By Margaret Mastrogiacomo
As we navigate unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has put travel on pause. While everyone is social distancing, people continue to stay connected online through social media, FaceTime, video conferencing, and email. People are searching for an escape and for quality content to lessen their stress and enhance the quality of time at home. In light of this, many hotels can continue creating valuable and entertaining content across channels to stay connected with guests.
If any marketing remains live at this time, the focus should be on brand awareness, with tasteful messaging that drives traffic to valuable content. If your hotel wishes to keep any promotions live, they should be focused on advance purchases for future stay dates, with a flexible cancellation policy.
From SEO to CRM and Design, here are the top 5 considerations for your digital strategy during the time of COVID-19.
1. SEO: Create FAQ pages, update local listings, and ensure healthy SEO for your website.
SEO can be one of your most valuable assets during the pandemic. With fewer travel brands investing in marketing, there is opportunity for more visibility within organic search. During this uncertain time, consider creating a FAQ page to increase visibility in Google Quick Answers. Questions and answers can center around the top questions regarding your hotel during COVID-19, such as measures taken on property in line with the CDC, hotel reopening dates if the hotel has been closed, and other top concerns.
If your hotel has closed, be sure to create optimized content around the hotel’s reopening, as well as rich destination content, as many people are daydreaming about future trips once the pandemic subsides.
Hoteliers should also update all local listings to ensure they reflect current hours or closures. Update special hours by day (to show closed) or temporarily closed for the time being. For restaurants/bars, update the description and create a post to clearly announce if it is closed or open only for take out and/or delivery.
Finally, continue ongoing SEO maintenance to ensure that the website is properly crawled and indexed to maintain visibility and rankings.
2. SEM/Metasearch: Focus on covering branded and destination search terms with sensitive messaging, and consider maintaining a presence on metasearch.
Due to lack of competition, CPCs are very low. If you still have SEM budget to spend over the next month or so, ensure your hotel brand has sensitive messaging. Bold promotions, offers, and strong call-to-actions can seem insensitive to people at this time. Keep your SEM ad copy focused on general brand awareness, driving traffic to content that adds value for people at this time.
Metasearch also remains a critical piece in the search ecosystem, with global cost-per-click rates on hotel metasearch platforms currently averaging lower than $1 for the first time in years. This means that if budget allows, hotel brands can still participate in metasearch platforms at lower rates and can still collect valuable data while driving traffic and engagement to the hotel website.
3. Social Media: Stay connected to guests with destination content and activities guests can do at home.
Time spent on social media has significantly increased since people around the world were asked to stay at home, and people are eager for content that offers a little escape from the current situation. While your hotel may or may not be open for business, this is the perfect time to stay connected and provide past guests with valuable content and entertainment while they are at home. Here are some social media content ideas:
- Share first-person-perspective photos of destination: Consider sharing first-person–perspective photos of your destination and ask past guests to comment with their favorite activity in your destination.
- Ask past guests to share photos from their stay: Ask past guests to share photos of a past stay and trip to your destination by using a dedicated hashtag, so people can share their travel memories with your hotel.
- Share recipes from your restaurant’s Chef: Many people are cooking at home, and there’s no better way to spice things up than by cooking a recipe from your hotel restaurant’s Chef. Get creative and share a complimentary cocktail recipe or wine recommendation that is perfectly paired with the dish.
- Share at-home spa treatments from your on-site spa: Help people escape and indulge with at-home spa tips from your on–site spa.
- Share at-home workout or activity classes: If your hotel offers group activities or fitness classes, share workout or instructional videos guests can use to stay active at home.
- Create a kid-friendly scavenger hunt: If your hotel has a large family segment, create printable cards for iconic landmarks in your destination, which parents can print, cut out, and hide to create a scavenger hunt. You can post the printable cards in a scavenger hunt blog post and share on social media and email.
- Create destination-themed coloring pages: Share a coloring page of the destination that people can print for their children to color. You can post the coloring pages in a blog post and share on social media and email.
4. CRM: Send an email to people who have cancelled reservations with an option to rebook a future stay, and stay connected with your loyalty members.
Create an email list for leisure travelers, business travelers, and group travelers who have cancelled reservations. When the COVID-19 situation begins to improve, send an email prompting these guests to rebook with added value, perks, or a complimentary welcome amenity.
It’s also important to stay connected with your loyalty members during this time. Consider partnering with a relevant cause or charity and send an email to loyalty members prompting them to donate in exchange for hotel perks and rewards that can be used toward a future stay. Now more than ever, supporting charities is critical around the world.
5. Design: Get creative with your digital assets to promote social distancing and solidarity around the world.
Many brands are getting creative with their branding and logos to reflect the current times and help rally people to stay at home for the greater good. NextGuest recently created an animated version of its logo to promote social distancing and remind people that keeping our distance now will allow us to travel together in the future. Your hotel should brainstorm creative ways to adjust your branding to encourage people to social distance and find hope in these stressful times.