Nearly 90% of Navis clients that had to close due to COVID related issues have opened or announced their re-opening. For some, bookable call volume is back to pre-COVID levels. Conversions and revenue are following suit. Many are reporting stronger year-over-year early-June demand as “revenge travel” unleashes.
This is unchartered territory, however. Is demand momentary or here to stay? What about staffing and marketing in this in-between time? Questions like these have properties wondering: so what now?
In our recent webinar, NAVIS’ Director of Enterprise Sales, Stacie Bushaw, was joined by Kathleen Cullen, Senior Vice President of PHG Consulting, Lily Mockerman, Founding Partner of ThinkUp and CEO of Total Customized Revenue Management, and Loren Gray, Founder of Hospitality Digital Marketing to discuss focus areas for properties re-establishing, or re-opening, operations.
Here a few key takeaways from the webinar:
1. Leisure leads the way (but look closely at it).
Surprisingly, search volume never really declined. While travel restrictions and caution slowed bookings, interest remained high, and lockdowns stoked it. This means: “there’s no need for major discounting to create incentive value. The demand is there.”
The leisure opportunity, however, may look different. For example, off-limits international destinations will prompt more domestic travel. Addressable drive markets “may move from 3-5 hours away, to a 1-2 day drive away.” Any remaining domestic travel limitations will enhance this “tethered travel dynamic”, too. This means that leisure travel will come in waves. Properties will have the usual, local, drive market travelers. Then, the expanded drive market set, followed by travelers from progressively farther flight markets.
But some argue caution. “Leisure demand may be used up in the short term.” After that, it “might taper, before returning with a slow build.” Others suggest that, because not everyone has the same travel capacity (time, finances, and work flexibility) demand for leisure may sustain, meaning no ‘dip’ before business and other travel restore market health.
2. Check, and double-check, your systems and data.
Because technology is behind the scenes, many forget to review systems, messaging, and data before re-opening. For example: “We’re seeing issues as properties send massive messages [through their systems] that aren’t getting picked up properly because of old rate plans.”
3. Prepare for a new market, with new competitors, doing new things.
“Everybody is opening at different times, with different services, service levels, and offerings.” Hotels need to understand what this means for them, and how this redefines their competitive set.
“If your competitor used to have a full-service restaurant or room service, and they don’t,” what does that mean for you? Others’ new policies, procedures, and even staffing levels are differentiators. “There are new rules” – and messaging must take these into account. “If you think you’re going to come in, flip the lights on and start campaigns back to the way they were, you’ll waste money.”
4. Keep your Google listings updated (duh!), and help area partners, too.
Travelers depend on Google and similar online business profiles for the latest on openings and area dining and activity availability. Outdated info hurts credibility. In extreme cases, it may keep travelers away: if they can’t eat or visit a popular attraction, why visit?
“Now is a great time for you to create partners within a reasonable distance of your hotel. Reach out to them, offer to help them with their reopening strategy, and walk them through how to update their Google listing. If you know that they’re offering dine-in, for example, encourage them: I want to promote that you’re open on my website. Let me list your restaurant in a list of resources of activities and dining that are currently open.”
A curated list of updates and news positions you as the expert. “People will flock to your hotel” because you’re seen as a trustworthy, reliable, market voice.
5. Show off your property to the world (even with your iPhone).
“We have a new norm of marketing and videography. Even the late-night talk shows are run on cell phones.” Branded or unbranded hotels can show the world what they’re doing; building confidence around safety measures or pointing out where guests pick up box lunches since the buffet is closed.
“Just do little video walk-throughs and ease the travel decision process.” You don’t need dramatic, overproduced videos. “Let people know that if they have to travel through your market, you’re the place to stay – regardless of what the media message around you is.”
6. Long live the voice channel!
“For the last 12 years everybody said that voice is dead. Situations like COVID prove that this isn’t true.” People want to talk to somebody more than ever – and a sales or reservation agent is a first line of defense. They can paint the picture of what the guest will actually experience.
They want to know: are the pools and restaurants really open? Train and coach your team on how to handle tough questions, and how to encourage travelers, with confidence. Keep rates strong and focus on the features and opportunities of the property. “There’s a resurgence of the need for hospitality, and there is no better time to capitalize on the book-direct strategy.”
7. Understand your demand, medium, and channel investments
“Opportunistic re-channeling is an important step.” This means: taking control of your spend and allotments based on where opportunity exists. Look at everything – revenue strategy, acquisition strategies, costs, profitability – and look at the customers behind each channel too.
“We used to fight for inches on voice and market share. Now, you can spend one-tenth of your previous budget and get ten times the amount of voice to your market.” There’s also an opportunity to show up higher in the funnel.
“There are keywords available that were too costly and competitive before, because the OTAs and big brands are sitting on the sidelines.”
Check out the full webinar on-demand
Hear more reopening ideas and strategies on the full recording, here.