Surviving – and thriving – in our ‘new normal’ – PART ONE
The world has changed and hotels have not faced a global challenge like COVID-19 in living memory. The pandemic has forced many to close for long periods, putting their financial viability at risk. Even when things return to a post-pandemic ‘normal’ – whatever that may be – hoteliers will have to deal with many challenges.
This month, we had a chat with our marketing and reputation management guru Lisa Pititto, to find out from her what she considers are going to be the biggest marketing and reputation management challenges facing hotels in the coming months.
Here’s part one of our two part chat with Lisa -
What are the biggest challenges that hotels will face post COVID-19?
Once guests return to hotels it will all be about health, safety and trust. Communication should be used to build trust and reflect the values position of the brand. Rigorous health and safety standards are likely to remain for the foreseeable future, and guest expectations around this will increase – especially in high traffic areas. So from an operational point of view, hotels will need to be confident that they continue to tick all the boxes to ensure that guests are safe in their rooms and communal areas such as corridors, lifts, lobbies, and restaurants.
Hotels that maintain high standards and communicate this well with past and future guests are more likely to build guest confidence and enhance their reputations. Communication must be positive and supportive, and not be perceived as solely seeking business at a time when many are struggling financially. It will be important to keep messages upbeat and general, while ensuring that people know you are observing all the rules.
How can hoteliers maintain their reputation now?
Reputation is everything – now more than ever. Hotels must speak to past and future guests to maintain trust and reassure them that they are compliant and adhering to all government regulations. As part of every hotel’s nurturing strategy, it’s critical to maintain this communication. Even if your hotel is closed and people are not travelling, checking in with authentic content such as local updates and future plans is vital. Travellers want to feel that you value their business and that you are pulling out all stops to woo them back – without being over the top about it.
It’s also time to really think outside the square and get creative! Even if your beds aren’t being slept in, what other services can you offer past guests, loyalty members and even residents in your local area? Ideas to think about include complimentary online cooking classes, location inspired music playlists, bottling up your signature cocktail and partnering with a like-minded brand or local attraction to run a competition.
Essentially, it's all about keeping guests engaged, creating goodwill around your brand, staying relevant and building positive word of mouth. And I am sure it goes without saying that all hotels that are open comply with all government safety regulations such as signage, sanitisers, masks and physical distancing.
A few hotels have spoken to Revstar about discounting as part of their recovery. Is this a good strategy for your reputation and brand?
Discounting is a tricky issue and not as simple as it seems. As we’ve seen during this pandemic, guests won’t travel at all during high-risk times, so we don’t recommend discounting. It may sound like a good short-term option, but it can significantly impact your brand in the long-term. People do believe that price reflects quality, even if it’s not always the case. Heavy discounting and volume strategies may dilute the effect of messaging.
Do you really want to devalue your product for the sake of a possible short-term gain? And even that’s not guaranteed in the current climate.
I think the key will be about finding ways to increase conversions through value-adding, partnerships, and unique packages. It is also important to keep tabs on what is happening industry-wide, which will provide more ideas and allow you to learn from the experiences of others. Did discounting work for them? And what else has been tried that produced a better result?
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