After weeks of perilous uncertainty, reopening has finally become a reality for hundreds of hotels and resorts across the globe. But now more than ever, potential guests will be most wary of hotels. They will want to know what the most recent safety and cleaning standards are, and how they have been implemented. The road to recovery will not be easy, as these new practices can be a costly feat for hotel owners and operators.
On a brighter note, people are ready to travel! According to the latest study published by Fuel, Millennials (ages 22-38 years) are most likely to travel, specifically to local destinations within a two hour drive. Additionally, 65% of respondents intend to take a vacation in 2020 or 2021, which means that most people do plan to travel in the near future.
This is a great opportunity to maximize revenue from new and previous customers. A hotel operator that can adapt and embrace the enhanced safety as a result of COVID-19 will be most successful. We have outlined some strategies that can help your property shift from recovery to growth during a challenging time. A key focus will be enhanced communication to your potential guests on ALL digital platforms.
Refresh your website
First, let’s discuss the basics – mobile browsing has become more popular than desktop browsing. Is your website mobile friendly? Do you have professional pictures of your property, rooms and amenities posted? If you are a branded property, does your booking widget link directly to the brand site? These are simple and inexpensive enhancements to bring a modern and professional look to your vanity website.
Next, your hotel website should provide as much detail on new COVID-19 policies as possible. This way, guests have all the information needed when they book at your property. A “COVID-19 Update” header will help guests navigate to the latest information about your new policies and procedures. Additional details including updates on your property’s hours, enhanced sanitation on common space amenities such as the pool, fitness center and business center and specifics on social distancing measures will ensure that your guests feel you are doing your very best to ensure a safe environment. Posting cleaning charts in these areas for staff to fill out after cleaning will indicate that safety is a high priority during the stay as well. Ensure your guests and staff understand the latest CDC recommendations and guidelines are being followed. A link to these guidelines on the website would be convenient way for guests to get more details on your new policies.
Update your social media platforms frequently
Social media channels are an easy way to provide quick updates to your future guests about new policies. Most cities and states have had a fluid plan for reopening their economies that depend on the number of COVID-19 cases in the city. We have seen how quickly local city governments have opened and closed business reflected by the local impact of the pandemic. Social media is the fastest way to communicate all changes and situations to your guests. You can also highlight the changes that you have made to your property, safety protocols, social distancing guidelines, and more.
Since many travelers will be staying local for the foreseeable future, your social media platforms can be a good resource to promote local events, dining options and entertainment to potential guests. Millennials in particular are heavily influenced by social media. It is important to post to your social media platforms regularly. Ideally, at least three times a week, however, posting daily may bring in even more engagement. Inform potential customers that you are open and ready for business, keeping the focus on how you will be prioritizing their health and safety.
In addition to elevating your social media presence, check that your website is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) friendly. SEO is the process of optimizing your website to get organic, or unpaid, traffic from Google’s search results. A website with a strong SEO plan will result in a higher ranking when key words associated with the site are searched on Google. If you have a blog or vanity website for your hotel, your website developer should be able to help you enhance your site with an SEO plan to improve your ranking on Google. Another key influence of a strong SEO ranking is content consistency across the web. Sites such as TripAdvisor, Expedia, Booking.com, your vanity website, and your Google business listing should have consistent information not only for rates, but new policies, protocols and property images. This will inform the Google algorithm (the SEO authority) that you are putting forth your best effort to maintain your property’s online presence and will give you a boost in search engine ranking.
Offer a promotion
COVID-19 has impacted everyone from first responders, small business owners and corporate employees. Everyone has been negatively impacted by this global pandemic. As a result, guests will be particularly budget conscious as they plan trips and vacations. They will be looking to save money wherever possible. People are ready to travel again, but spending money on indulgences is likely not in their budget.
To attract more potential guests, create packages partnering with local attractions, restaurants and events to provide travelers value. By offering packages, you will take the planning out of the vacation and provide a guest a further incentive to stay at your hotel. This is also a great way to reconnect with local businesses, and an even better way to remind locals that a fun and exciting vacation can achieved be close to home!
Let’s not forget our OTA partnerships. Although there is controversy around the benefits of OTA’s, one thing is clear. OTA’s can provide a significant marketing advantage to promote your property. Over 1.5 million bookings per day are made through booking.com. Guests have been trained to book travel through OTA’s. As such, you will want to keep promoting your property on those sites whenever possible.
Read and respond to reviews
Understanding your guests’ needs could not be more critical at a time like this. With so many factors in play, it is essential react quickly to meet those needs. Review collection tools can help you gather information about your guests needs quickly. Guests need to feel that their comments are top of mind are responded to quickly.
It is more important than ever for hotels to respond to guest reviews. If you do not have a hotel reputation management system in place, now is the perfect time to start. Your hotel’s reviews will have a large influence on future bookings.