How To Welcome Post-Pandemic Travelers Back Into Hotels

By Robert Rauch

The venerable hotel industry has been completely overturned during the past 15 months. We will have to create a very different strategy to outperform the competition this summer. What are the dynamics of hospitality industry competition today and how can we put together a winning plan in time for the Summer of 2021?

Today, a digital marketing strategy is an industry imperative and critical business solution in this digital age. Platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow hotels and restaurants to engage guests and offer a highly personalized level of customer service than before. These social media profiles are a key element that impacts organic search rankings for our business. Adding in great sales strategies that include hybrid meetings and “Zoom” like calls, public relations action plans and digital promotions that are impactful and measurable will help solidify our marketing efforts.

The Post-Pandemic Traveler

We’ve seen a quantum shift from hospitality as an art to hospitality as a science with the advent of digital marketing and now, we have the post-pandemic traveler. In the hospitality industry, knowing our guests’ demographics and spending habits can help us formulate marketing strategies and optimize profits. This information can be organized and integrated in databases that can then be tapped to guide marketing decisions that can assist in building predictive customer-behavior models that aid in decision making. It has been perfected for our industry by Kalibri Labs or you may mine the data in-house. So, what does today’s customer want?

Sustainability is often overlooked because it is such a broad term. Simply, it means, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the future.” It can be a differentiator. The customer of this past year wanted a great rate to get away. But the discerning customers that will come this summer want to know that we care about the environment, treat our guests with respect and are easy to find. Knowing a customer and providing “wow” customer service earns us loyal customers and creates customer equity. This is even more important now that guests have returned to travel and may or may not have returned to their former hotel of choice.

The 6-Step Shortcut to Success

This can be implemented in one week if carefully orchestrated:

1. There are fewer employees willing to work in our industry now and we must update our personnel policies and orientation checklist and ensure compliance with our laws. Establishing training protocols, labor forecasting and scheduling systems are helpful. A good training program is paramount and includes the Four Step Method – preparing the worker by explaining the tasks, showing them how to do those tasks, allowing the worker to demonstrate understanding of the tasks and then providing feedback.

2. A Maintenance Checklist contains a comprehensive list that identifies each fixture, piece of furniture and equipment in the guest room. Twenty-five percent of the rooms should be inspected for necessary repairs each month of the year – this ensures that every room will be completely checked three times a year. If used in conjunction with a “deep-cleaning” program, every room should be maintained in near-perfect condition.

3. Atmosphere in the food and beverage area must be checked daily for lighting, background music, cleanliness, and service staff experience. Menu design for appearance and profit, purchasing systems to ensure quality, and cost control and pictures of food items and recipes for kitchen team members are all critical. Keeping all transactions contactless is the preferred way now.

4. Sanitation is perhaps the biggest concern of travelers today. Using disinfecting cleaning supplies coupled with diligence and training will keep our public spaces clean for the front and back of the house. When a guest walks into our hotels this summer, they will be pleased to see some of the benefits of the pandemic like impeccably clean lobbies and guest rooms yet no signs that say “guests must wear a mask.”

5. A great website that appears just as well on mobile devices, coupled with a social media platform presence will keep us on top of today’s digital nomad as well as those families who have not seen each other in over a year.

6. Revenue Management success will come from abandoning any reliance on artificial intelligence. These revenue management systems rely on history. What kind of history might we possibly have? On again, off again travel restrictions, no business travel, no group business – go with your gut now that corporate business has been replaced with leisure! Raise those rates to meet pent up demand and if your revenue manager says something that doesn’t make sense, question it!

Let’s get our PPP loans forgiven, earn some tax credits and manage cash for profits instead of survival – to a phenomenal summer, one that will give us a shot in the arm that we will enjoy rather than a shot that protects us from a virus!

*This article was first published on Hotel News Now in June 2021