You might know, or not know that I don’t speak about politics or events that are happening around the world. For obvious reasons. But because it’s a topic that is on everybody’s mind and (nearly) every conversation is about Coronavirus (Covid_19) I decided to share couple of thoughts that we can all do during this crisis.
I know that the key in every crisis is how we react to it. We can panic, or we can stay calm and take measures to do what we can do right now. We can’t control how the virus is going to play out, we can’t control the weather, we can’t control how other people respond, all we can control is how we act. I see there are different opinions out there and different types of people – ones that self-isolate themselves and stay home, and others who keep doing what they are doing.
I’m a person that works from home, so for me self-isolation is not a problem. But I have to say that I still go out, I just finished a meeting and started writing this article from a beautiful hotel in London (Inhabit). Here are some ideas that hotels can do right now.
1. Inform Guests
The first and most obvious thing is to send an email to guests informing them that you are taking measures, cleaning more, monitoring the NHS and doing everything you can to have your property cleaned. Let your guests know about your cancellation policy as well, and obviously be kind.
2. Target ‘Local’ People
Some people, you might say a lot of people, cancelled their travel plans, of course they did as they are scared of the virus. Some other people might consider travelling by car to a hotel that is close to their home. So, you can target people who can drive to your hotel. Maybe it’s a spa day out, maybe it’s co-working from your hotel, maybe it’s a move away from the hustle and bustle. We can’t say everybody is self-isolating because some people might want to go to another city perhaps.
3. Check Your Website
Your website is your storefront, think of it as a retail store. Your website should have an amazing quality design, easy to navigate, beautiful photography, basically it needs to look so good that people want to come and stay at your hotel. Check your booking engine, check your UX (user experience) see it as you would if you were looking at a hotel that you would consider booking. I always remind myself to think as a customer – as a user. This is actually a standard practice. Maybe it’s time to create a new web presence, maybe now is the time to work on your new website because you have more time. You might think that the finances are a bit tight right now because of the virus, yes very true but you can come to an agreement with your agency/designer/developer and work together. I know that if there is a will, there is a way.
If we have things prepared in peace time, we are better prepared in war time, right?
4. Update Your F.A.Q
People are looking for answers. FAQ sections on your website should be updated, they should answer potential guests’ answers. It’s a fundamental aspect of every website, to have a section where people can find answers to what they are looking for. If you don’t have it, it’s a good time to add it now. If you don’t know what people might ask; ask your reservation team, look at your previous emails, search for Google Trends.
5. Turn Crisis into Opportunity
Some hoteliers would want to do huge discounts, but there are other ways you can attract first-time guests. While lowering your pricing is a good strategy, I don’t think lowering it dramatically is a good strategy. You can do a dramatic cut for first-time guests. You might want to tell them that now is a perfect time to experience your hotel, your spa, your new co-working space, your whatever you are offering. If you provide an excellent experience to a new customer, they will have a good memory of your place so next time they are looking for a hotel in your area, or thinking of leaving the town, you will be their first choice. It’s important to communicate that it’s an offer for first time customers, and it’s important for your current clients not to see that offer.
6. Local Marketing
I will assume that you segment your audience and have different categories in your CRM or your email list; people that are local, and EU and international guests. Right? If not, skip this section.
You can promote a service you have to locals that live in your area, it might be workshops, it might be classes, it might be co-working space. There are different things that you can do to promote to locals.
7. Loyal Guests
Now is the time to reach out to your loyal guests. If the majority of your guests come from OTAs then unfortunately you will have to skip this section as well. Loyal guests are people who will stand by your side in dark times. Loyal guests are people who want to hear from you and will help you. Now is the time to invite them, tell them they can book now for future reservations, think of creative ideas of how you can add value to them. Loyalty matters, especially in hard times.
8. Book Direct Perks
You know all the book direct benefits? Now is the time to go grande on booking direct benefits. Book direct and get a free upgrade to our suite, book direct and get a complimentary massage. Show and communicate the benefits of booking direct to your guests. Include the benefits on your website, social media, and of course your email but don’t be very annoying about it.
9. Create New Revenue
Sometimes we need to sit down and take a step back. Now you can analyse your business model, see major trends that are happening in the hospitality world, and see how you can change and innovate. You can capitalize on new emerging trends like co-working. There is a very high demand for creative places to work in. It’s interesting as I’m writing this from a beautiful hotel that has a dedicated area called the library. Beautiful interior design, books all around, calm music and a nice atmosphere. There is a demand and there is a trend.
Another trend is where people want to take a personal phone call, hold a meeting or record a podcast. Maybe you can allow people to book a room by the hour. Maybe you can let people work for free, but they have to sign up to become a member and pay something ridiculously low – you might want to do it for two reasons; 1) create awareness and 2) create an emotional connection. Or you can partner with coworking companies for your coworking space, your meeting and event space. There is a company called Andco.life that you can partner with, they have a lot of hotels in their platform (www.andco.life/partners). It’s interesting as near my house there are around 15 hotels but yet yesterday I travelled for an hour to go and work from cloudM at CitizenM Tower Hill, and today I’m working an hour away from home at another hotel.
10. Negotiate With Suppliers
This is something that doesn’t benefit us as an agency but I believe it’s important to do things that will help both sides. One of the things you can do is negotiate with your suppliers, their payment terms, their prices for a month or two to find a solution and cut costs. The worst thing you can do right now is cut marketing costs because you might ‘save’ a few pounds now, it will damage your brand in the long run. I will write another article explaining in more detail why. But for now you can save a bit by negotiating with your suppliers to cut their costs down by 10% or 20%. When there was the famous bank [haircut??] in Cyprus in 2013 the first thing I did was decrease our fees for a client of ours that was with us since the first year I started. They didn’t ask me to do it, I did it because I felt that I wanted to help in any way I could. They ended up being a client for eight years. The goal is to find mutual agreements and work together. Alone is never the solution, together is the answer.
The bottom line is that in every situation we can either retreat or we can pull together and come up with ideas, innovate and think of how we can become better, how we can improve. All adversities end, all recession ends. Speaking of recession, I read a study that was done by Cornell University School of Hotel Administration that stated ‘Winners and losers during the great recession; the positive impact of marketing expenditures’. Very interesting and in-depth study. You can read it by clicking here if you want.
Let’s stay strong, stay healthy and overcome this global crisis together. The world doesn’t need more fear or panic, we need to be prepared and do whatever we can with what we have.