no flight required. This anxiety surrounding crowded spaces also favors small or secluded properties that can boast about how isolated they are and how much distance there is from other guests.

Given this, here are some steps you can take now so you are ready for when local travel resumes:

  • Continue messaging that shows your support for the local community and all the new cleanliness steps you have taken to ensure better hygiene and guest safety
  • Design programs, small-scale events and incentives for the hyper-local market
  • Set up a dedicated staycation loyalty promotion to garner support from primary audiences
  • Build packages designed for quick getaways from your rubber tire population centers
  • Define a new digital advertising plan that reaches people in these nearby territories and can do so nimbly as the situation evolves
  • Activate your CRM to help define new perks for return visits or references as well as any subgroups you can target with one-to-one offers
  • Using the programs that you’ve crafted for leisure, reach out to companies in your community to see if they are in need of a corporate getaway in light of the many national or international conferences that have been cancelled

Of course, each hotel will be different insofar as market idiosyncrasies and exceptional cases for travel restrictions and local demand. The key is to start small, understanding that many have be fearful to travel while others may be the exact opposite have a ‘travel debt’ they need to fulfill. Particularly with such limited staff, simplicity in promotion development means fast setup and will let you broadcast it as soon as possible so that potential customers have the maximum amount of time to decide whether to purchase or not.

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This said, hyper-local guests in general need less overall L2B time, so always keep this group in mind in a bear market. Staycations will remain in vogue until the coronavirus is fully out of our collective memories which may not be until far into 2021 or beyond, so best to keep a local promotion playbook handy in case you need deploy it again in the near future.

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