As the COVID-19 crisis is taking the world by storm, many industries are already starting to feel the intense impact of the borders closing, and tourism & hospitality seems to be one of the industries most affected by this lock-down. Hotels which haven’t already closed their doors are considering this option closely. However, despite the fact that the business has not only slowed down but in most markets came to a complete halt, the fact remains that travel bans will eventually be lifted and the hospitality industry will slowly start to recover.
And even though it is almost impossible to predict when exactly the market will start picking up speed again, the time in between should be put to good use by putting in place the right strategies to be ready for the pick up. All the hotels that will have managed to stay afloat during the lockdown will be battling for the same piece of pie as everyone else, and as much as we are sure the hotels will have used this time to design attractive deals, we want to make sure that they also reach their right target guests at the right time. So how can we advise our hotels to get ready from a metasearch and marketing perspective?
How we are advising our hotels to prepare for the market pick up in 5 simple steps:
First and foremost we are advising our hotels to focus on driving as many direct bookings to the hotel's website as possible.
And here are the reasons why:
- The hotel’s website is the most profitable channel with lower acquisition costs, lower cancellation rates and higher guest loyalty. (see case study here)
- Through its own website a hotel is able to have more control over guest data and also more control over the relationship with guests which is essential in times of crisis.
- Since OTAs are spending less on classic advertising, paid search and metasearch, they aren’t the most reliable source for hotels to trust with their online visibility at the moment, which ultimately means that hotels stand a better chance at buying their own online presence for less money.
Secondly, the focus is on end-funnel marketing channels, which helps optimise hotel’s return on investment, giving the hotel more control and helping save costs by driving more qualified traffic rather than providing the hotels with generic visibility.
The third point hotels must take into consideration are the marketing channels which enable ad visibility only when rooms are actually available. For example Google Hotel Ads, Trivago and Tripadvisor to name only a few. With the right strategy these enable you to keep the optimal visibility and stay ahead of the OTAs while at the same time enabling to control visibility and marketing costs .
Fourth, as travel bans gradually get lifted, it is expected that local, domestic and unorganized business travel, will be the first segments pick up. Metasearch will be more valuable than ever as over 80% of it’s traffic comes from these segments and it is the best way to target these guests.
Last but not least and probably the most important hotels need to take into account is that technical setups of some campaigns take time and there will be no time to waste when the pick up begins. Therefore, the best advice we could give hotels is to use this lockdown time to do all technical set ups in advance so that hotels can be ready to start addressing potential guests as soon as the travel bans are lifted.
Other ways our teams are advising hotels to leverage the quiet time:
- The current lockdown is a great opportunity to review hotels’ tech stack. Hotels can use this time to review their internal systems, seek out new vendors and technologies and observe whether there are any parts of their stack that could be replaced or improved. Having the right solutions in place will be of crucial importance for successfully driving, converting and handling the clients during the pick up.
- When developing marketing strategies for a hotel, we think in terms of a holistic digital marketing approach. In essence that means that hotels should use this quiet time to:
- evaluate and improve or rebuild hotels’ websites;
- audit and optimise the booking engine to improve future conversion rates;
- work on the content plan for their websites, newsletters and social media channels;
- clean up email lists and make sure that they are inline with GDPR (and/or other regulations), it is also a good moment to consult with a legal advisor for everything regarding privacy and look for suitable consent management provider solutions;
- revise newsletter strategies and consider segmenting the contacts for better targeting;
- train front and back office staff in proper data collection when taking reservations, especially on how they should use source and segment/market fields in the property management system;
- create pre-arrival and post-departure, promotional sequences;
- develop landing pages for special offers that can be launched in different stages of recovery;
- create in depth analyses to understand marketing returns based on the complete customer journey.
- Last but not least, don’t forget about direct sales and marketing. If there was one lesson to be learned from this pandemic lockdown, then it was the importance of flexibility once the cancelation rates have started to jump sky-high. In times like these the one-on-one relationship between hotels and their guests is priceless. And flexibility with cancellations, direct support and refund policies that works both in favour of guests as well as hotels is something that OTAs can neither guarantee nor deliver. Which again brings us to the importance of driving more traffic directly to hotels’ own websites.
We are in this together
That is right! The other important thing that we have learned during a crisis is that by supporting each other we have a much better chance of staying on top of this situation. Even though it is impossible to predict when the travel market will start recovering, we can safely say that the recovery will most likely be happening gradually and in stages. For sure the local and domestic travelers will be the first ones looking for options to spend a few days away from home, searching for destinations within a short distance away. And as business will also eventually start to return to normal, unorganised domestic business travellers will start travelling as well. Which is the perfect opportunity for hotels to also step up their game and set everything in order to be ready for that moment. Our teams are here to assist our hotels and partner companies with our technology and expertise so that everyone can come out of this situation on the positive.