Industry Update
Supplier News22 April 2020

COVID-19: Management During A Crisis

Navigating setbacks coronavirus has imposed on the hospitality industry.

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Vizergy Digital Marketing

It's been over a month since COVID-19 travel bans and social distancing mandates have forced the hospitality industry, and much of the world, into a state of shutdown. The coronavirus has changed the way we live our lives and do business. Above all else this is a humanitarian crisis, and we're grateful that the Vizergy team and their families are staying healthy and looking after each other.

The latest projections from the American Hotel and Lodging Association report that 70 percent of direct hotel employees have been laid off or furloughed. Nearly 3.9 million hospitality jobs have either been eliminated or will be eliminated in coming weeks. Currently, hotels nationwide are on track to lose more than $500 million daily in room revenue, or $3.5 billion weekly, due to COVID-19.

Vizergy's President, Robert Arnold, says, "We are living through a time of great uncertainty, not just within our industry, but on an incredible scale - a global pandemic. As we band together in an effort to flatten the curve and control the spread of this virus, Vizergy remains committed to the success and health of our employees, clients, and communities."

As a digital marketing provider to hotels and resorts across the world, Vizergy also experienced wide ranging effects to our business. To tackle those challenges, we launched a business recovery plan of our own based on the four main stages of crisis management: 1) Readiness 2) Response 3) Reassurance 4) Recovery. The first in our coronavirus recovery series of articles shares that plan and how we were able to focus our team and help our clients during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

Ross McAlpine, Vizergy's Director of Client Services, has also been working collectively with the Vizergy team to develop a marketing plan for clients as social distancing rules begin to relax and travel begins to increase again.

"When hotels and restaurants begin to reopen, our team will be prepared to assist hospitality businesses and help them to regain their footing in an even more complex marketplace and navigate what is bound to be a 'new normal' to recover from the effects of this pandemic."

In the coming weeks we'll share that advice across a number of digital marketing and distribution tactics; everything from website content strategy to paid media tactics.

Vizergy remains committed to our client's success and is dedicated to providing the digital marketing tools and expert advice needed to get back to business as usual. During this pandemic crisis, we've developed a 4-stage crisis management plan.

PHASE 1: READINESS - HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST

Vizergy has prioritized IT and hosting infrastructure investments since the company was founded over 20 years ago. The technology has evolved greatly in that time but our approach to utilizing the best technology available has remained the same.

We're lucky to have one of the sharpest IT teams in the digital marketing space. It's a small team who handle everything from our website hosting infrastructure to our laptops and the Vizergy Marketing System (VMS) our core digital marketing platform. We rolled out a change at the start of this year to offer a flexible work from home benefit and had made the necessary IT investments to support this. Had we not done that we wouldn't have been able to pivot to a fully remote organization anywhere near as quickly as we did on March 17 when it became apparent that shared office space was no longer a safe environment.

As a result we've been able to maintain all critical systems remotely, and even launched a high profile new website for one of our favorite clients, hardrock.com.

So what about the industry's readiness? You'd be hard pressed to find someone who could have accurately predicted the scale of the coronavirus impact to hotels and therefore the readiness varied significantly. But those who had outdated technology like old website content management systems, no access to guest data, and no planned response will have found themselves instantly worse off than those who had prioritized technology investment.

If you've found in this crisis your technology platforms aren't cutting it, look into investing in smarter technology options so you're prepared in the event of another crisis.

PHASE 2: RESPONSE - SPEED OF DECISION MAKING & CLARITY OF MESSAGE

The initial Vizergy response was focused on what our business and our employees needed in the first few weeks of social isolation and industry shutdown. We made a tough decision to optimize the workforce, a consequence of the immediate financial impact from country-wide hotel closures.

We also created our own communication plan that addressed how we would contact clients and how we would communicate to the entire Vizergy team as a fully remote workforce. We also chose to take a proactive approach to our client's media campaigns, pausing all media spending immediately and discussing each situation one on one with hotel representatives. We don't share the view that it is a good time to advertise just because CPCs are low. Spending money on capturing demand is pointless when there isn't any demand to capture.

The industry's response has been both heartening and saddening. The message and tone from Arne Sorenson in his emotional message to Marriott employees will be shown as an example of great compassion and leadership in a crisis for many years to come. Others have not faired so well, holding guests to cancellation policies or failing to read the room by continuing to advertise overseas resorts that no one can actually travel to.

PHASE 3: REASSURANCE - COMMUNICATE TO STAFF AND GUESTS CLEARLY & FREQUENTLY

Phase 3 of crisis management is reassurance. Vizergy has done a lot of that recently! Both internal reassurance to our team that we have the right business plan to come out of this crisis as strong as we went into it and to reassure clients that we are here to help them manage their way out of this when the time is right.

We've always been a company that's open to all with a direct line to the CEO and President but that has never been clearer than over the last month where staff have been briefed multiple times a week on where things stand and what we're doing as a leadership team to help.

Hotels should be doing some reassuring too, contacting their loyalty members, posting on social channels and reassuring guests that they'll be open as soon as it is safe to do so. But remember, tell don't sell.

PHASE 4: RECOVERY - THIS TOO SHALL PASS

That leads to the final stage of crisis management, recovery. There is both a great deal of content being produced about coronavirus and a great deal of cynicism of all the industry output being created on the topic. There's also some interesting opinions forming that we may be at the beginning of a sea-change in consumer attitude towards how we want to be marketed to and the right to privacy online.

Vizergy has created a series of articles to guide clients through the phases of recovery with helpful strategies and tactics. The series will aim to answer fundamental questions around what recovery is likely to look like, and what you can do about it.

It's our position that sweeping generalizations are of limited use, and only add to the noise that's already abundant on blogs and industry news sites across the world. Our clients will need a customized approach because recovery will look different wherever your hotel is and according to the specifics of your marketing approach and property type.

If you're a hotel that has traditionally had a good base of business over the summer and fall season from international travel, get ready to re-engineer your marketing towards drive markets and short-haul leisure breaks. If you're a hotel that traditionally takes wedding bookings now for early next year, think about how you could offer smaller weddings and virtual tours while travel restrictions are in place.

Over the next series of articles to follow, we'll explore a number of digital marketing tactics and what you can do to position yourself to be ready to open your doors and welcome guests back. Visit Vizergy's blog to learn more. 

About Vizergy® Digital Marketing

Vizergy serves the world's hospitality industry with conversion optimized website design and fiercely competitive tools to maximize revenue. Our formula for success includes cutting-edge technologies, proven digital marketing programs and the best professionals in the industry. At Vizergy, hospitality marketing is not only our mission, it's our sole focus.

For more than 20 years, Vizergy has relentlessly developed and deployed the best marketing technologies and talent to serve thousands of hospitality clients with excellence. The company deploys complete travel life-cycle marketing solutions from responsive website design and development, to proven award-winning digital marketing programs, reservation solutions, media planning and deployment. Vizergy's platform has long been touted as the #1 digital marketing system for hospitality clients, easy to deploy, turnkey and SMART, empowering clients to win in today's complex and competitive hospitality industry.

For more information, please visit www.vizergy.com.

Contact: Ryan Ridge | Vizergy | +1.904.389.1130 | [email protected]

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