Industry Update
Opinion Article 3 March 2020

Does Your Property Have A Coronavirus Strategy?

By Max Starkov, Adjunct Professor NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality and Hospitality & Online Travel Tech Consultant

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The coronavirus, though unprecedented in scale, is not the first global crisis to hit hard the hospitality industry. What should hoteliers do in dire times like the one we are experiencing right now? It is time for "Crisis Management 101". This approach is similar to how hoteliers should be dealing with any regional or global crisis, whether with Zika, the coronavirus or the hurricane season.

In this environment of coronavirus scare and travel bans, hoteliers should develop and implement a crystal-clear coronavirus strategy:

  • Mandate a "single voice policy" for all employees and departments so that the property has a consistent messaging regarding the coronavirus: you do not want your employees telling "different stories" to potential and existing guests.
  • Provide honest and up-to-date information regarding the situation in the hotel location/destination. Example "We do not have any cases of the virus in New York City"
  • Announce the fact that you do not have guests from countries severely affected by the coronavirus and countries with an existing travel ban (Ex. China, South Korea, Italy, etc)
  • Clearly announce - on the hotel website, social media, via a decal at the front desk, etc. - what is your property's coronavirus prevention program: We clean, spray, disinfect daily, we wear gloves and masks, we provide antibacterial hand soups, HEPA air purifiers, etc.
  • Do not discount! Discounting does not help hoteliers defeat the negative impact of the coronavirus scare! Discounting smells of desperation and does not generate extra demand.
  • Develop a robust Feeder Market Channel Strategy vs the usual market segmentation channel strategy. Focus on your short-haul feeder-markets and especially on your drive-in feeder markets. Why? People will continue to travel, especially on short-haul and shorter stay trips.
  • Short-haul feeder markets can save the day! Analyze carefully all short-haul feeder markets and identify the ones that matter. Are there weekend specials, family, museum, special occasion packages, "Gas Refund" promotions on the website, F&B packages, etc. targeting the drive-in feeder markets? Launch SEM, GDN, GHA, CRM marketing campaigns, multi-channel campaigns, etc., geo-targeting the important to the property drive-in markets.
  • Long-haul feeder markets: Don't abandon these markets - there will be long-term negative impact if you do so. Analyze if there are any long-haul feeder markets that are not affected by travel bans, flight cancelations, etc. and are still salvageable. Are there promotions in the respective languages for the next travel season and any website messaging that need to be developed for these markets? Work with your overseas partners and launch a few digital marketing campaigns, geo-targeting these few long-haul feeder markets that can still generate business.
  • And finally, don't panic and pause or decrease disproportionately marketing spend, but re-direct ad dollars toward the shirt-haul and drive-in feeder markets.
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