As the Coronavirus continues to affect the travel industry, and hospitality in particular, at an unprecedented rate, it’s never been more important to utilize online marketing tools and strategic tactics to help reach guests.
Previously, various offline and online marketing tactics were used to drive bookings to your hotel, drive more foot traffic, or online orders at your restaurant. But, COVID shook the foundation of normalcy. With bookings dropping off a cliff, keeping your guests engaged with your hotel online and being a resource for information has become more important than ever.
When thinking about how to build an effective marketing strategy going forward, consider these emerging marketing trends that are proven to help alleviate your potential customers’ concerns and convert them into paying guests.
Social Listening: Read Your Guest Reviews and Understand Customer Sentiment
Reviewing your online reviews is a significant part of your hotel’s reputation management, and it has only become more important as guests adapt to this new normal. However, suppose you aren’t actively listening to what your guests have to say, you will be missing out on a ton of valuable information on how you can improve your marketing execution. Therefore, it’s becoming increasingly important to spend time reading guest reviews carefully and parse through important details about how you can better deliver the lodging experience to guests and exceed their expectations.
Make a list of positive and negative points from the guests’ perspective to understand how your guest experience compares to their wants and desires. Then, use this information to make changes that will help guests feel comfortable and relaxed. By actively listening to your guests, not only will your online reputation improve dramatically, but you will foster customer loyalty as well.
Pro Tip: Read the reviews of your competitor’s guests’ experience on Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Online Travel Agent pages to look for the features and amenities mentioned in their reviews. Look to match or exceed their offerings with feasible changes to your product immediately.
Communicate Critical Information in Real-Time
Regularly updated communication is key during these unprecedented times. Customers want to know that your information is up-to-date; however, they also want to know what your business is doing to mitigate the risk of COVID-19. This is the time to demonstrate your knowledge of the crisis and how it will impact your hospitality and service.
Convey the steps that you have taken for your guest’s safety in your hotel. Let the potential visitors know that you are aware of the current situation and implementing necessary changes to operate your business in a post-COVID world. You can effectively share your protocols and safety features on a dedicated Health and Safety Page on your hotel’s website.
Many of your guests might have plans changed at the last minute. Tell them that you have modified your cancellation policy and allow full flexibility and cancellation up to 24 hours before arrival. Guests are going to expect more flexibility going forward—we recommend a 24 hour cancellation period which is pushed out to all channels, including online travel agents.
Ask your guests to contact you directly so that you can make the required arrangements before check-in time. Give them the leverage to cancel their reservations without penalty, even if they fall ill on the same day of their arrival.
Now more than ever, it is important to reassure guests that your friendly team members will be ready to welcome them and you have taken all necessary precautions to keep them safe during their stay.
Optimize for Voice Search
The hospitality industry is no stranger to changes to the online search engine landscape. In addition to ensuring your hotel website is coded for mobile responsiveness to an array of screen sizes, search engines like Google are forcing hoteliers to adapt their websites to the challenges of Zero-Click searches and Voice Search.
It is estimated that over 50% of smartphone users utilize voice search. The future is here, and the days of “typing” into a search bar are fast becoming a secondary option rather than the only choice.
Websites that are not optimized for voice search will see their page rankings suffer and compromise the guest experience as the user will simply continue their online search.
Utilize Social Media to Stay Engaged with Guests
Social media platforms have become an important place where guests go to find inspiration for planning travel. However, now they are even more important as they are also being used to research what precautions your staff is taking. Users expect to find up-to-date information on what the current processes are so they are prepared for when they arrive.
What types of content to include:
- Recent photos of your property
- Offer sample itineraries for leading customer segments
- Encourage guests to check out exclusive packages and take a much-needed vacation
- Highlight local outdoor attractions, other businesses, and open restaurants
- Explain the steps taken to ensure security and sanitization
Get creative! You might have the most fabulous hotel or restaurant in the world, but if your social presence is lacking crucial information or it’s unappealing, you’ll lose potential guests! Social media is the least expensive form of marketing, and you can create a tremendous social impact using a tiny budget.
The main takeaway is to leverage these digital marketing trends to communicate current happenings at your hotel, what precautions you are taking to ensure their safety, and still be as positive and uplifting as possible.
Humans are social beings and have adventurous spirits. Coronavirus certainly has made a lasting negative impact on the human psyche, not to mention the economy. As the COVID-19 pandemic becomes less intense and travel picks up again, it is so important that you utilize new means and ways of marketing. To generate maximum revenue, hotels need to steadily engage their guests, communicate safety protocols, and adhere to a strategic marketing plan for the post-COVID world.
During times of crisis, INNsight can help your hotels thoughtfully and swiftly develop a risk mitigation and COVID recovery marketing plan. Our Digital Marketing Services include Reputation Management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Paid Search (PPC), Social Media Marketing, Hospitality Website Design, and much more!