Hotels have been given the green light from the government to reopen on the 4th of July in the United Kingdom, and they have been given the green light to have a one-metre socially distancing rule. Surely that’s some positive news, right? But does this mean that once the doors open people are going to start ‘rushing’ to book hotel rooms, like they do when a new iPhone is announced?
People will just go back to normal we might say? I don’t think so. I think we will have a ‘new normal’, definitely a new normal. We all have opinions about what we think will happen, but unfortunately our opinions are just our opinions based on what WE would do, right? For example, if I locked myself in my house for the past three months and was scared to go out, I don’t have the same behaviour as somebody who was out running, working, and going to the park every day. There are 66 million people living in the United Kingdom, every single human being has a different perspective, a different way of living and thinking. Some people are sunbathing in Brighton, some people are going to parties in Croydon. So, we can’t really say that ‘everybody’ is not going to travel, and we can’t say that ‘everybody’ will be travelling, we have to segment our audience and see what kind of people we are talking about, and the most importantly, we need to look at the data.
We live in a world where when we show a slight interest in orange socks on the web, we are flooded with ads from orange sock companies. Companies have data, we know that we can look at the data and predict certain things. There are dozens of articles out there sharing some very interesting data about consumer behaviour. Let’s have a look at some data.
A recent article stated that short-term rentals saw a 20 percent increase in bookings over 2019. With ‘zero marketing whatsoever’ Airbnb is seeing travellers come back to the home-sharing platform. The CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky told CNBC that, ‘People are saying they want to get out of the house”. He also said the following; “Although our business has not recovered, I’ll be really clear, something remarkable happened. At the end of May to early June, we have the same number of bookings as the year before, without any marketing.”
There was other research reported by boutiquehotelnews.com saying that in the UK 58 percent of Brits have saved money during lockdown, with 36 percent planning to spend this money on holidaying in the UK.
Caterer.com shows that 41 percent of people are keen to book a staycation as soon as they can, with 53 percent saying they would not book unless restaurants, pubs, and bars are open in the area. There is more data indicating that 29 percent would consider using room service to avoid contact with others, and 49 percent expect a limit on the number of guests.
There is other research that suggests UK hotels are in for a huge surge in demand for domestic bookings following the announcement that lockdown measures will start to ease in England. Profitroom, a leading SaaS provider of hospitality booking solutions and direct strategies, utilized a live dashboard analysis from over 3,500 hotels across Europe to provide insight into guest booking trends ahead of UK hotels reopening. Here are some numbers from Germany, the value of bookings is up by 54 percent, while the average daily room rate (ADR) is up by 14 percent, and the average length of stay is up by 35 percent. The data from Poland shows that based on the same period last year, the number of bookings is down by 23 percent. However, the average value of each booking for a hotel is up by 31 percent. The data suggests that the window between booking a stay, and the stay itself, has decreased by more than 8 percent. Meaning guests are booking stays closer to the time of visit. On the other side guests are booking longer stays – with average length of stay increasing by more than 19 percent, to 3.09 days. In case you are wondering when Poland and Germany opened their hotels, they lifted their lockdowns on 4th May and 14th May respectively.
Other data shows us that Best Western saw a 450 percent boost in bookings in 24 hours prior to the PM’s lockdown lifting announcement. Rob Paterson, CEO of Best Western Great Britain said that the group’s website had ‘rocketed’ in activity over the past 24-48 hours.
This is what Rob said in an article on boutiquehotelier.com: “The crucial difference we are seeing in the last 24 hours is casual website lookers and now turning into bookers, which is great news for hotel operators and destinations that rely on tourism. The trend suggests we will see another surge tonight as people look to bag a break today rather than risk missing out in the rush.”
Then we have Bespoke Hotels saying that they got £500k in bookings after the government announcement. This equates to almost 4,000 room nights in the UK and Scotland. The majority of bookings were for 2 people with the average stay of 2 nights. Robin Sheppard, chairman of Bespoke Hotels says: “We never planned to put our foot on the
proverbial hosepipe, but since the news that permission to start trading again broke, the foot has well and truly come off; and sales have exploded. Lots of new bookings to make our phones ring again is a very powerful medicine. Long may it last.”
All research is good, but we all know that people can say one thing and do the exact opposite when they need to take action. A simple example is being healthy and going to the gym. If we ask 1000 people if they want to be healthy and workout, we will most probably get a very high percentage of people saying yes of course they want to be healthier and go to the gym, but how many people would actually do that? Exactly. A very small percentage. Of course, it’s different when it comes down to leisure, as humans love holidays and relaxing. But as I always say, focus groups are not as reliable as we think. 90 percent of our decisions are subconscious based on what Susan Weinschenk, a behavioural psychologist, says. In one of her online classes, Brain and Behavioural Science she said the following:
“We often like to think that we’re like Mr. Spock in Star Trek, very rational and logical. But we’re not. And, if you want to really reach people, if you want to communicate with them, if you want to persuade them, you need to figure out how to talk to the unconscious part of their mind’.
