Travel and hospitality brands have faced one of the biggest challenges yet: 2020. After years of growth, fueled by influencers and social media, the travel industry has taken a significant hit. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. Now, more than ever is a time to pivot, listen to new ideas, and take action. Your marketing efforts could make all the difference in the challenges ahead, so best explore your options and gather new ideas. Whether you’re ready to boost your business back up, or you already want to prepare for the grand opening, here are 7 ways to prepare hospitality brands for the rebound in travel demand.
1. Switch Your Focus To Staycationers
Domestic travel, and road trips, are appearing to make a small comeback as border restrictions remain uncertain. The increase in mobility within countries gives a glimmer of hope to hospitality brands. That is if you are able to focus on the staycationers. A staycation is nothing more than a fancy word for a holiday or trip relatively close to home, in your home country. Compared to last year, Google searches for ‘’staycation’’ have increased by a whopping 45%. There’s a trend you want to jump on.
Take a second look at your social media and search engine campaigns, and narrow your geo-filters down to a smaller area. Make sure you are not wasting advertising budget on groups who are not able to come to you. Instead, relocate that money into efforts to reach those who are close by. This could also mean a switch to more offline, local promotions. You can also get a campaign going in which you encourage people to share their past vacation experiences and tag you. You can then repost this user-generated content (UGC) which is a great way to get people to reminisce and drive traffic to your site.
Brookfield Properties created this #DineDelightDonate campaign which encouraged their visitors to share photos of their previous dining experiences at any of their restaurants. For every photo shared, the brand donated $10 to fight hunger during COVID-19. This was a great way to keep their customers engaged as well as do some good.
2. Create Upsell Opportunities with Current Guests
Look beyond getting in as many bookings as you can. There might be a little something to squeeze out of a single booking, with little effort. Revenue management is all about getting as much of this value as you can. Every guest has a maximum value, so find out what they need and want to reach that lucky number. If up- or cross-selling maybe wasn’t that important to you previously, it could now make all the difference. From upgrades to small extras or fun experiences: put yourself in the shoes of your visitors and see what they are getting from other businesses during their stay. Now, if it fits your business, explore what would be profitable enough for you to take over.
Keep in mind that whatever it is you’re upselling should add to the experience of your guests, and should be in line with what you’re offering. Your front desk staff shouldn’t need to give random sale pitches, but rather naturally offer your guests opportunities as something extra. In the time of COVID, people looking to go on vacation want to know that where they choose to stay is properly following sanitation guidelines. Taking to social media to show the “behind the scenes” of your sanitation process can help put potential travelers at ease and more willing to book with you.Especially when focusing on more local target groups, it can also pay off to look at other ways to use your property. Turn your dining room into a coworking space during working hours to fill up space that usually wouldn’t make any money from 9 to 5. And those who come to work can be all the word of mouth you need for your next booking.
3. Secure Bookings For The Future
From loyal guests to locals who were always curious: even if you can't welcome them now, that doesn't mean you can't sell to them. From restaurants to hotels, many businesses have asked for support by selling vouchers for future reservations and bookings. It’s an easy way to support your local hospitality brands, and everyone wins. This also works for travelers who want to book early to ensure that there will be enough spacing to make them feel comfortable. If you are in a position to do this, set out campaigns with vouchers for the future. Make sure the offers have a time limit and are attractive enough — people have more than enough time to do their research now - and set up flexible conditions to lure them in. Carnival Cruise Lines created their #WeWillBeBack campaign as a way to maintain an online presence with guests, and even with their own employees, while the pandemic put a hold on their business. Although customers aren’t likely to go on a cruise today, remaining top of mind with campaigns like these can help Carnival increase bookings for future dates.
4. Partner Up With Other Local Businesses
If you looked into upselling, but there’s not much more you can add to your services or products now, try partnering up with other local businesses. It might not directly give you extra revenue, but the fact that you are offering package deals, making things easier for your customers, could lead to more customers in the long run. From tours, spa’s, massages, and restaurants — or even discounts with stores. COVID-19 has made planning a trip harder than it’s ever been, and guests want to have a clear overview of what’s possible and not. By offering package deals with local partners, you add value to their stay by simply taking away the busywork of finding what’s open and not. You can then advertise those deals in campaigns on social media to get the most exposure.
The Laurel Highlands Travel Bureau is a great example of a hospitality brand that has successfully done this, even prior to COVID-19. As the travel bureau for a 3,000 square mile location spanning across multiple counties, the team had to be able to pinpoint UGC by each local business to represent the diverse businesses within Laurel Highlands. With Pixlee, the Laurel Highlands team was able to get the granularity needed to scale and keep their visitors in the loop.
5. Make Booking Easy-Peasy
If even pre-pandemic you noticed that not as many of your website visitors turned into actual hotel visitors, the issue might be with your website. To save costs and make sure you stay on top of sales, use a vacation rental channel manager. It will help you provide accurate, real-time availability to every distribution agent that you use. With the right tool, you make sure no empty room is unaccounted for. Meanwhile, you also prevent any disappointments or miscommunications with potential guests.
As for your own website: make bookings through here as easy as you can, too. A slow and hard-to-use website will kill the holiday and is the easiest way to lead your potential guests to the competition. Make sure your website is well-designed, friendly — to humans and mobile phones, and works fast.
6. Deliver An Experience, Starting Online
‘’Just like home’’ might not be the experience people are looking for after spending months in their own house. While that sentence might have worked in the past, it might be time to revisit the copy of your website. And hey, when’s the last time you uploaded new pictures?If there was ever a time to stand out from the crowd, it is now. If someone has come as far as your website, you are so close to closing a deal. Don't think that in these times, your style won't be a deciding factor.
If anything, people are looking for an experience now more than ever. So start with that on your website and social media channels. Things that can really help drive sales include:
Make sure everything is up to date — there’s no real excuse for not having updated info now.
Use content such as blogs, FAQs, or even vlogs to answer your guests' questions in a personal and friendly way.
Vamp up your copy: how converting and conversational is it, really?
Give tips about local events and sights.
Humanize your business by showing the faces and telling the stories of your team.
Partner up with influencers to show off your brand to a larger crowd.
Add user-generated content or reviews to your website and social media. People want to hear about experiences from others.
Airbnb is one brand that has been an exemplar in creating really great at-home content with their Airbnb Experiences portion of their site. They have brought together a wide variety of field experts from across many different fields to teach classes and lead experiences. From cooking classes to magic shows, and everything in between, Airbnb Experiences has helped people make the most of their time stuck at home.
7. Keep Loyal Visitors In The Loop
They will need the least amount of convincing once travel is allowed again: those who have been coming to you regularly and have been longing for a good old stay with you — like back before anything ever happened. Stay top of mind and make sure you are their first choice when travel restrictions are lifted with regular and valuable newsletters and social media updates. We’re all ready for more precedented times. While possibilities for travel are slowly coming back again, we can’t wait to see what the hospitality industry, one of the most rapidly changing industries in the world, will have in store for us.