As hoteliers hope to rebound from the lingering effects of COVID-19, they are presented with the challenges of repositioning, retargeting, and reviving their respective brands to meet the needs of emerging demand in 2021.
To capture the most opportunity moving forward, hoteliers will have to look to multi-channel marketing strategies to drive bookings and optimize their property’s ability to return stronger this year. Here are 5 key steps to consider:
1. Take a Data-Driven Approach to Evaluate Market Conditions
As each region recovers at its own pace, hotels are now required to have a more in-depth understanding of their feeder markets, booking patterns, and changes in traveler’s expectations. From increased domestic leisure travel and demand for longer duration of stays to shorter booking windows driving occupancy, hoteliers must continuously evaluate market conditions as they evolve to ensure they’re rolling out the right strategies at the right time.
- Collect and analyze region-specific forward-looking market data to support planning efforts.
- Identify factors that affect the ability to serve customers, such as border restrictions, curfews, changes to flight patterns, and the availability of surrounding local attractions.
- Monitor shifts in travel to establish a highly targeted multi-channel marketing mix and strategies to increase revenue.
2. Identify Traveler Sentiment
Traveler insights can help us understand more about what matters most to guests. This will be an essential component to regaining market share as travel continues to evolve. Consider key findings, such as those from a recent Amadeus global consumer survey, and you’ll be better prepared to capture the coming wave of travelers.
- Travel demand is out there: Nearly 75% of global travelers say they would travel immediately or within 1-3 months of travel restrictions being lifted.
- Travelers want to go further for longer: 72% of travelers would resume international trips, and half of global travelers are seeking a trip duration of 14 days or more.
- Tailored packages resonate more: 70% of travelers say they would opt for a self- or agent-made trip instead of choosing an all-inclusive resort, package tour, or cruise.
- Traveler comfort levels are promising, but prevention measures are critical: Hotel cleaning protocols rank #1 with guests in importance for travel comfort.
3. Redefine Market Segments and Guest Personas
In planning for 2021, guest personas should be the pillar of communications efforts by addressing individual preferences before, during, and after their stay. Identify the personas of your top guests and build messaging or value-add packages for each.
- Young Families (Millennials, Gen X): Families want to reset with a fun, activity-filled vacation without worrying about safety. Review programming to include kid-friendly activities like cookie hour, movie night, or free bike rentals while providing updates on the availability of surrounding points of interest.
- Business Traveler (Seasoned Millennials, Gen X): Although the return to travel may be slow, some business travelers will be looking to resume face-to-face meetings. Emphasize the importance of cleaning protocols, along with private, quiet spaces, contactless technology, wellness amenities, and high-speed Wi-Fi for virtual engagements.
- Travel Agents (Seasoned Millennials, Gen X): Agents may be booking on behalf of another person but are still a vital part of the revenue ecosystem. Don’t forget to keep them in mind–especially considering that many travel agents love to travel themselves.
- “Generation Clean”: No matter what segment travelers fall into, you can be sure they’ll also be a member of “Generation Clean”. Cleanliness protocols are among the top influencers in booking decisions for travelers and likely will be for some time to come. Promote your health and sanitation standards in your 2021 messaging to increase guest confidence.
4. Focus on Brand Visibility to Generate Demand and Drive Bookings
Due to COVID-19, the quality and timing of interactions along the booking journey matter now more than ever before. Evaluate influences that could reduce demand from broader geographical regions while running special promotions to make bookings more attractive for hyper-targeted segments.
- Paid Advertising: Paid search, display, social, and GDS media can be largely beneficial in acquiring new guests by getting in front of the right prospects at the right time. Optimize digital media spend to allocate resources that will incite guests to complete their booking. Emphasize remarketing to target people who have recently engaged with your content while remarketing to travelers that canceled during the crisis.
- Metasearch: Use metasearch to drive bookings and maximize efforts by including quality content such as images, videos, and reviews. Focus initially on your local, regional, and drive markets and expand to capture a greater share of demand as global travel returns.
- SEO: Reignite your SEO strategy by reviewing keywords to increase your property’s visibility across search engines. Be particularly mindful of what terms your competition is ranking for and consider if you want to rank for any new terms based on your change in offerings.
- Agents: GDS advertising will be a valuable channel to help build visibility and show travel agents why they should book your property over other hotels. Target travel agents actively searching for a property in your market and offer a bonus commission when possible.
5. Leverage Key Communication Channels in a COVID-Aware World
As a hotel, you have a wide range of distribution and communication channels at your disposal to support your marketing strategy. Create content to distribute across channels that respond to the motivations of the personas identified for your property.
- Website: Websites are known to influence 97% of purchasing decisions, so it’s more important than ever to keep yours updated and relevant for your audience. Prioritize direct conversions through the booking engine by driving guests from the research phase to the on-site point of purchase.
- Email: Email campaigns are an excellent way to communicate with your existing customers and prospects. Craft personalized messaging tailored to targeted audiences, including special offers like upgrades or bundles to entice bookings.
- Social media: With multiple platforms boasting millions of daily users, social media can broaden your global audience and reinforce brand positioning. Share posts that showcase unique offerings and safety measures being taken on-property.
- Global Distribution System (GDS): Travel agents are a captive audience with high booking potential, as they only search for hotels if they have a client who is planning travel. Update the hotel’s description with any changes to cancellation policies, as well as any amenities that may appeal to guests during COVID-19.
In this new world of travel, the digital experience along the customer journey will be critical to acquiring the next generation of customers. Set your hotel up for success by continuously evaluating evolving market data while ensuring relevant content is available and easily found across multiple channels.
Entering 2021 with a strategic plan to increase visibility and drive bookings will maximize your hotel’s potential to stay ahead while supporting both short- and long-term goals.
To save time planning, download our 2021 Hotel Marketing Strategy Guide, with relevant research, insights, and data points to use when making key decisions.