So, where do we go from here? If a percentage of people are saying that they will book a holiday but change their mind once hotels are open? I don’t like being in the business of predictions, because they are just predictions and a lot of predictions have failed in the past three months by business experts. I do believe though that it’s good practice to look at the data, and make a decision based on that data and be prepared. We can’t control what people will do right? We can’t control the economy, but we can control what actions we take to ensure that we are fully prepared.
Here are some ideas hoteliers can implement, and do right away to ensure they will see bookings coming in. Because if there are 1000 people that are going to book a hotel, people will do their research, perhaps they will be more cautious now about what hotel to book, perhaps they will spend more time researching the hotel. Based on a study done by Fuel and Flip.to in 2017 about travel website behaviour, it suggests that the MOST influential factor when researching and booking a hotel is your hotel website. It’s actually more influential than Word of Mouth (#2), OTAs (#3), Search Engines (#4) and Review Sites (#5).
First and foremost, I think it’s crucial to look at the product. Implement all government health and safety instructions, plus go beyond to communicate that, and show guests that you truly care about the cleanliness of the hotel. Airlines have done a great job of communicating on social media about health measures they are taking, including EasyJet, WizzAir, and RyanAir. Don’t just add a hand sanitizer at the reception, but add masks, maybe small sanitizers for guests to take with them, show them that you are taking extra measures to clean all your hotel facilities and rooms.
The second task is to make sure that your online matches your offline. For example, if you are taking extra precautions to have a clean building, to have everything sorted out, it needs to represent your online presence. If your social media accounts and your website are outdated, have outdated designs and unprofessional content, what do you think the guest will think of your brand, of your hotel? Of course, they will not trust you because you are not taking care of your ‘front window’. This is the first thing a guest sees when they start looking for a hotel.
The third task is to engage with your guests, if you’ve been active during lockdown, creating content, interacting with people, it will be easier to sell your rooms to people who have been engaging with you as you created an emotional connection with them. If you haven’t been active then it will be much harder for you now as you know, we as humans forget, especially when we don’t have an emotional connection. It’s like seeing that guy only when he wants something, during the lockdown he was quiet because there was nothing to ‘gain,’ and now all of a sudden, he texts you, he calls you because he wants something. The same with brands. You know, companies that think that marketing is just posting on Instagram or run an advert only when they want to sell something. It’s so wrong on so many levels, but that’s a topic for another article.
The fourth task is to communicate your brand purpose. If you don’t have one, then now is the time to create one. Why? Well if you need me to convince you that you need a brand purpose, this is the wrong article. In brief, brands without a purpose will always be competing on price and viewed as commodity. Competing on price is a race to the bottom, when it looks like it’s a race to the top (Google, OTAs etc). It was interesting to see research released from Lumen Research saying that consumers are looking for different messages from brands – even on a subconscious level. Lumen found that brands that adapted their ads to reference the pandemic received almost 10 percent more attention than the pre-pandemic norm. Conversely, unadopted ads failing to reflect the enormous changes in the way we live and work received 5 percent less attention. Consumers are looking to brands to promote optimism, to take concrete actions to help society, and to avoid appearing to capitalise on a crisis.
There are different brands that come out with really creative ads, like this one. Guinness did a fantastic job reminding people to stay at home and using their brand to remind people that they are there.
This is just an ad, and what I really mean by promoting your brand purpose is for you to take a stand in something you truly believe, and go all in creating a beautiful and inspiring story. Think of a cause, think of something you care about and promote it, this doesn’t mean you promote your rooms or your hotel, it means you promote the cause and then your product; (rooms) are a by-product of how people can be a part of it. But in order to do that, you need to stand firmly and say that you are willing to say NO to certain people, and YES to other people. If we are everything to everybody, then we are invisible. It’s impossible to please every single customer, it’s impossible to be a brand that serves ‘everybody’.
It’s really important to focus on people who are going to travel anyway, it’s much easier to sell to 43 percent of people who are ready to book – or who will book and communicate to them, rather than try to convince other people.
The bottom line is that we see some positive data that people are going and want to travel, people are expecting to be able to travel to hotels, and have a very clean environment. As we all want to get out more and explore. Regardless of what happens, even if it’s exactly the opposite and people don’t travel, don’t you think it’s better to put all our efforts in to win business? If there are 1000 people out there looking to book a hotel, don’t you think they will book a hotel that is clean, friendly, has a brand purpose? A hotel that shows that they care with their engaging content, versus a hotel that is on an OTA and does not put any effort in their product whatsoever?