By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.hotelmogel.com)
Following reports in early July that travel searches on Airbnb (and also Booking) in many key markets are at a 12-month high, hoteliers would be right to be quite anxious as this represents a definitive marker for booking drivers and perceived value in the post-pandemic hospitality world. Why are guests returning faster to the sharing economy than traditional accommodation providers?
In this great reshuffling of travel motivations following COVID-19, it would appear as though many hotel customers are switching to home sharing platforms for their next leisure stay. Below I present three top reasons behind this conversion, whereby understanding the core behaviors will help you to derive solutions to retain existing customers as well as, hopefully, win over new ones.
The first reason behind the recent search share statistic favoring sharing economy providers is physical distancing. While traditional hotels all over the world should be commended for rapidly setting up new cleaning SOPs to help prevent the transmission of viruses within their walls, this still cannot fully alleviate the fears that people now have of being amongst so many other strangers.
Home sharing platforms, as led by Airbnb, have the advantage in that their listings inherently suggest less human-to-human contact. Hoteliers must fight this perception by becoming staunch impresarios for all the new and improved sanitization protocols that have been implemented. Hotels should also adopt an attitude of ‘cleanliness theater’ whereby it’s not just about these advanced cleaning SOPs but also making a show of it to give guests peace of mind.
That said, cleanliness may not be a prominent driver for many guests ahead of privacy. This is where your CRM and your prearrival communications come into play insofar as discerning what type of customers you are dealing with so that you can adjust services accordingly. Some guests may be looking for more of a laissez faire, furnished apartment experience, so be sure to have programs set up to properly accommodate individuals in this manner.
The second reason is costs. Sharing economy accommodations are largely seen by the average consumer as cheaper than traditional hotels in an apples-to-apples comparison. In a post-pandemic world where the biggest casualty (besides those who have tragically fallen to the disease) is the amount of disposable income one has, travelers will be looking to penny pinch wherever possible.
Knowing that money is going to be tight for potentially years to come, the role of revenue manager becomes all the more insurmountable for success. You need someone to accurately assess what your rates must be in order to keep in step with market demands. To accomplish this, you must enable these executives by giving them the latest marketplace intelligence software so that they have the data to know exactly what rates will get eyeballs. Similarly, revenue managers will be instrumental for devising good packages with alluring price tags.
The third and final reason for today is branding, with companies like Airbnb presenting themselves to the public with a clean and simple message about where they stand during this ever-evolving crisis. Your hotel must also adopt a similar mentality. Present yourselves empathetically to your guests during this time when no travel is taking place, but then once the restrictions are lifted you must pick your battles. You cannot be everything to everyone; instead focusing your efforts on the demographics and psychographics for which your brand is most meaningful.
Understanding the three causes – social distancing, personal finances and clear messaging – will help your hotel to prosper in the months ahead. By knowing is not even anywhere close to half the battle, and my final recommendation is that you spend this downtime working diligently to align your sales and marketing efforts so that you can ready to capitalize upon all the post-pandemic travel opportunities as well as prevent any attrition of guests choosing other forms of accommodations because they are no longer confident in your product.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry directly.