There’s no doubt that 2020 was rough on hotels — and the travel and hospitality industry as a whole. Many of our hospitality clients here in California and Nevada still remain closed or continue navigating ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and capacity limitations. However, a new year, a new vaccine rolling out, and warmer temperatures on the horizon have us feeling hopeful. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, folks. We can feel it!
With that in mind, we’re sharing some tips and COVID-19 recovery strategies to help hotels and other travel businesses make the most of this time. With a little strategic planning, you can set yourselves up for a bright future!
Revamp your cancellation policy
In light of all the unknowns the hospitality and travel industries are still facing, one of the first things you should do is take a good, hard look at your cancellation policy. As customers slowly return to travel, increased flexibility could mean the difference between opting to book with you rather than a competitor, or not travel at all.
Even as restrictions continue to lift and the risk gets lower thanks to newly released vaccines, people may still be hesitant to travel well into late 2021 and 2022. That means flexible booking and cancellation policies are going to continue to be key in building travelers’ confidence.
- We recommend keeping your cancellation policy as flexible as possible to help reduce the risk for potential customers. Waive time limits, fees, blackout dates, etc. This will help account for any unforeseen and ongoing COVID-19 increases, closures, or other travel delays.
- As you make policy changes, be sure you’re being upfront with your customers. Communication and transparency are key to gaining customers’ trust and loyalty right now.
Rethink your amenities and offerings
Changing times means what’s worked for your business in the past may not work moving forward. As we start a new year and adapt to the changing travel market right now, there’s never been a better time to rethink your amenities and perks for customers.
As you review your existing business model, here are a few things to consider moving forward:
Look for ways to reduce in-person touchpoints and physical contact. As we all look to reduce the spread of harmful germs and bacteria, consider investing in things like:
- Automatic doors
- Automatic toilets and faucets
- App-based check-in/check-out and room requests
- Voice assistants for rooms
- And more!
As travelers will likely want to keep their distance from those outside their group for some time moving forward, you might also want to consider investing in more private and socially-distant activities for guests. While swimming pools, fitness centers, and game rooms are great, they may not be as popular moving forward, at least for a while.
As an alternative, consider offering more in-room and socially-distant options, such as:
- Video game consoles
- Virtual fitness classes
- Books and magazines
- Board games and puzzles
- Minibars and in-room taps
- Room service and carryout vs. buffet-style meals
Of course, you can also consider other audiences besides just leisure and travel. What else can you offer? For example, maybe you increase the focus on event planning for happy couples who are looking to plan a wedding in 2022 or beyond. Or maybe you can adapt your meeting and conference rooms to accommodate individuals or small groups who are now working remotely but need more space or resources.
There’s no doubt that this pandemic has likely caused some fundamental changes in our mindset and priorities, so why not prepare now before travel really takes off again? While it may be a change from the norm, shifting your amenities and customer offerings can be a great way to outshine the competition, gain additional revenue sources, and attract new customers moving forward. It’s a win-win-win! Plus, while there is a downturn in travel, you can roll out changes slowly and gauge customer response.
Keep your website up to date
Even though we continue to move forward a little more every day, there are still a lot of unknowns. We’ve seen reopening dates continue to get delayed, hotels closing back down after reopening, and plenty of other scenarios. In those types of situations, it’s best to be as clear and upfront as possible. You don’t want to leave customers in the dark about what’s going on. Hence why keeping your website up-to-date is a key priority during this time — and a key part of your recovery strategy.
Make sure key information is easily accessible and accurate on your site, including:
- Your contact information
- Your hours of operation
- Whether your business is open or closed
- Any amenities/services that may not be available or limited during this time
- What COVID-19 precautions are currently in place/enforced
- Your cancellation policy
Having all these details available upfront makes it easy for patrons to stay informed during every step of the COVID-19 recovery journey. This can eliminate a lot of frustration from customers, build trust and authenticity for your business, and reduce the workload on your customer service team.
Get active on social media
We’ve heard a lot of hospitality business owners saying that social media “isn’t worth it” while hospitality businesses remain closed or recreational travel isn’t recommended. With more and more people staying home and using social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube to stay in touch, we say there’s never been a better time. If you can’t communicate with your loyal patrons and potential guests in person, you have to keep connected with them somehow. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in your social media presence — with a high focus on engagement.
A lot goes into a great social media strategy, but here are a few key tips to keep in mind during this time.
- Use eye-catching images and videos to draw followers in and get them excited for future travel plans.
- Respond to comments and messages as quickly as possible — just as you would if a customer was there in-person.
- Be proactive with commenting, tagging, and sharing content from others as well. Again, it’s just like striking up a face-to-face conversation.
- Focus on the data. Most platforms have built-in analytics and insights you can use to see what posts are connecting with your audience. You can use that data to optimize what you’re posting and when.
Consistently sharing unique, on-brand content and building up engagement across social media will keep your hotel or travel agency top of mind when traveling increases once again — and your loyal followers will be ready and anxious to visit!
Create eye-catching ads
As travel and hospitality businesses continue to reopen and more people begin to travel, your digital advertising strategy is going to be crucial. The travel industry is going to be more competitive than ever, which means you’re really going to have to stand out.
Crafting a well-rounded advertising strategy takes time, but here are a few handy tips:
- You’ll want to have different message points depending on what stage of the recovery process you’re at (open, closed, open with restrictions, etc.)
- Your geographic focus will likely shift as well. For example, it might be more beneficial to target locally within your drive market for “staycations” while non-essential travel isn’t recommended.
- Focus on visuals. You really want people to be able to picture themselves at your destination.
- Remarketing is key. Most travelers are putting a lot of time and research into planning their vacation, which means they probably are weighing options before booking. You want a savvy remarketing strategy to stay top-of-mind until they finally make that reservation.
- Once travel starts to rise again, you’ll want to push your great deals and promos to help sweeten the experience for those who may still be on the fence or comparing against a nearby competitor.
Hone your brand
As a creative branding agency, we would be amiss if we didn’t encourage you to use this “downtime” to really hone in on your brand. None of the above strategies are going to give you much success if you don’t really know the fundamentals of who you are as a company and how you truly stand out in the market.
If you’re looking for a strategic partner to help you navigate through this ongoing pandemic, we’re here to help you every step of the way. We offer branding, strategy, content, advertising services, and more — and we have a special place in our hearts for travel and hospitality businesses on the West Coast.