By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
The hospitality world will reopen, but it will do so in a staggered manner. This means that once dates are given by governmental authorities, properties will all be scrambling for revenue from customers who now have a markedly different set of demands for their hotel experiences.
So, while many are expecting a surge in bookings upon the announcement of a reopening, the competition will still be there, and you will nevertheless need ways to differentiate your hotel. One thought to help spur more initial reservations is the creation of the welcome back package that is bespoke to what your property does best. This is one that is specific to your area and what experience you can offer while also abiding to what guests are looking for in the new normal.
Top of mind will be heightened cleanliness, social distancing and facilitating more of a contactless environment. All of which will require codifying new procedures, retraining staff and deploying new technologies to enable these changes with a lean team. Significantly, the upgrades that you make in this regard can be used as marketing tools to keep your loyalty base engaged during the lockdown and to reassure anxious travelers.
Next to consider is that domestic markets will be the predominant fuel for both transient and group revenues during the first part of the recovery, so this is where your attentions must be. As a ray of hope for positioning to nearby drive markets, gas prices are so incredibly depressed at the moment, which will further incentivize travelers to take longer trips to ‘rubber tire accessible’ accommodations in addition to the key motivator of avoiding airports.
Last but certainly not least of the essential factors for the post-pandemic consumer will be value. While the number of guests who want to travel after the restrictions are lifted is already enormous, having the means to do so is a whole other thing, especially considering how many of us have been laid off, furloughed or forced to take a pay cut. If this turns out to be a true depression as many have prognosticated, travelers of all demographics will be looking to get more with less.
With these motivations in mind, here are some features and messaging tools to consider for any promotion you run this summer or fall to draw that initial group of guests back to your hotel:
- New guestroom cleaning protocols where talking about the details matters, including new chemicals used, PPE requirements, regular deep cleans or conforming to any new certifications
- New food handling and catering sanitization procedures in the kitchen as well as how you may be encouraging social distancing by providing only private in-room dining for all meals
- New contactless technology solutions like mobile check-in, guest messaging platforms, digital payment gateways, online ordering or concierge systems or offsite hotel call centers to field requests and reservations without clustering more people into the front office
- Discounts, deals and value-filled bundles will all resonate, with complimentary inclusions being breakfasts in bed, snacks, drinks evening meals, parking or other onsite services
- Hyping up the seclusion factor by talking about your property as small, boutique, romantic, off the beaten path, having remote cabins available and having spaced out bookings by not assigning guests to rooms next to each other or allowing for a few days to pass before reassigning a room
An example of a welcome back staycation package might therefore be a bed and breakfast package that is offered at the same price as BAR (and advertised as such) while also including one free snack per day from a limited selection delivered to the room, all while touting the improved cleanliness and sanitization practices undertaken by both housekeeping and foodservice.
All together, these points encompass a wide range of activities for your operations and marketing teams to complete, so it really depends on what the demands are for your local market. Once you have resolved what your initial relaunch positioning will be and what initiatives you will take to support this debut, it will then come down to how you market your package in a simple, enticing way.
This is the other half of the battle so that you can stand out from the pack. I caution, though, that to do so you must have most of the operational changes already implemented, thereby requiring you to get to work now in order to be fully ready for when guests want to start booking again.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.