Sales and marketing for hotels has long been an important aspect of positioning your product and promoting its key features and benefits. Given the pandemic and its impact on the lodging industry, sales and marketing efforts have changed and there is a need for even more positioning.
Kim et al (2005) and Dube et al (2020) noted that tourism and hospitality are some of the most vulnerable industries due to the increased number of severe natural and human-made crises that result in enormous financial loss to the sector.
Therefore, a focus on guest confidence in a hotel products and a hotel's efforts to enhance and continue to build trust relates to guest's feelings of safety and security and can help rebuild financial stability. Additionally, sales and marketing efforts more than ever need to encompass cleaning and hygiene protocols, food safety and other guest concerns for their personal health and welfare.
Hotel Sales and Marketing Trends Overview
Mayangao (2022) noted that travelers will either go big or stay at home, from supersized holidays to ultra-luxury resorts and trips to major global cities to serial staycations, daycations and work-from-hotel scenarios and a preference for sustainable travel. It was also noted that city travel will make a comeback in 2022. Live Local, for example, is a program that focuses on access to local communities through Stay Offers for well-deserved breaks; these Stay Overs for locals, offer short bursts of enjoyment without a stay, such as access to the beach, gym or pool, or special deals on dining and wellness. Finally, offering experiences that immerse locals in their local culture or community, from tours and classes to events and nature-bound expeditions can be great promotional efforts. Heredia-Colaçoa and Rodrigues (2021) note that more emphasis on planning is needed for an eventual upturn and economic recovery – and, ideally, learning lessons for the next crisis.
It's no secret that following COVID-19, cleanliness and hygiene are major deciding factors for customers when selecting a hotel. Letting your guests know that the property administrators are willing to go above and beyond for their safety can work wonders in building trust and improving brand image. Hotels can utilize social media platforms or dedicated website pages for clarifying safety policies for current and potential customers (Patel, 2021). In addition to a focus on cleanliness, additional trends and a marketing emphasis can highlight sustainability, go green campaigns, building a robust digital brand, virtual tours, direct booking, promoting niche-based travel and local-marketing (Patel, 2021).
Guest Confidence, Trust, Safety and Security
What do we want to know about our guests or potential guests? How do we structure our market research efforts to get a handle on guest needs? Hotel guests can conceptualize the size of a room and or the quality of a hotel dining room, but what do we need to know to satisfy guest needs for safety and security? These questions all focus on a hotel's positioning and therefore its sales and marketing efforts. The need for guests to have confidence and trust in a hotel is a lofty goal and perhaps hard to measure. Guests rightfully presume that a hotel has made a pledge to provide a safe and secure environment. This is reasonable expectation and the question for a hotel's management team and or ownership is what message(s) and or indicators need to be shared to build confidence in a service environment and hotel products, for example, rooms, food and beverage and meeting space.
All over the world, hoteliers are sharing similar uncertainty towards the challenges they will face because of Covid-19. As guests' fears were on the rise, the hotel industry was hit by a double-digit downfall in three major metrics: occupancy rate, average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (Hotels Now, 2020). Actions tend to speak louder than words and a hotel's guest wants to see what a hotel is doing to ensure a safe environment. At the beginning of the pandemic, the internet was full of information on cleaning protocols and new health standards being implemented by independent, brand and or franchise hotel products.
From a marketing perspective there is an expectation now new standards that were developed and implemented have and will sustain and be enhanced as part of the operations future. Zhou (2020) noted steps to regain guest confidence, referring to a series of pledges and steps that follow a logical path going forward. His four-step process included: offering guests a piece of mind pledge, that would include sanitation, food safety, the use of medical protection equipment (gloves, masks etc.) and the use of new organization, industry and or government regulations and a marketing focus on public safety.
There has also been discussion of hiring safety experts and more. These individuals are related to crisis management plans (or referred to as risk management plans) and their implementation in a hotel environment. Crisis management was reputedly developed by the public relations industry, and it refers to the successful management of public as well as stakeholder opinions in the midst of a corporate disaster or scandal (Braverman, 1997). In business, several criteria generally define a crisis. The first characteristic is potential for injury to guests or staff and the second is damage to company assets. The third is how fast events are occurring and the fourth, how fast decisions must be made (Brewton, 1987).
Crisis events are often the catalyst for decision-making at multiple levels. Questions and the resulting answers that can arise because of a crisis scenario can be utilized part of sales and marketing efforts.
- Could the crisis have been prevented?
- How damaged is the (your) business?
- Can the business survive?
- Was the communication process handled correctly in the crisis?
- Is there and was there, a crisis plan in place?
- Are there controls in place to help manage this type of incident in the future?
- What strategies can be developed to regain market share?
- What role did the government agencies have in managing the crisis?
- How can hotels work with the public agencies to manage and or prevent future crises? (Adapted from O'Halloran and Alley, 2015).
Crisis management systems are dynamic and fluid processes. These systems need structure and planning to be implemented. Vital to the management of a crisis is the human element. People are subject to stress and emotional involvement in crises. Crisis, macro, or micro are personal to those managing them. Preparation and planning can assist management of emotions unique to human beings. Therefore, the best-laid plans of any crisis system are subject to the human element with which it interacts.
