Digital marketing strategies for hotels during COVID-19: how to stay afloat and get ahead
We’re in unprecedented times. The news around COVID-19 is constantly changing. But it is important that we keep calm, and act rationally and responsibly both in our personal lives and as companies trying to navigate these uncharted waters.
The travel industry has been hit especially hard by this pandemic. These are trying times for hoteliers, but it’s important to remember: we will get through this. And after social distancing and quarantines, the travel industry will rebound, it always does.
It is not business as usual, but there are still many things that hotels can do now to set themselves up for a speedy recovery, even if you’re working with a scaled back team. What’s more, it may also be worth looking into governmental relief for your business or employees to get you through the worst of it.
Above all else, remember that acting rashly in the name of short term gains will impact customer experience and revenue in the long term. Take this time to reevaluate and refocus on your existing customer base and marketing strategies.
To help you through these times we’ve compiled seven tips to help you maintain your competitive edge and to pave the way for a strong rebound.
- Make your messaging related to Covid-19 clear, concise, and consistent.
Your digital presence (vanity website, brand website, and social media) must have clear, reassuring information for any potential guests. Clearly and concisely convey everything you’re doing to maintain the health and safety of your guests and staff. Outline all of the precautionary measures your property is taking.
Create a consistent strategy and talking points both for your website and for your team when communicating with clients and partners. Some strategies to getting your message out there:
- Create Covid-19 FAQ page – here’s how
- Set up an email newsletter and ask guests to subscribe on your website, so you can share current information and market future promotions
- Utilize Google My Business’ “Post” feature on your business listing, which will show up in relevant queries for 2 weeks
If you are helping respond to the crisis in your area, promote your commitment to social responsibility on your vanity website and social media.
- Create flexible cancellation policies and promotion opportunities.
People are sitting at home dreaming of the day that this will be over, the day they can travel again. Bookings are still being made for late summer and through the fall. Hotels that have clear cancellation policies and promotional opportunities are the ones that will be able to win these bookings.
Promote the opportunity to return and stay at your hotel in the future. Offer guests a credit for a future stay, or create a welcome-back package. These are just some of examples you can adopt to give travelers confidence to book future travel plans.
To help field any questions, make sure your cancellation policies are clearly stated on the policy page of your website. If you have changed your cancellation policies around certain dates, make sure that information is linked on your homepage.
- Avoid slashing public rates.
It takes a long time to build up ADR, and a dramatic rate reduction may get you short-term bookings but will have negative long-term consequences. Research from previous economic downturns shows that dramatically cutting your prices now can take years to recover from.
Instead of cutting your public rates, look for ways that you can add value for a guest. There are limitless possibilities for what you can offer to add value. You would be surprised how far a welcome drink, spa voucher or food and beverage voucher will go in influencing a potential guest to book with you.
Cutting your rates should be the last course of action you take only after you’ve exhausted other options to maintain bookings.
- Focus on your existing customer base.
As mentioned previously: you need to be clear and consistent in your messaging, especially with your hard-earned loyal customer base. Proactively reach out to share information with key accounts, and keep lines of communication open.
Your customer base is excited to start traveling again. Bookings for fall and winter 2020 are still being made, consider using this time to plan an e-mail campaign that’s focused on how excited you are to see them again soon.
Customer satisfaction and service are as important—if not more—than ever. If you need to cut costs, make sure that the guest experience is not impacted.
- Maintain guest services and experience.
It goes hand in hand with focusing on your customer base: guest experience is always the priority. Bad guest experiences are hard to recover from, even if it’s a cancelling guest who wasn’t able to ever check-in.
If your properties are still operational, it is essential that the guest experience is minimally impacted. For properties that are temporarily closed, remember that the guest experience still starts online. Leverage your vanity website and social media pages to keep your property top of mind and provide travelers with up to date information about your property.
- Maintain your PPC investment.
Paid advertising, specifically pay-per-click (PPC) ads on search engines, is essential for hotels to maintain. Focusing on a direct booking strategy, boosted by paid advertising, promotes the booking path with the highest profit margin.
PPC is the best advertising avenue to pursue in the face of an economic slowdown because you’re only paying for clicks that appear in relevant searches. OTAs will continue bidding on your brand keywords throughout this downturn. Continuing your PPC campaign lets you hit the ground running when travel picks back up. If necessary, switch to a lower ad budget or focus on your highest converting keywords but keep PPC campaigns running.
Leonardo runs PPC campaigns for hotels, and our focus is on targeted campaigns with high ROI. Normally we help customers reach brand-new audiences with search ad campaigns. Right now, we recommend focusing on brand protection and remarketing.
- Rely on your partners.
Your vendors are here to help. Leonardo provides digital marketing solutions and services for hotels. Our #1 priority during this time is helping our customers weather the storm. We’re committed to providing the same high level of service. If you’re a Leonardo customer, reach out to your Account Manager about tips and tricks for weathering the storm or any questions you may have during this time.
Stay safe, the Leonardo Team.
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.