What boutique and independent hoteliers can do now to prepare for business post pandemic

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Karla Pearce, senior marketing manager for Cvent Hospitality Cloud, Europe, shares some advice on how hoteliers can keep their digital doors open to guests and clients.

Some of you may be familiar with the words from a John Lennon song “Life is what happens, when you are making other plans”.  

Yet, not one of us in the industry would have ever envisaged at the start of this year that three months on we would be living a very different life with a global pandemic. Or how the Covid-19 tidal wave would impact hoteliers in all corners of the world.

As I write, we are still dealing with many uncertainties – we don’t know when various country’s lockdowns will lift, when air and other travel will resume, or when hotels will be fully open for business. It could be weeks or months, but it will happen.

In the meantime, I think it’s important to impress to all independent hoteliers that the pause button doesn’t have to be pressed in all areas of their business. 

This is vital time for independents to look at a range of ways to keep their digital doors open to guests, event planners and travel managers. How hoteliers prepare now will support a faster recovery in the post pandemic. 

In the last several weeks, our Cvent teams have been having one-to-one conversations with our hospitality clients specifically over online marketing – and how hoteliers can make the most of what little budgets and resources they currently have. Here is an abridged guide to some of the issues and concerns that we’ve come across with our customers.

The power of the independent and partnerships

When it comes to promotional material, embrace your size and independence and connect with your customer base by highlighting everything that makes your business unique and stand out from the crowd.  You may want to link your brand with your city by working with the local community and businesses that align with your image and message. Also, consider developing relationships with local tourism boards and convention centres to explore partnerships and discuss future opportunities. 

Familiarise yourself with planner priorities  

To reach more planners and capture their attention it’s essential that you understand their priorities and challenges so you can tailor your marketing and communication efforts to appeal to them. Cvent’s 2019 Planner Sourcing Report - Global Edition highlighted that planners look for speed, efficiency and professionalism when sourcing for their events. 59 per cent say that lack of professionalism will prevent them from returning to a venue and 32 per cent want better attention to detail in RFP responses. It’s not just about the space - planners are also looking for unique and memorable experiences. 

Stay on top of SEO 

It is vital that your property is easily searchable online. Take the time to refresh your website content, adding keywords to help with optimisation in the current climate. With travel bans and social isolation in place, “armchair” travel inspiration is the big trend. My Switzerland has taken to social media to share positive messages and their campaign “Dream now. Travel later.” encourages would-be travellers to think about their future travel plans. To learn more about SEO for hotel and venue content marketing download this eBook: SEO Best Practices: The Hotelier’s Guide to Getting Found Online.  

Make the most of social media

Although channels such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are probably the first that come to mind when you think about a social media marketing strategy, don’t rule out platforms like Pinterest or location-based platforms such as Yelp and FourSquare. 

Before you start, consider ordering the platforms in terms of relevance to your target audience. Use the mantra ‘show don’t tell’ when posting to really engage followers. Share beautiful, emotive and engaging pictures and video that will inspire both ‘likes’ and ‘shares.’ 

Content doesn’t have to be limited to the property, mix it up and include travelling related content linked to the property or specific interests related to your local area events and tours. Leverage popular hashtags for both the leisure and B2B market and include these in your posts to engage particular followers and maximize reach and impact. Remember not to share too much advertising content like constantly promoting open houses, events and specials. 

Reassure 

Keep guests informed of measures you have implemented for safeguarding and let them know you are following best practices and governmental guidelines. Customer and client safety should always come first. 

Focus on the domestic market 

Due to current international travel restrictions, focus efforts on your local and domestic customer base. Google has advised that search traffic for ‘staycations’ are up 50 per cent YoY so far in 2020.

Keep your rates 

It may seem the first thing you should do is to drop your rates to try to get as many people through the door. However, do try to maintain your rates if you can as it is not sustainable in the long run to drop them and it will be difficult to build them back up again when demand returns. Look to promote added-value offers or the flexibility of your booking terms instead. 

Expand your skillset 

This will serve you well when demand comes back. Utilise this time to expand your skillset, fine-tune your marketing strategy, and connect (virtually) with others in the industry. For starters, become certified for free on the Cvent Supplier Network with the code LEVELUP2020. The course is designed to help sales and marketing professionals master operational efficiencies, including RFP response times, proposals and conversion rates. The courses are normally $375+ so this is an incredible opportunity. 

Remain hopeful and prepare for demand

No matter how hard today may seem, be resilient and take heart that already in some parts of the world, such as mainland China, business is picking up. Hotel closures were mandated by the Chinese government for much of the first quarter of 2020, but now 87 per cent of all hotels are open (STR data).    

It won’t be long before the doors for business are open again in other areas of the world – in the meantime, keep safe, stay well and keep those digital marketing doors wide open.

On Wednesday 15th April at 2.00pm (BST) Karla Pearce will host the Cvent webinar: “Keep Your Doors Open with Digital Marketing” which will provide tips for hotels on how to increase digital visibility, stay top-of-mind for planners and travel managers, and effectively manage and priorities leads. Register to join the webinar here to access a live viewing, or to watch after it goes live on demand. 

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