It is in the best interest of the establishment to abide by the government guidelines on reopening businesses to protect the staff as well as guests including communicating in the new normal ways such as contactless check-in, health and safety protocols and cashless payments.The hotel industry has been one of the most affected sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike other businesses that can operate remotely, hotels highly depend on their guests’ physical presence. Successful vaccination programs have enabled international travel to restart in many countries and the travelers are dusting off their passports to enjoy long awaited holidays.
Despite the go-ahead to resume operations, most hotels struggle to reopen and stay open, mainly due to the low demand and high competition. The good news is, beyond standard marketing techniques, there are several winning strategies and action plans that hoteliers can implement to restart successfully and stay ahead of the competition.
The key question for the hoteliers to ask is what are the new normal needs and expectations of the guests?
Findings of recent surveys suggest most travelers are seeking resumption to normality in their hotel experiences preferring accommodation with lots of open space and easy access to outdoors and are less likely to spend more time relaxing in the room now compared with before the pandemic.
There was little variation in opinion by age, which suggests universal interest in more space and better access to the outdoors. Frequent business travelers placed greater emphasis with more than 60% expecting an improved wi-fi service. Survey findings so far suggest travelers expect to get back to enjoying and experiencing hospitality in the same ways as before COVID-19 but with a new normal approach.
Let’s not forget the fact that the virus is still spreading with new variants popping up every now and then, and any mistake or carelessness can cause its spread. It is in the best interest of the establishment to abide by the government guidelines on reopening businesses to protect the staff as well as guests. Implementing safety measures like social distancing and cashless transactions goes a long way with keeping everyone safe.
Social distancing is critical in the hotel business and to implement these protocols, the right tools such as wall and floor signs, access controls, contactless temperature checks, phone apps, wearable devices, etc are needed. All protocols should be displayed in public places and guestrooms to make the guests aware of the critical steps to follow for enhancing health and safety.
The pandemic has changed many things and the hotels need to come up with innovative ways of attracting guests. The critical factor is how to find new markets and ensure business continuity to stay above the competition.
Here are some strategies that can be easily implemented.
Begin with an updated marketing and communication Plan. The strategies that you decide to implement need to be adapted to meet the changing needs of your guests. Potential guests will have a lot of questions, and the easiest way to solve these doubts is by updating the FAQ page in your website and social media answering questions about safety protocols, cancellation policy, hygiene practices, and anything that will give the guests a sense of security.
Target the right guests and the right markets. It makes little sense to target business travelers if it is a resort for leisure travellers and vice versa.
Reach out to the regular guests and let them know that you are back in business. Revive the already existing rapport offering them thoughtful discounts and special offers. It’s much easier to attract repeat guests who have already stayed with you and know what to expect rather than new customers. When you contact them, make sure to communicate your health and safety measures, special offers and discounts for advanced purchases. If you already have a loyalty program in place, offer them special benefits like free cancellation, free changes and even an upgrade to thank them for being loyal customers. Make them feel special so they will want to come back and stay with you especially if they haven’t traveled since Covid-19 hit.
Develop a new communication strategy creating attractive posts on your website and social media including entertainments and value-added services to entice new guests. Make sure to create new content that establishes a sense of security and makes guests feel like you have their utmost safety in mind.
Be sure to have the up to date technology available such as contactless check-in, online bookings, and mobile Apps to lure the tech-savvy new normal travelers. A good PMS (Property Management System) plays a critical role in enhancing day-to-day hotel operational activities like online bookings, contactless check ins/check outs, digital registration, passport scanners and more.
Update your website and online presence such as Google My Business, Facebook, and Instagram pages. Revive your social media campaigns and create posts that resonate with the target markets. While at it, be sure to communicate the new normal ways of your hotel doing business such as contactless check-in, health and safety protocols and cashless payments.
When properly strategized, these campaigns can be cost-effective, measurable solutions for marketing your hotel business to optimize ROI. Reduce Expenses. There are so many fixed costs associated with hotels, thus it pays to consider cost cutting strategies in all operational areas. Try to negotiate new contracts, payment terms, and other deals with providers and suppliers. Pay attention to human resources; make sure your employees are multi-skilled and multi-functional so they can easily be moved around departments minimizing labour cost.
Strategies to maximize revenue.
You may need to lower room rates and offer discounts and promotions to attract more guests. But consider offering packages including extra services to encourage guests to stay longer. Packages are a great way to make your rates look more attractive grouped together with additional services. Most importantly, keep monitoring and optimizing your performance in order to offer the right rates at the right time on the right channels with the help of a revenue management tool.
To sum up, key success factors are about having the correct health and safety protocols, focusing on marketing strategies, developing new strategies to attract new guests and implementing practical revenue management.
No one said reopening a hotel post-pandemic was going to be an easy task, but with a good strategy and an effective action plan in place, you can set yourself up for success. Remember, you are not alone in this, there is help at hand and experienced professionals are available who can help if you need assistance.
Ranjith Chandrasiri is a veteran hotelier, food and wine connoisseur, multilinguist with a wealth of knowledge and international hotel management experience in luxury hotels and iconic brands including InterContinental Hotels Group in Europe, Australia, Cambodia, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
He is the Chairman of Sirius Hospitality Consulting in Thailand, former Group General Manager of Jetwing Hotels Group, Sri Lanka and Royal Cliff Hotels Group, Thailand, Founder/President of Royal Cliff Wine Club and deVine Wine Club, Bailli Honoraire (Honorary President) of Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, Pattaya, Thailand.