Hotel Marketing During COVID-19: A Direct Booking Content Strategy

Analysis of previous post-recession recovery strategies demonstrates that hotels and brands that focused on a marketing approach – instead of cost or rate cutting – rebounded better and faster. At this moment, in the heart of the global crisis, we understand that it is hard to come up with a marketing strategy. That’s what we’re here for.

The first step to that strategy is a communications plan with multiple channels to directly communicate with past guests, local markets, and key stakeholders. Information will need to be shared widely, quickly, and in as many formats as possible. That strategy could include e-blasts via email, updating social channels, or posting notices on your website homepage. To get started, read our communications strategy guide.

Once you have a basic communications strategy in place, your next focus should be on revamping digital marketing content that sets you up for a strong rebound. The marketing efforts you put in place now will keep you from having to slash rates to get ahead when travelers inevitably hit the road again. Your first focus: direct booking channels.

Site content and SEO

Now is the time to take a look at your websites and revamp where necessary. Website content should be fresh and up-to-date. If it has been a few years since any of your properties updated their sites, it is time for a fresh SEO analysis. A well-executed SEO strategy can capture more travelers who are still in the early planning stages.

At this point, many of your future potential guests will be in the early “dreaming” phase of travel planning. On-site content should be powered by an SEO strategy that captures their attention. One strategy to capture that audience is to optimize your site for queries related to things to do in your area, while emphasizing proximity to those attractions. If your hotels already have a page on this topic, audit it now to make sure it’s fresh and relevant.

A page dedicated to area attractions on Columbia Cliff Villas’ website

For more tips and tricks, our partners Bookassist, have compiled a resource on prepare for post-COVID 19 recovery with SEO.

Offers and Value Add-ons

Site-exclusive offers are a key way generate direct bookings regardless of the economic climate. Tailor your offer strategy across properties to the current crisis, knowing that booking behavior will fundamentally shift in the immediate aftermath. That means promotions that target the farther future, backed by a no-fear cancellation policy and marketing copy that promotes an optimistic future when travelers get to stay with you.

Singapore-based revenue management expert Sherri Kimes points to the recovery strategy favored in the Asia-Pacific market: value add-ons. Rather than cutting rates, the brand strategy is to generate revenue while neither slashing nor increasing rates.

Promote value add-ons both on your site, and through your booking engine integration. Much like the retail strategy of placing gum and smaller impulse purchases by the cash, your booking engine should market add-ons as an easy way to improve their stay with you. Some examples:

  • Airport pick up
  • Free or discounted breakfast
  • Welcome packages
  • Local guides or location-specific tours
  • Voucher for a discounted future stay

Studies from previous market downturns shows that following a recession, the booking window gets shorter. Capitalize on this with advance booking promos, rewarding guests who book earlier than that window.

Similarly, given the current climate, travelers will be less likely to want to lock in a booking. A marketing campaign around risk-free bookings for future getaways will capitalize on people’s desire to getaway now, with a booking for a safer date in the future.

As the window of uncertainty shifts, your cancellation strategy should to. Proactively reach out to guests who may be at risk of cancelling and provide incentive to postpone rather than cancelling. The offer can be as simple as transferring service fees to a new date, or something more enticing like a “welcome back” drink.

E-mail marketing

Now is the time to market to your existing database of guests and key accounts. As you won’t be able to send this campaign in the immediate future, it’s a good time to revisit your existing database and plan a promotional email campaign. First up, create a sign up form for updates on your website. This will make it easier to communicate with guests, and add to future marketing leads.

Avoid sending out e-mails without anything to offer guests. Unless they have a current booking with you, your loyal guests don’t need another email in their inbox about your commitment to guests during COVID-19.

Instead, create an email campaign tied to your offer strategy. Promote those future, no-risk bookings with a direct email campaign targeting past guests. Given the nature of the current crisis, the “right” timing will be different in every market. Time this campaign when your potential guests are no longer in the early crunch of self-isolation, but are ready to think about the future.

COVID-19 Content Strategy Checklist

Most hotels have, by now, updated their guests on their immediate status and policies. The question is: what’s next? Here’s an overview of the content you should be working on to promote direct bookings and to keep your hotel top of mind:

  • Future-focused offers
  • Risk-free bookings
  • Value add-ons to boost revenue from those bookings
  • Top of funnel SEO content to attract vacation planners
  • Email campaigns targeting loyal guests

There are glimmers of hope on the horizon, as travel searches begin to pick up for the later half of 2020. Capture some of that hope by using more of our COVID-19 hotel marketing tips and tricks.

Hotel Marketing Strategies to Recover from COVID-19
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