How the travel industry will cope with the Covid-19 aftermath
The sudden outbreak of coronavirus into our lives has profoundly and significantly affected the global economy and has turned upside down many industries. However, there is no doubt that the tourism industry is the one that has been hit the hardest. Almost overnight, the rate of flights decreased by about 70% * and accordingly the occupancy in hotels and resorts all over the world.
After several months of almost complete stagnation, with the exit of many countries from quarantine in a slow and measured manner, even the travel and the hospitality industry is trying to live with the new reality.
Based on studies conducted by CBRE, since the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S in January 2020, forecasts have predicted that it will take between 6-10 months for US hotel demand to recover, and 12-16 months (December) to recover.
Thus, these times should be utilized by the travel industry to take the necessary steps to prepare for the recovery, while setting adequate expectations and KPI’s.
Will hospitality corporations succeed to persuade customers to return? Is it possible to enjoy a holiday just as much in the post-Coronavirus era? There are many question marks, and yet one can see how some of the international hospitality corporations are trying to cope with the new reality.
Based on some of the beautiful COVID-19 activities of international travel corporations we have seen in recent months, here are some tips that can help any hotel brand during this period:
- Sharing corporate prevention plan: It is safe to assume that most hotels and resorts have prepared a prevention plan in order to protect workers and guests, which includes procedures regarding cleaning, disinfection and changing guidelines in a variety of areas, such as food, activities etc. Sharing these plans both on the hotel website and on social media pages, will give potential guests the security needed to make a reservation. It is important to note that this recommendation also applies to hotels that are still closed, as guests will want to ensure that a prevention plan is still in place once the hotel reopens.
- Transmission of critical information related to COVID-19: It is important to address and provide information such as whether the hotel is open, cancellation policy as well as a prevention program across critical channels such as the website, social media, etc. Your site should address the following topics to make it easier for visitors: prevention plan, cancellation policy (it is recommended to waive the cancellation fee) Contact information for questions or concerns, building a content page Frequently asked questions around COVID-19 and more.
- In order to maintain brand loyalty and provide customers with the confidence to repurchase a vacation, the hotel must have a flexible and stress-free cancellation policy for at least the next six months or until the end of the year.
- Reassessing Digital Strategy: This down time is a great opportunity to re-examine the brand’s digital strategy, digital assets, innovation initiatives and processes to position your hotel for future success.
- Community activity for health care workers: consider offering affordable rates to health care workers, first response medical aid organizations working around the clock. Some hotels in the US offer free rooms to the health community through the American Hotel and Hospitality Association.
- Create entertaining and valuable content: In this age of social distancing and isolation, value-adding content is a great way to reassure the minds of past customers who cannot re-visit your hotel’s destination(s). Sharing recipes from the hotel chef, recommendations for spa treatments from the hotel spa and ideas for fun activities with the children are just a few ways you can help people enhance the experience of staying at home.
- Create engagement with your brand on social media: The time devoted to social media has increased significantly since the beginning of social distancing and quarantine. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with past guests and engage followers with an inspiring quality content. Asking followers to share photos from their past stay at your hotel, share photos of the hotel or destination, ask what their favorite thing to do at that destination, and sharing virtual tours of destination landmarks are just a few ways to connect the brand with prospects at this time.
- Stay in touch with past customers through CRM: Keeping in touch with past guests and loyalty program members through newsletters is a great way to build awareness for your content and stay connected.
- Focus on the right audience with advanced purchase offers: While travel is delayed, there are people who may still book vacations well in advance. During this period, it will be even more important that hotels be available to the most relevant audience with takeover bids focusing on a 90 day booking window, as according to ADARA flight data, people search for flights and hotels about 90 days before the departure date.
- Digital marketing that focuses on branded and sensitive messages: The focus should be on keeping brand awareness, with sensitive messages that drive traffic to content that adds value.
In conclusion, it is important to stay connected to past guests and cultivate a strong brand relationship even when people are unable to travel. People will remember how your brand made them feel during this difficult time, so it is important to make all communication positive, valuable or entertaining.