While these unprecedented times have left us all speechless and uncertain about its termination, it has definitely sent the hospitality industry reeling. With hotel occupancies and tourist arrivals dropping to an extent unimaginable and with the increasing demand for cancellations, there is no denying the fact that it’s a big blow to the economy on the whole. With several hotels forced to shut their doors to the clients compelled by the lockdown and with the hotel business being tethered to cancellations and loss of demand, it is still difficult to predict when things will get back to normal. However, all hope is not lost as hotels can prepare for a strong comeback post COVID-19. It has been opined that the hotel industry might take 6 to 9 months to recover fully.
Based on the current scenario, it is important for the hoteliers to look for the ways in which they can keep their business stable from this downtime by focusing on business growth and making certain strategic changes in the current plan so as to prove right the notion that the hotel industry will bounce back after COVID-19. These strategies will go a long way in helping you emerge from the crisis stronger and also in recovering from the losses when things become stable. This, in turn, can aid in rethinking the internal process and in considering the utilization of new technologies, all of which can positively impact the business in the long run.
We spoke to many hoteliers across all over and here are the pertinent themes that emerged out of the discussion on how hotels can prepare for a strong comeback post-crisis:
1. Control Your Expenses Now Keeping the Future in Mind
• Altering the routine: This can be done by altering the staff routine or by calling them in alternate shifts.
• Outsource the services: You can also keep an arrival list handy and outsource your staff service as and when required.
• Use your retail rate as a yardstick for measuring the price and be wary of discounts: Nothing can make up for the loss of the revenue from excessive discounts. It might take the hotel years to recover from that. So do not be too lenient and generous by throwing discounts in the air like confetti.
2. Optimize Your Marketing Efforts And Reach Out Digitally Through Social Media
It is true that marketing can prepare hotels for life after COVID-19. While you manage your cost-effective channels for booking, you can also leverage your marketing and revenue strategy by double-downing on upsells. Here is what you can do to make sure that our hotels can prepare for a strong comeback, once the ordeal is over:
• Create and promote attractive local packages, staycations, and deals: Naturally, with travel bans now and post Corona, people would look for the ways to unwind and destress. While traveling to another country might be a bit out of the league, for the time being, customers might eagerly look forward to staycations and relaxation holidays.
• Focus on the domestic and local market: While foreign tourists seem out of reach for a while, it is important to promote your best deals while dealing with the local customers who have become frustrated with the quarantine and are probably looking for a change from their perfunctory routine. So, stimulate that demand by understanding the local market psychology. Again, leisure travel is likely to pick up compared to the business travel as post-outbreak people will have an irresistible urge to step out. So market your ‘home away from home’ package where people can experience both the leisure and homely comfort.
• Offer upgrades, delights along the way, and much more to avoid cancellations from the upcoming guests: Amidst so much, it is obvious that the guests will be prone to panic. Use your emails and text messaging strategically to reassure your upcoming guests along with a promise to make their stay uber exciting by offering upgrades, in-room relaxation like aromatherapy kit or hot tub spa, etc. at nominal rates.
• Reach out to your existing customer base: There is nothing like promoting loyalty. A word of assurance to your existing or repeat customers can work wonders, especially during such difficult times. Use your social media to make people aware of the steps you have taken to combat this situation and how stable is your business right now despite the outbreak. Guests will remember that and post COVID-19, they will find it easier and comfortable to book with you again.
• Clearly communicate your cleaning procedure to the guests: Use your website, guest messaging, and email to assure the guests that it is safe to stay with you. If possible, upload an authentic video of the housekeeping measures on your hotel website to win the trust of your future guests.
• Promote your ancillary services to current guests: Have an in-hotel restaurant but nobody to relish the food and beverages? Use this ancillary service to generate extra revenue by turning it into a delivery/takeaway service.
• Clear your database and perform a segment analysis:
Also, with a clear database, all information and records come in handy allowing you to announce it to your guests that you are finally open and ready to receive them. Even now, reach out to them by sharing your outbreak stories, focusing on your brand through your text-campaign. It helps focus on the target audience and also aids in keeping a record of the past and repeat customers.
3. Invest In New Technology and Automation to Optimize and Digitalize the Hotel’s Procedures
Adopt new technology and automation. New technologies that can positively impact your business now and in the long run have a strong positive ROI from day one and help save costs and increase business. This will make sure that hotels can prepare for a strong comeback post corona. If this was on your list for long, now is the right time to achieve it. Get your hands on the latest and integrated hotel technology. Some of the examples include Guest Messaging and WebChat.
