Little green shoots of recovery are coming up around the globe as infection rates drop in key destinations.
Lockdowns are easing across the European Union and Scandinavia, and May has seen a steady drop in infections in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and across much of Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.*
These signs of improvement are still very new, but it’s not too early to think about the marketing tactics you can put into action ahead of recovery. Let’s keep in mind the reality that recovery in any destination will start locally, grow regionally, and then internationally via clearly-defined, low risk corridors, like Australia and New Zealand’s trans-Tasman Safe Bubble.
If your destination is working towards reopening, now is the time to put our top three marketing tactics into action.
Tactic #1: Clear, concise & consistent communication
Your COVID messaging needs to be clear, concise, and consistent.
Safety and cancellation policies
Tell future guests how you will keep them (and your staff) safe when you reopen. If you’ve relaxed your cancellation policies, make sure they know – they are more likely to book ahead of time if they are confident that your cancellation policy is flexible. Make it easy for guests to find your policies, upcoming promotions and health content directly on or from your home page.
Authentic and entertaining content
Your staff are your greatest marketing assets when you need to create on-brand, informative and entertaining content. Past guests are your first audience on social media, and who better to like and share a video featuring a member of your team? Among your staff there are specialist skills that you can celebrate and share online. For example, you might use Zoom or Skype for your chef to host a cooking class, or your sommelier to review local wines, or your spa therapist to demonstrate a home-style beauty treatment.
Tactic #2: Focus on value, not discounts
The Global Financial Crisis taught us that substantial rate discounts deliver short-term sales but in the long-term, they inhibit growth, as it can take years to rebuild an average daily room (ADR) rate.
Great value costs less than a discount
Instead of discounting, get creative about the many ways you can add value to delight guests. It is often surprisingly inexpensive to make guests feel appreciated – it might be a 30-minute spa voucher, a free aperitif before dinner, or a welcome cocktail on arrival. Be generous with your facilities, and if you have low occupancy, surprise guests with complimentary upgrades – they’ll give you plenty of marketing mileage and help sell your premium experiences to future guests.
Past guests are the best ambassadors
Your past, happy clients are allies. Keep them updated via email, treating them like friends who care and want to know when you’ll reopen. You might also survey them to find out what features, promotions and extras they valued most, or invite them to review you online. Authentic guest reviews are among the most persuasive – and free – ways to persuade future guests to choose you over your competitors.
Customer satisfaction and service are always important, and even more so as people emerge from the stress of the pandemic. The hotels, venues and restaurants that have a reputation for taking especially good care of their guests, will reap the rewards.
Tactic #3: Digital marketing delivers
It’s the best value advertising
If you can afford any advertising, maintain your pay-per-click (PPC) brand awareness campaigns on search engines. You’ll help future guests find you online, and support your direct booking strategy. The great thing about PPC is in the name: you only pay per click; so you can focus a very limited budget on the highest converting keywords, and keep your brand alive in relevant searches.
Balance direct margins with trade visibility
A healthy mix of direct bookings and trade distribution can help you recover faster. Direct bookings maximise your margins, while trade distribution maximises your visibility. Communicate any Book Direct perks clearly across your channels, and implement remarketing on your website to re-engage guests who abandon a booking form or search for specific dates – these are strong buying signals and worth following up.
We’re in this crisis together
Your suppliers are in this crisis with you and most of us will do whatever we can to help you recover and thrive again. Now is the time to book extra training, trial new tools and investigate additional distribution platforms. Most vendors, like Wetu, are offering incredibly good value for money right now, making it the ideal time to streamline your business processes, systems and tools.
The journey out of COVID and into recovery is going to take stamina, resilience and the mindset of a marathon runner.
We don’t know what the new normal will look like, except that travel won’t be exactly as it was before the pandemic. Future travellers will have new needs and preferences, and our industry’s ability to anticipate and respond to these changes will make a big difference to the pace of recovery.
We love this marathon runners’ motivational saying: When you can’t run with your legs anymore, run with your heart.
*Source: Google’s COVID-19 Map