In particular, the lodging industry represents one of the key elements under the umbrella of tourism. Lodging operations are complex and multifaceted, integrated totally with the human element thus making them complex to manage through a crisis. This discussion provides managers with a framework to conduct self-assessment of their readiness for unexpected crisis situations and preventative measures. Management training programs and college degrees are great preparation for the rigors of the lodging industry.
However, development of a strong plan can make the difference between a crisis that destroys a business and a business that survives a crisis. Additionally, the use of technology can be beneficial but also relies on the technology awareness and acceptance by guest segments (Adapted from Zhou, 2020).
Health Protocols - Sales and Marketing Reference Points
From a health-related standpoint, experience with pandemics can be gained from the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Similarly, to the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS created a crisis in the city of Hong Kong (one of the most severely affected areas). For example, as a response, hoteliers in Hong Kong set up a contingency plan to minimize the crisis (Chien and Law, 2003). Efforts were placed on the cleaning and disinfection of rooms and common areas, and the use of protective equipment including masks. Part of the quarantine measures included refusing bookings from guests arriving from highly infected countries (Lo et al., 2006).
Kim, Chun, and Lee (2005), who studied the impact of SARS in the Korean hotel industry, provide additional evidence of implications for managers in the hotel industry while dealing with the outbreak. For instance, contingency plans based on hygiene protocols, and education programs for employees concerning health and safety measures, were implemented during the six months of the SARS crisis.
Research offered by Heredia-Colaçoa and Rodrigues (2021) on health and safety precautions found that hoteliers who anticipated the domestic business travel segment to be the first contributor to hotel recovery. Also expected guests showed a greater concern for health and safety precautions when booking a hotel, which is in stark contrast to those hoteliers who selected the international leisure travel segment as the first contributor to hotel recovery. Additionally, prioritized special cleaning programs to accommodate consumers' health and safety concerns came to the forefront of sales and marketing efforts. Other strategies, related to marketing and sales included:
- The offering of long-term vouchers for bookings.
- The redesign of sales and marketing strategies to attract new markets or segments.
- The creation of special offers and packages.
- The introduction of offers and incentives around local markets to generate new bookings.
- The upskill of the workforce to meet future demands; and
- The renegotiation of distribution partnership (Adapted from Heredia-Colaçoa and Rodrigues (2021).
The Future: Sales and Marketing and More Competitors
Future sales and marketing efforts need to focus on the changing guests and their enhanced levels of self- research and sophistication going forward. Goldrich (2022) noted trends for 2022 included trip stacking, removing invisible friction, personalization, more use of data to make decisions, embracing virtual reality options, benchmarketing and more. Benchmarketing for example, was presented as a new concept in terms of the hotel website's direct channel. Previously, this wasn't possible since direct channel benchmark data didn't exist. Now the data exists and hotels can use the benchmark data and apply it to their marketing (hence Benchmarketing) to grow their direct channel bookings and revenue.
As the industry progresses through a recovery stage, the sales and marketing of a hotel can benefit from the publics connection with video and mobile technology and digital transformation in general can align industry's sales and marketing efforts with multiple opportunities based on research and vendor efforts. These opportunities could include video content and emerging social media platforms, influencers, guest centered web design, updated loyalty programs and reaching out to future market segments (Adapted from RevFine.com, 2022).
I can remember the first time someone told me that they were an influencer. I had to look to my students to try and understand what that meant. I do understand focusing on web site design and making the path on a web site or platform more logical and intuitive for guests. Making your hotel easy to find on the internet is a key part of sales and marketing. Loyalty programs need to provide benefits when guest that have earned their points want to use them. The use of videos and images can be attractive features to get the word out that you are a business that can be trusted, has public safety in mind and your goal is to build trust and confidence.
In the education sector it is noted that students like video, not only for viewing but to create and utilize via social media and in some cases in the classroom for assignments. Perhaps there are members of a hotel's sales and marketing team that are video creators and are especially good with that media. Maybe a video skill set, from planning and scripting to filming and delivery, will be another key factor in the future of sales and marketing.
Sales and marketing projects are a large umbrella of efforts focused on product, price, place, and promotion. Lodging will continue to compete with short term rentals, vacation rental companies, i.e. Airbnb and other companies and present accommodation options for guests. Hotels need to have sustainable goals and a sales and marketing plan that includes people, and their safety on all fronts, a community in which a hotel is a key partner and doses the best for the environment, guests, employees, and vendors.
Good for people, good for the environment and good for business is a motto for a hotel that should be part of a hotel's sales and marketing plan, a crisis management plan, and all of its training plans. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for change and is the doorway to a new hospitality industry that includes new goals and objectives, reskilled employees, and business success.
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- Goldrich, M.J. (2022). The top 9 digital marketing trends for hotels in 2022, The Hotels Network, January 21, [Accessed 3-31-22].
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- Hotels Now (2020) US Hotel RevPAR Forecasted to Drop 50.6% for 2020. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
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- Patel, C. (2021). Seven hotel marketing trends for 2022, Ehotelier, [Accessed 4-1-22].
- Revfine (2022). 7 Hotel Marketing Trends you need to know for 2022, [Accessed 4-1-22].
- Zhou, Z. (2020). Detailed Steps Hotels Can Take Now to Regain Guest Trust, Hospitality Technology, [Accessed 4-1-22].