Smart Hotel Marketing: How Hotels Can Fill Reservations Now

Smart hotel marketing involves focusing on existing demand, offering value, and targeting demand during and after Coronavirus.

If you work for a hotel or hotel marketing company, nobody needs to tell you that the COVID-19 outbreak has seriously impacted your business. During the best of times, hotel marketers operate in an extremely competitive environment. For many locations, customers will simply cross the street to save a few dollars or enjoy an extra perk with their loyalty program. At the same time, some hotels have managed to find some unique opportunities to maximize their bookings with savvy, budget-friendly coronavirus marketing.

Seven Tips for marketing my hotel during and after the coronavirus crisis

It might help to review some of the challenges hotels face right now before considering suggestions for coronavirus marketing. For example, USA Today reported that occupancy rates across the country have dropped to about 20 percent. Compared to the same period last year, the hotel industry has suffered over a 70-percent decline.

On the other hand, some kinds of hotel properties have held on better than others. For instance, budget and suburban hotels have typically not suffered the same drop in bookings. People still need to travel for essential work or urgent personal reasons. In some cases, healthcare professionals have decided to self-quarantine in a hotel to protect their families.

With the current drop in travellers in mind, consider these hotel marketing tips that can help you weather and emerge from the current situation.

1. Pick your marketing battles

Most marketing analysts caution struggling hotels to keep marketing, even if they have to trim budgets. You may even find that it’s easier to compete on paid search and other platforms because other venues have also had to redirect some marketing dollars. Instead of casting a wide net, try to hedge your bets.

As an example, Hospitality Net encouraged hotel marketers to direct ads mostly to domestic and not international audiences. Because of travel bans and discouragement, you may do better by appealing to a domestic and even fairly local audience than you could if you tried to advertise your New York City hotel in Spain.

2. Consider local marketing efforts

As an obvious example, some hotels have restaurants. Even if the dining rooms have closed, curbside pickup and delivery still attract customers. Some upscale restaurants have enjoyed success by packaging up multi-course or family meals for anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays. More modest restaurants have attracted local residents who are tired of their own cooking or businesses that may need lunches picked up for essential workers.

As for coronavirus marketing, some healthcare workers or impacted people may need a room to isolate themselves. This may be the best time to attract these customers by offering generous deals for long-term stays. You might also offer your meeting rooms for people or organizations who need in-person places to gather during the crisis.

3. Beware of too much price competition

Certain, the section above suggested considering offering lower rates for certain kinds of guests. Before that, current statistics appear to suggest that budget hotels have faired the best during this crisis. Still,you can’t lower your rates below a certain point and still expect to profit, so engaging in too much price competition just to fill rooms can lead to an even worse disaster.

Typical industry advice is to offer deals that you would normally offer during a promotion but not better. You may decide to offer long-term rates for certain situations because you can enjoy certain economies by having the same guest stay for several days to several months.

You might also consider some packaging bundles and services that add value but don’t reduce your revenues so much. Some of these ideas make particular sense during the outbreak. For instance:

  • Instead of the typical breakfast buffet, consider offering a free breakfast delivered to the room.
  • Rather than having a late-afternoon happy hour in the lobby, switch it to a room-service cocktail.
  • Offer free coupons or discounts for various closed services that begin on the date when they open again.

4. Consider promoting more flexible cancellation policies

Right now, most of the large hotel chains have updated their cancellation policies to better accomodate guests during the coronavirus crisis. Until June 30, Marriot will let guests make changes or cancellations without charges so long as they do it with 24-hours notice.Hyatt, Hilton, and other large chains have similar new policies in place.

After all, with hotel occupancy rates down, most hotels don’t have concerns about turning away guests because of overbooking, so they probably don’t have so much to lose. These more flexible cancellation policies can help reduce the concerns of customers who may worry about having travel plans disrupted. It can also help encourage people to stay home if they suddenly find themselves sick with the coronavirus, so you can also consider it a safety measure. Even if you plan to resume your typical cancellation policy later, you can also earn some good will by remaining more flexible now.

5. Promote your health and safety measures

These days, it’s common to find travelers searching with terms like “coronavirus safety tips for travelers” or even “coronavirus-safe hotels” on major search engines and social networks. As the outbreak progresses, you have probably already striven to protect your employees and guests through such measures as:

  • Asking guests about possible exposure to COVID-19
  • Providing protective equipment, disenfectant, and additional guidance to cleaning staff, food handlers, desk clerks, and even valet drivers
  • Offer touch-free checkins and checkouts
  • If you allow them, keeping any quarantined guests and even their laundry and belongings away from others

Right now, you might have somewhat more limited ways to broadcast your coronavirus-safety messaging. Google only appears to display organic, authoritative sources for most searches related to coronavirus. Still, you can reassure potential guests by including messages about your safety efforts with your website, emails, social site postings, press releases, and advertisements on all sorts of digital media.

Because of the global pandemic, everybody has become a lot more aware of the way that germs spread. Even after the initial crisis has passed, your guests will probably take a lot more care with their own hygiene and expect, of course, the hospitality industry to do the same thing. The work that you do today to ensure health will help you maintain your reputation during this current situation and for years into the future.

6. Consider creative coronavirus marketing strategies

Sometimes tough times call for bold, decisive moves. As an example, the Washington Post featured one Swiss hotel that’s offering a luxury self-quarantine package to guests. Their package even includes such options as coronavirus testing, doctor visits, and a 24/7 nurse. They also provide delivered meals and optionally, a personal chef. This high-end hotel already catered to wealthier clients, and they charge quite a bit for these additional services. After they promote their offer on Facebook, this bold move has resulted in an increase — not a decrease — in revenues.

7. Keep marketing your hotel

Cornell research during the Great Recession found that hospitality companies that maintained a marketing budget faired almost 20 percent better than those that did not. Examples from all sorts of economic downturns, including the Great Depression, have found strong correlations between marketing spend and performance. At the same time, you may need to cut costs and should carefully consider how you will spend your marketing dollars.

Chetan Patel serves as the vice president of digital marketing and customer retention marketing for the ONYX Hospitality Group. He suggests on inveting in retargeting because it’s usually a more productive way to drive revenue than the top of the funnel. Instead of working so hard on improving demand or brand awareness, target people who already know about your brand and are likely to have a demand.

As part of this, Patel also suggests concentrating on metasearch. Aggregators like Expedia, Orbitz, and already attract high-intent consumers who want to book rooms. These aggregators also participate with such metasearch platforms as Google, Kayak, and TripAdvisor. Hotels can also bid for better advertising placement and in some cases, target this sites for different types of advertisements. If you work with a hotel marketing company or other marketing agency, ensure they can get your hotel displayed on metasearch and fully exploit the opportunity to get seen by customers who are ready to book.

How smart hotel marketing will help you emerge stronger after the coronavirus outbreak

Nobody doubts that hotels and all hospitality companies have to overcome unprecidented challenges during the coronavirus outbreak. Some analysts have warned that as many as half of U.S. hotels may need to close, at least for now. On the other hand, some hotel brands have managed to offer prices, packages, and services that have helped them maintained enough hotel occupancy to hold on and a few have even increased revenues.

As for takeaways, don’t stop marketing, even if you need to tighten the pursestrings somewhat. Focus on targeting potential guests who are likely to need your services by providing value and reassurance and in some cases, creative offerings. After the worst of the crisis has passed, people will resume traveling for business and pleasure. Some may even want to make up for lost opportunities, so you could find your hotel quite busy.

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