Attracting hotel guests during COVID-19 is a challenge. The world is a different place and the effects on the hospitality industry may be longer lasting than initially anticipated. While hotels are struggling, we’ve heard inspiring stories about how some accommodations have adapted and continue to attract hotel guests during the pandemic. We hope these hotel trends inspire you and spark your own ideas to minimize the impact of the Coronavirus on your business.
1. Communicate COVID-19 Protocols
Your hotel will be following government required protocols, but guests want to know that you’re doing more. From extra in-room cleaning to hourly surface cleans, from sanitizing the front desk between customers to contact-less check-ins, let your customers know they can relax while you keep them safe. Highlight this information on your website with a promotion bar at the top of each page to link to more information. With pandemic anxieties high, put your customers at ease and manage your guests’ COVID-19 expectations.
2. Contact-less Contact
With contact a touchy subject these days, now is the time to implement contact-less features:
>> Check-ins and Check-outs: Your hotel property management system (PMS) should provide contact-less check-in functionality or integration that allows guests to complete registration online, and the ability to email invoices and receipts.
>> Key-less Entry: Reduce contact and sanitizing needs with key-less entry solutions, which use Bluetooth technology to give hotel guests room access via their smartphones.
>> Ancillary Charges: You can make ancillary charges, like restaurant or gift shop purchases, contact-less, too. Simply set up an interface between your POS system and your PMS and make room charges a socially-distanced cinch.
3. Keep up with Housekeeping
Say what you’ll do and do what you say! In addition to ensuring your housekeeping staff is following new protocols, make sure they are equipped with the tools they need to maximize productivity. Mobile housekeeping reports allow staff to update room status and maintenance issues in real time as they work, improving internal communication for increased efficiency and to ensure no missed cleans. Your guests may not comment on how clean your hotel is, but they will surely comment on it if it’s not, if not to your face then in online reviews. Remember, negative comments and reviews are there to help you improve, so ditch any chips on your shoulder and (virtually) hug your haters with sincere thank yous and assurances of improvements. Then, say what you’ll do and do what you say!
Up In-room Amenities
Did you have to close your shared continental breakfast area or your pool and gym? How can you sell your hotel to guests when you’ve lost your amenities? By bringing them in-room.
>> Health and Wellness: Spa closed? Deliver spa baskets to order. No gym? Make available sanitized workout equipment and in-room fitness videos (just maybe not the jumping ones).
>> Food Services: No breakfast buffet? Deliver breakfast boxes. For hotels with no restaurant (and thus no room service), make it easy for your guests to order food in by supplying local delivery options, or perhaps offer a service to order on their behalf.
Kitchenettes are of course an excellent addition for those guests spending more time in their room. But if that’s not an option, ensure rooms are equipped with kettles and coffee pots. Splurge with upgraded coffee and tea and an invitation to call the front desk if more is required. Leave extras in an organza fabric bag on the door handle for a contact-less drop-off.
>> Entertainment: Guests expect more than cable TV and in-room movies these days. We’ve become so accustomed to our chosen streaming services that we can’t leave home without them. Give your customers big-screen access to their preferred content via modern in-room entertainment solutions to deliver the likes of Netflix and HBO (plus secure high-speed internet). Integrating these applications with your PMS will ensure greater security via automated guest authentication and billing.
5. Target the Right Market
A report from the Hotel and Lodging Association on the state of the hotel industry revealed that two-thirds of hotels remain below 50% occupancy. Demographics have shifted for hoteliers and it may be time to revisit your marketing plan and target different markets. If your target was international visitors, bring it closer to home and focus on stay-cationers, for example. What packages and amenities might you offer to appeal to these expanded demographics?
>> Workations: You may not appeal to business travelers right now, yet could you reach out to local professionals? Those required to work from home may need a change of scenery and a workation could be just the ticket, complete with high-speed internet, a comfortable in-room work station, on-demand coffee, and room service.
>> Staycations: We all need a holiday right about now. Encourage locals to take a mini-break close to home. A pool (if open) can give families a much-needed break in routine, but with all the amenities of home, like high chairs, crayons, and wet-wipes readily available. Couples can still enjoy romance packages. And solo travelers in need of self-care can dig into gourmet or spa offerings.
>> Accessibility: Is your property wheelchair accessible? Awesome! Have you reached out to those communities who can benefit? This extends to your website too. Ensure ADA compliance by displaying accessible units within your online booking engine, and with image ALT text that can be narrated by text-to-speech screen readers.
6. Keep in Touch
Guest communication has always been key to building relationships and fostering loyalty with customers. Don’t let this fall to the wayside simply because your guests haven’t visited you in a while. Stay in touch with email newsletters, online reviews, and SMS messaging. Take a personal tone and let them know that you’re thinking of them and can’t wait to welcome them again when you can.
For guests who can visit, use pre-arrival messaging to let your guests know what to expect when they arrive, especially with COVID-19 protocols to follow. This greatly reduces travel anxiety and can be automated through your PMS and guest messaging solutions to decrease your workload.
7. Collaborate and Cross-Promote
Help others and help yourself through local business collaborations. When you cross-promote, you’ll leverage each other’s audience and gain new customers. One hotel we know has a signature scented hand sanitizer made by a local distillery. It’s available throughout the hotel and may be purchased at the front desk. The partnership is promoted through their social media channels and coupons have been offered through email. Get creative! Partnerships with nearby restaurants could offer special in-room dining, or a local tour company could provide booklets for self-guided walking tours.
8. Flexible Bookings and Cancellations
With protocols changing from day to day—and sometimes by the hour—guests need to rest assured they can cancel at a moment’s notice without being penalized. We recommend erring on the side of generosity with this one. Make sure your booking engine is open for business 24/7.
9. Promote Extra Features
You’re doing a lot in-house to attract guests. Make sure your guests know about it and promote, promote, promote. From your website through to your social media and digital ads, show your customers all the ways you’re making your hotel safe and welcoming. Remind them of this throughout the customer journey, before, during, and after booking with email confirmations, SMS messaging, and follow-up post-stay emails.
Is your website telling customers the full story? This is also a good time to finally release your updated and mobile-optimized website, complete with SEO-audited content. Push your updates to your social media channels as well. An Instagram campaign is a great way to go beyond telling customers what you’re doing and showing them.
And don’t forget to up sell with packages and add-ons!
10. Streamline Reservations
COVID-19 has fueled a trend toward direct hotel bookings as travelers seek reassurance and direct communication with hotels. Now’s the time to ensure your website booking engine is maximizing conversions by offering a simple, streamlined booking process. A user-friendly online booking engine should also be secure, mobile friendly, customizable to your brand, and directly integrated with your PMS for automated inventory and reservation management.
These are challenging times for the hospitality industry, but you’ve got this. Consider the above tips to help attract guests and minimize the effects of COVID-19 on your business. For more Information, contact me.