The hotel industry has been one of the most affected sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike other businesses that can operate remotely, hotels highly depend on their guests’ physical presence for revenue, which was hugely disrupted by the virus.
Thankfully, health officials worldwide have made significant strides in combating this invisible enemy, with vaccine doses currently getting administered to the public.
Consequently, most jurisdictions have also eased their lockdown restrictions, allowing businesses to resume operations, albeit cautiously.
Despite the go-ahead to resume operations, most hotels struggle to stay open, mainly due to the low demands and tight competition. But the good news is, beyond standard marketing techniques, there are several strategies and action plans that hoteliers can implement to restart on the right foot and stay ahead of the competition. These include:
- COVID-19 protocols? Guests want them!
- “It’s too late to do marketing.” – Nonsense!
- Do you know who your “new-normal” guests are?
- What can you do about the hospitality staffing situation?
- Does financial success sound good? Learn to love your data
So let’s get down to business!
COVID-19 Protocols? Guests Want Them!
Let’s not be blind to the fact that the virus is still among us, and any mistake or carelessness can cause its spread. It is in your best interests that you abide by all government guidelines on reopening businesses in your region to protect your staff and guests and avoid brushing shoulders with the law enforcers.
Implementing safety measures like social distancing and cashless transactions goes a long way with keeping people in your hotel safe.
In particular, social distancing, i.e., maintaining a 6-foot space between you and the next person, is critical in the hotel business since it experiences lots of human traffic.
To implement these protocols, you need to acquire the right tools such as wall and floor signs, access controls, contactless temperature checks, phone apps, wearable devices, etc.
All protocols need to be displayed in public places and guestrooms to help guests concentrate on the critical steps for enhancing health and safety.
Speaking of guest’s safety and health, it’s critical to get a stockpile of sanitizers, masks, contactless temperature checking equipment, cleaning equipment, and gloves before reopening your hotel.
Air conditioning services may also be beneficial in preventing infection spread. The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) says, “Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.”
“It’s Too Late to do Marketing.” – Nonsense!
Earlier, we mentioned that the hotel business is experiencing low demands, and the competition is still stiff since many have reopened at once. So, the only way to set your property apart from the competition is by focusing on marketing it.
But remember, the times have changed hence you need to make a new marketing action plan with relevant updated strategies. For the best results, your action plan should revolve around the following factors:
- Updating your website and online presence. Be sure to update your FAQ, Google My Business, Facebook, and Instagram pages, revisit your brand voice, relevance, and value. Setup your online booking engine, and review your SEO.
- Develop a communication strategy. This involves creating new posts on your website, i.e., entertaining and valuable content that your guests love. You also want to revive your social media campaigns and create posts that resonate with your target audience. And while at it, be sure to make communication consistent and share relevant videos portraying the new way of doing business, e.g., contactless arrival and check-in procedures.
- Revive PPC advertising. Instagram, Facebook, and Google Ads campaigns should be top of your list. When properly strategized, these campaigns can be cost-effective, measurable, and targeted solutions for marketing your hotel business to optimize ROI for your direct sales channels (eg. your own booking engine).
Do you Know Who Your “New-Normal” Guests are?
The pandemic changed everything, and you’ll need to think of ways of attracting new guests when reopening your hotel.
Whether you used to target business executives or catered for leisure travelers pre-COVID, it doesn’t matter.
The critical thing is that you need to find new guests to ensure business continuity and stay atop the competition. Below are some tips to help you with that:
- Reach out to regular guests. Regulars who are loyal to your hotel business can be life-savers as you reopen. Be sure to engage them and revive the already existing rapport hoping that they’ll support your business. You can go the extra mile of offering them thoughtful discounts (read below!), freebies and remember to communicate your commitment to health and safety protocols.
- Target the right guests. If your hotel targets leisure travelers, it makes little sense to target business executives; and vice versa. Be sure to have the right technology solutions available for your particular audience eg., contactless check-in, online bookings, and mobile apps to lure your guests even further.
- Nurture your partnerships. Touching base with your vendors and partners through emails, calls, and virtual meetings is a great way of keeping them committed to you. Consider asking your local suppliers, travel agencies, etc., about the possibility of signing a new contract as you wait for their businesses to pick up again.
Remember: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
What Can I Do About the Hospitality Staffing Situation?
Unless you do not have the internet or you live in a cave, under a glacier on another planet, you would have heard that one of the after-effects of COVID-19 is that hotels are struggling to rehire staff.
Ex-employees are demanding more compensation, fewer and more “regular” hours, increased benefits as well as COVID-19 safe working conditions. To make things even more frustrating some applicants are not even showing up for interviews.
So what can you do about this? Well here are some techniques that have worked to date:
- Increased Benefits. Organizational culture and staff wellness programs are two areas that can pull in the right kind of candidate. Other benefits quality hospitality staff are drawn to are freebies (gym, gift cards, concert tickets, etc.), outplacement services, recreation areas, profit sharing, and flexible vacation plans.
- Branding. More and more people are looking to work for a hotel that makes them feel proud to work there. A few suggestions from hoteliers that have done this successfully are: donating food to charities, using local suppliers, using clean energy, and utilizing green infrastructure such as solar panels and water recovery and recycling systems.
- Digital recruiting. A higher number of candidates are discovering jobs via career sites and social media than ever before. Make sure you are using all platforms, especially social media, like Twitter and Reddit, to reach potential candidates
- Lucrative referral programs. Studies have shown that candidates who are referred by current employees are more productive, and are more likely to stay for longer. Creating worthwhile referral programs for your existing staff is a smart and easy way of expanding the candidate pool with the potential of reaching more high-quality talent.
Some hotels and restaurants have even resorted to paying candidates for interviews. If you want to try this technique remember that it is then up to you to “sell” the business and position to the candidate and not the other way around.
Does Financial Success Sound Good? Learn to Love your Data
While you want to ensure health & safety protocols and focus on optimizing occupancy when you resume, don’t forget that business continuity matters too.
You want to make some strategic decisions to enhance your revenue management practices and keep the business running. Here are some practical tips to help with that:
- Don’t undercharge room rates. When reopening your hotel after COVID lockdown, review your room rates and find your best price point. However, as much as you want to offer discounts and promotions, don’t drop prices too low as you may risk ruining your brand. Instead, consider offering value-added packages and making up the shortfall by upselling.
- Update your cancellation policies. Guests want more flexible cancelation policies as a result of the pandemic. However, too many cancelations can take a toll on your revenues. You can control this by introducing one of two policies. One is the “book now, pay later” policy where guests can cancel anytime up to the day before the visiting date. The other one is the “pay in advance and get a discount” policy whereby guests pay in advance and get a discount but are not eligible for a refund.
- Improve your pricing management. As you look to revive your hotel business and attract more guests, it’s critical to offer the right promotions that are well-timed and distributed through the proper channels. An effective revenue management strategy or system is invaluable when optimizing pricing.
Ready to Reopen your Hotel After the COVID-19 Lockdown?
Reopening your hotel after the COVID-19 lockdown shouldn’t be a tough decision to make or implement. Although demand could still be low and the competition rate high, these strategies and best practices can put you in a better position to thrive when travel and tourism peaks fully.
Remember, it’s all about having the correct protocols, focusing on marketing, developing new strategies to attract guests, and implementing practical revenue management.
A hotel property management system or PMS plays a critical role in enhancing day-to-day hotel operational activities like online bookings, contactless kiosks, digital registration cards, passport scanners and more. If you’d like to see how a property management system can improve your life, just click here: Request a Demo, and a friendly protel-ier will reach out to you shortly.
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