We are almost halfway through 2020 and it is clear to say that the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing and has given the greatest shock of the century to businesses and global economy. Hotels, retails, and food & beverage venues have temporarily closed their doors. People have cancelled travel plans, bookings, and events. Social distancing measures mean people must stay home most of the time. They cannot check into hotels, browse in retail shops, or eat out at restaurants. COVID-19 has profoundly changed our lives around the world.
While most hotels are still shut, the hospitality industry is facing a tough time trying to maintain positive brand image. It will be a huge challenge to rebuild consumer confidence when coronavirus lockdown restrictions are eased later this year.
Mr. Russel Kett, Chairman of HVS London office said "When demand for hotels does start to return, whether that's later this year or next year, operators will be coming back into a very different market to previously, with a new set of consumer concerns and requirements," He also noted that "Building trust between hotelier and customer will be paramount, with businesses operating and presenting their services in a way that makes the guest, and the staff who take care of them, feel comfortable, confident and protected."
These are some recommendations hoteliers can do to maintain PERSONAL consumer relationship during COVID-19 crises:
Update Your Social Media Pages More Often
Positive brand image is everything in hotel sector. As of today, social media is the only place where you can control your brand image and connect with your customers. Moreover, it can help your guests feel assured in keeping their travel plans and advertise to your target market.
It is important to provide up-to-date information to maintain a positive relationship. The best and easiest way is to create FAQ page, which includes a series of questions that are asked commonly by your guests. For instance:
- When will the hotel be open?
- What is the cancellation policy on bookings and events at the hotel?
- Can I reschedule my reservation to a later date?
- What is the hotel policy on health and safety?
- How to contact customer care? and many more.
Here below are the travel updates regarding COVID-19 you can put in your hotel pages:
1. Cancellation Policy & Booking Flexibly
- Flexibility could be the most important thing your guests need right now. Implementing flexible policies can attract more guests
- Provide cancellation policy for existing bookings. Provide Group & meeting policy
- For new bookings, reassure your guests to book future travel plans with confidence. This can be booked now and paid later, free cancellation or best flexible rate, etc.
- Provide reservation customer care contact details (phones, email, website form, etc.)
2. Health and Safety
Health and safety is the top priority for everyone during the pandemic. Inform your guests the actions you're taking are to ensure their health, safety and well-being. Update your guests on what health and safety precautions your hotel has implemented. Things you could share in your page are as follows:
- The hotel operations are temporarily suspended and halted any new reservations
- Hotels have been advised on cleaning products and protocols which are effective against coronavirus
- Increased cleaning in public areas like lobbies, elevators, door handles, public bathrooms and guest rooms
- Review F&B service with current food safety recommendations
- Precautions and behaviour of staff to limited contact
So how can hotels bring their services to clients? Create useful and fun online content on your page. Here are a few ways to put your amenities virtually and capture hotel's experience online:
- Set up online cooking/baking class by the hotel chef. This can be a free class for 5 sessions, should your clients love it, you can provide them subscription for the full course. This leads to extra revenue to the hotel. The same can be done with yoga classes.
- Share beautiful scenery around the hotel. Create a virtual walking tour in property; interior and exterior
- Share some at home art and crafts ideas for kids if the hotel is family friendly
Actively Monitoring Situation
- Make sure you are actively monitoring the situation on COVID-19. Hotels should keep their consumers fully informed about the updates and policy changes.
- Share entertaining videos, provide coronavirus updates, or share industry news. The hotel pages should include reliable sources such as World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and relevant authorities for country-specific requirements, to ensure that the actions the hotel is taking are comprehensive and suitable.
- 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report study shows that customers are more likely to trust doctor or health authority's perspective than celebrities, social media influencers or brand's CEO when it comes to hearing how brands are responding to COVID-19.
Send out Personalised Message
- Send out exclusive message of a gift voucher to past guests. They can book now for later use after the pandemic
- If the hotel has a kids club, you can make it even more personalised by mentioning their names with some clause that can attract children such as "Mr. Teddy bear is waiting for you", etc.
- When sending personalised messages, attached short video clip in the email explaining your hotel's policies to reassure clients that you take health and safety precautions seriously
Refer to your hotel data in CRM (Customer Relationship Management). You can target guests who previously visited your hotel last year with personalised booking offers. Or guests who have booked hotels for special occasions such as wedding anniversary and/or birthday party and adapt your offer to that.
We have stepped into a new world of health concerns and the only way we can make our guests feel comfortable is adapting to the new norm.
Stay safe and most importantly sane!