The Coronavirus is causing uncertainty in the travel industry. With many unknowns and travellers being more cautious, hotels are already experiencing the negative effects. The reluctance to travel has seen occupancy rates drop dramatically. When situations like this occur, it’s understandable that hoteliers feel the need to take drastic action, with many dropping rates to try and encourage travellers to book. However, this isn’t the only option.
We put together our top four points to consider during the current crisis:
1. Shift your focus to domestic travellers
While international travel has decreased and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months, domestic travel has been impacted less. Our partners have reported seeing a growing interest in domestic trips. While restrictions on international travel are becoming more strict in most countries, these limitations do not apply on travel within the country. This is the perfect time to persuade guests to book a staycation instead of an overseas trip.
Similarly, hotels might consider putting extra effort into promoting their excellent facilities to locals. Whether it is an award winning restaurant, a rooftop infinity pool, or a couples offer for the spa — it is worthwhile using geo-targeting to highlight these facilities.
Geo-targeted campaigns allow you to personalise your content based on a website visitor’s location. Displaying more relevant content and putting emphasis on other revenue streams will help cover some of the drop in room revenue.
2. Reduce the perceived cancellation risk
If you already offer free cancellation, now is a great time to highlight these offers. The current spread of the virus creates a perception of risk for a consumer looking to book a stay in the future. Therefore consumers may seek out cancellation options. Highlighting your free cancellation for future dates can reduce the perceived risk of booking your hotel, and give your hotel a better chance at capturing the risk adverse customer.
For stays already booked, cancellations are having a big effect on revenue as consumers reconsider their booked travel, and major events are cancelled. If possible, try to encourage these visitors to rebook at a later date with an extra incentive, such as a discount code or free breakfast.
3. Optimise the current website experience
Digitally, hotels are already seeing the impact of this crisis, with hotel website traffic slowing down. While this isn’t a positive thing, it opens up possibilities to refocus your digital strategy and lay the foundations for the future.
Opportunistic hoteliers can use this time to critically review their website, accessibility and booking experience. While browsing your website and reviewing the online experience through the eyes of your potential guests, evaluate the ease and accessibility of fundamental details about staying at your hotel. Ask yourself this question: what are the first things that come to mind when you think about your hotel? And think critically: does this translate to your website experience?
What we see often in conversations with hotels is that key information is frequently missing on the hotel website. It might be lost in translation, hidden on hard to find pages, or simply not there at all. Similarly the photos of hotel facilities could perhaps do with an update, while room descriptions or landing pages could be re-written. Are your offers on your website up to date, and are your best performing offers easily visible? Is your hotel identity reflected on your website? Now is the time to make these updates.
4. Develop your personalisation plan
Although the Coronavirus outbreak is hugely impacting travel plans, some things will remain certain. There will always be a kid’s summer break coming up, a romantic weekend, a work trip, or an Easter weekend away. Seasonality plays its part but all of these things still require a structured game plan. Although it is important to understand that the Coronavirus could affect these events hosted in the hotel or events nearby. With this in mind, it is of great importance to keep these plans updated both internally and wherever they are shared externally. Make sure to include the following:
- Dates of events
- Relevant offers or promotions
- Images and copywriting needed
- Landing page or call-to-action links
- Target markets and audience
- Departments and partners involved
By having the above topics listed and accessible for all the parties involved, your marketing and revenue teams will be able to be agile and adapt to changes rapidly.
There is no doubt that the upcoming months will be challenging not just for hotels, but the travel industry as a whole. Trying to minimise long-term damage by adjusting and fine-tuning strategies can help hoteliers be prepared for when the market does bounce back. With that in mind, there are still many unknowns about the long term impact. Our thoughts are with all of our clients and everyone who has been impacted by this crisis.