Owed to a consumer environment that approaches everything with more caution than ever, it might feel a bit like the Wild West in the world of hotel marketing right now. What kind of content should you be developing? What kind of tone should your content take? How often should you be sending email campaigns to push that content out? While we tackle those specific questions in these previous posts – Blog Post Ideas for Hotels & Travel Brands in Our “New Normal” and Hotel Email Marketing Strategy in Today’s Travel Climate – there are basic essential steps hotels should take asap as the industry as a whole heals from the effects of COVID-19. After all, while your audience may be smaller than usual, there is still an audience out there that is eager to engage with your brand; the key is to make sure you are connecting with them in a way that addresses the current climate. So how do you do that? It all starts with these essential hotel marketing strategies.
Update Your Property Website to Ease Their Concerns
This may seem like a no brainer, but it can’t be understated. Because right now – and probably for the foreseeable future – travelers will have higher concerns for hygiene and cleanliness. This means you need to clearly stress the steps your hotel is taking to address those concerns on your website and other digital platforms (social media, email campaigns, etc.). One of the most common ways hotels (and other businesses alike) are doing that is by dedicating a page on their site to COVID-19 property precautions and updates, including outlining the protocols they are following (and expect guests to follow, too) like hand-sanitizer stations at certain guest touchpoints, signage throughout public spaces on social distancing requirements, and what the arrival experience will be like (temperature check, touchless check-in, etc.).
Some additional food for thought: Team up with hygiene and health groups. For example, Four Seasons is currently collaborating with John Hopkins Medicine International for its Lead with Care campaign, which very visually promotes efforts like the stationing of a hygiene officer on each property, hourly cleaning of public areas, blacklight room inspections, etc. Because implementing creative measures such as these give your guests some post-lockdown peace-of-mind, which will ultimately be critical to your bottom line.
Lastly, you should evaluate your website’s imagery. A few months ago, images of a busy hotel bar or bumping pool scene wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows – in fact, they were desirable, showing that this is the place that everyone wants to be, so why aren’t you here, too? Now, as the very scenes the public is trying to avoid, these images can quickly be a turnoff, so be sure to update your website imagery to show your spacious property, relaxing amenities, and socially-distant experiences. Maybe even consider doing a new shoot or invest in video marketing to give guests a sense of just how great your property is in a time when people want to relax in privacy.
Is Your Website Effectively Capturing Your Unique Brand Experience?
Create Content that Speaks to Your Drive Market
It’s likely that those who will be visiting your property over the next several months will be your drive-market folks – travelers who crave a getaway, but will want to stay closer to home and maybe have less to spend or are trying to budget accordingly. So, as you start to weave in more travel-related content back into your blog or on your website to encourage booking, cater it to best speak to them. For example, road trip–themed stories from the nearest major cities are a great way to demonstrate how close you are, show off all the recently reopened stops and attractions en-route to your property, and inspire what to do once they are in your destination.
Other story ideas might revolve around under-the-radar attractions or businesses to check out in the destination (for example, “10 Destination To-Dos that Even Locals Don’t Know About”), as drive-market visitors may have visited your destination before and been to all the obvious touristy to-dos – just make sure they are actually open. Another idea is highlighting the destination’s top attractions/to-dos that naturally encourage social distancing (like local botanical gardens, outdoor fire pits on-property, or rolling expanses of nature preserves). Think of this as a way to show them why they should come back – and why now is the time.
Don’t Discount Your Product; Think Value Add-Ons
While we all love a great deal, if you are repetitively marketing discounted hotel stays or other deals, it can come off as desperate…not to mention, consumers are thinking twice now about whether or not they want to purchase something, regardless of how steep the discount. Rather, find ways to add little elements of service that won’t have a big impact on your bottom line. For example, free breakfast with a two-night stay, champagne at arrival, or complimentary fitness or yoga session.
It’s also likely that guests will want to spend time with their families and friends, many of whom they’ve been forced to isolate away from throughout this crisis. Consider implementing packages that encourage and reward multi-generational travel, girlfriends’ getaways, etc. Or “de-stressing” programming on-site: yoga sessions, live music in the hotel lobby, meditative treatments, pasta-making classes with the on-site chef, etc.
Sell Your Destination First & Foremost
One thing that will continue to be at the forefront of a consumer’s hotel selection: the destination itself. Even before the pandemic, prospective hotel guests first look – and definitely spend more time studying – a particular destination before they even start to think about where they’re going to stay (see our post 5 Experiential Marketing Examples That Hotels Use to Hook Guests). Now, more than ever, guests who are looking to venture out again are going to be heavily evaluating what’s going on in the destination – what’s open, what’s not, natural social-distancing activities they can do, etc. So the key is to directly demonstrate why your destination is special and the right choice for them right now. While your blog content or activities page is a place to do that, you can also potentially partner with other local businesses – all of whom will also be looking to dig out – to create videos, content, and offers to help attract travelers to your destination.