The hospitality industry was one of the first and the most deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The social distancing measures and the dramatic drop in international tourism have hit hotels and other rental businesses in an unprecedented way. Today, as lockdown restrictions start to lift in many cities and countries, we can (finally) see hotels progressively reopening around the world.
In the current situation, it's likely that in the first phase, most businesses will come from local tourism – at least, in many destinations. The question is: how can hotels and rentals adapt themselves to the "new normal" and anticipate guest expectations? This article looks into some of the actionable steps that can be implemented now in order to optimize business for activity renewal:
Enforce Cleaning & Sanitization
The first concern the pandemic has risen is hygiene and sanitization. Providing hand sanitizers, gloves and, masks to staff and guests is a first step that can be easily implemented. Yet, there are many more measures hotels can take in order to increase health and cleaning standards. To this end, the American Hotel & Lodging Association recently released industrywide Stay Safe standards, and you can find many online checklists to help you with safety protocols.
From surface cleaning in rooms and public areas to food safety, it's essential to go over every single aspect of your hotel sanitization in an organized and systematic way. Some hotel chains are even taking this a step further and are using advanced sanitizing technologies. For instance, the Marriott is now adopting innovative cleaning methods such as electrostatic sprays, and even testing UV light to potentially sanitize guests' keys and other shared devices.
Less Contact Is More
Social distancing turned out to be a buzzword during the pandemic. Hospitality businesses should now guarantee that their guests and staff will be able to avoid unnecessary contact as much as possible. From signs on the lobby floor to the rearrangement of public spaces (such as gyms, swimming pools, or eating spaces), there are certain measures that need to be implemented to ensure social distancing is respected. In addition, hotels should guarantee contactless room-service, including food delivery and single-use service ware.
Another interesting way of avoiding contact is by using smart technology. For example, the Hilton app allows guests to check-in, check-out, and even open their room door with their phone. More generally, Skift predicts that contactless technology is likely to become the next big trend in the hospitality and travel industry.
Re-Think the Budget
As we said, the financial impact on the hospitality and tourism industry is unprecedented. According to research by CBRE, in the U.S, the revenue per available room (RevPAR) for hotels will only recover to 2019 levels by 2023. Therefore, hotels need to create budget previsions based on their activity forecast. In order to do that, conducting an audit can help get better clarity over the budget and cut unnecessary spending. It's also a good time to renegotiate contracts and plans with service providers in order to reduce ongoing costs. Finally, as many governments provide some financial help to the hospitality industry, it's always worth checking your hotel's eligibility.
Invest Efforts in Marketing
As hotels are now reopening or plan to do so soon, many are starting to refresh their marketing assets. It's crucial to reassure guests regarding safety and cancellation concerns, to communicate with targeted audiences on the hotel's activity, and to strengthen the relationship with the existing community. Below are 5 marketing tips to increase your hotel business:
Update your website: Your website is the core of your digital presence. It's essential to update on your website all the health and safety measures you've implemented. It can be done by adding a banner on top of your site sending to a dedicated landing page, or straight on the first fold to maximize exposure. Don't forget to refresh your pictures to show the reorganization of your space.
Communicate everywhere: Send newsletters to your subscribers announcing you're back to business and detail the measures you've taken for their comfort. Write blog articles introducing how your hotel went through the crisis and what's next for your hotel and for the industry. By sharing your content on social media, you can even expand your reach while collecting feedback from your community.
Advertise on social media: Social media advertising is one of the most cost-efficient promotion methods online. Target potential guests based on their location and interest and learn from your campaign results. Start with a small budget and increase progressively depending on your performance - and the tourism situation in your area.
Push loyalty programs: Returning customers are the heart of any hospitality business. Incentivize them to visit you with loyalty programs and provide your members with special offers, room upgrades, exclusive content, and more.
Be flexible with cancellation: One of the biggest concerns in the tourism industry is uncertainty when making a reservation. Explain clearly your cancellation policy to your potential guests to offer them peace of mind when booking their room.
Don't Neglect Transportation
Door-to-door transportation services are now more than ever a must for hotels. As people try to avoid public transportation, hotels should think of creative ways to take their guests to any destination safely. By providing smart mobility services through their website, hotels can let guests order their rides by themselves without any physical interaction. Alternatively, hotels can provide their concierge with a digital solution to book the rides for the guests in a digital way. Smart transportation providers like HERE Mobility, work only with trusted fleets, ensuring your guests will enjoy the highest quality of service. Additionally, HERE Mobility’s recent partnership with Booking.com means that for hotels utilizing the online travel agency’s platform, their guests can benefit from the convenience of ordering door-to-door transportation while they book their hotel.
The hospitality industry was severely impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, but there are many reasons to stay optimistic. That said, it's almost impossible to predict with certainty what will happen tomorrow and how the situation will evolve. One thing that we can expect though, is that the new habits formed during the crisis will endure, as initial research has already suggested. By adopting the relevant technology and reshaping their messaging to match guests' expectations, hotels can anticipate the changes in consumer behavior today and adapt for tomorrow.