• Guest Messaging to communicate and provide the right experience: Compensating for the bare-bones staff and service providers, for the time being, guest messaging enables you to connect and interact with your guests at every touchpoint to know their requirements better. Be it pre-arrival, on-arrival, mid-stay, check-out or post-check-out stage, you will be able to engage with your guests effortlessly through the guest messaging feature, whether you want to share corona measures, or share check-in details like WiFi, amenities, etc. This reduces the number of calls the hotel gets to the front desk.
With this feature, you can integrate your PMS and allow guests to request things seamlessly right from the comfort of their rooms. During such times when social distancing has become the oxygen for survival, guest messaging can facilitate impeccable communication by allowing the guests to request right from their rooms with no or bare-minimum contact with anyone at the property.
• WebChat to increase direct bookings: Now is the time to optimize your direct channel. With WebChat, you can convert your site visitors into customers by enabling them to access all the valuable information needed for their travel on the go. Be it about booking related questions, Shuttle, location or COVID-19 measures the hotel is taking, guests can be put at ease from the very start through WebChat. Again, it also enables them to carry the communication forward through phone or text messages. So there’s no need for them to sit in front of their computer the whole day waiting for someone to respond.
4. Focus On Internal Improvements
• Undertake minor renovations or overhaul: Now is the time to invest in undertaking any overhaul or minor renovation that had been on your to-do list for long to ascertain that hotels can prepare for a strong comeback once the crisis has been averted. With distractions out of the way, you can focus on achieving it which will help you set the stage and stand out once you are ready to switch on your lights again for the customers.
Again, think of it this way- when the market picks up, this protection of your online reputation is what will back you up. With an influx in supply, customers will make their decisions based on these reviews mostly. In fact, 91% of bookings are driven by reviews on the OTAs and Google.
• Revamp your website: Give your platform a thought by including the new version of everything, right from the images to the overall design. Updating or revamping your website can never be a wrong decision and now is the right time to do it hassle-free.
• Be flexible when it comes to working with the OTAs and suppliers: The outbreak has impacted everyone. So work closely with your partners during this period and be a bit cooperative with regard to cancellations and refunds as you are going to need them once the business is back on track.
• Lay a strong foundation for direct bookings: While it is highly likely that the third-party suppliers will come running to you post-crisis, do not fall for that trap. Now is the time to lay a strong foundation for direct bookings. In a way, focus on direct business first by providing perks to the guests booking directly with you. Also, be ready with all your marketing assets and social media strategy to be the king in your field.
• Consider shifting bookings to a later date: Things might take a turn in the coming months. While you continue to be flexible with cancellations, try to provide your guests with the option of shifting bookings to a later date too. This might encourage some to come back to you once the travel ban has been lifted.
We spoke to a few hoteliers and this is what a lot of them had been dreading- How to get started after the crisis! From some sources, we could gather a few tips on how hotels can prepare for a strong comeback post COVID:
a. We are running our hotel with bare-minimum staff
b. We are applying for government packages and to work closely with health authorities and emergency-related businesses to provide easy support to corona sufferers post-crisis. This, in turn, will allow us to help people to stay quarantined and to provide shelter to the stranded tourists.
c. We are using our social media to reach out to our guests and encouraging them to take a survey on what they are expecting from us post-crisis.
d. We are also reaching out to business companies asking them their take on the whole crisis and comprehending their own forecast when it comes to re-initiating their travel plans.
e. We are keeping the OTAs and third-party channels in the loop to keep a track of their future policies.
f. We are asking our clients to consider shifting their books to a later date instead of cancellation.
Since the blow is huge, the recovery might take a bit longer. However, there is no denying the fact that once the fog is clear, demand will pick up soon and once again, the travel and hospitality industry will flourish. Hence the hoteliers just need to hold themselves in good stead until the situation subsides. Investing in new technology, leveraging effective marketing and implementing cost control are the primary areas of focus that will make sure once the situation stabilizes, you are sufficiently geared up to compensate for the losses incurred during the crisis.
● Reduce cancellations by assuring pre-arrival guests of steps taken for their safety.
● Inform guests at the check-in about the possible upgrades, upsells, and safety information.
● Allow seamless and safe distance communication through Guest Messaging.
● Encourage to convert visitors into customers through WebChat.
● Help to get reviews seamlessly, consolidate reviews, respond to guests, and boost your rankings online.