COVID-19 and the travel restrictions and lockdowns required to reduce the spread of the virus have brought about an unprecedented drop in occupancy for hotels and other lodging operations all over the world. Some properties have had to close out floors, suspend certain services such as dining and event services, or temporarily shut their doors. While the novel coronavirus has had a profound impact on daily operations, try to take advantage of this forced downtime to reflect on your business and the changes you can make to ensure your hotel is well positioned to maximize revenue when the gates of travel open again.
Review Your Marketing Strategy
There are a lot of predictions about what the new normal of travel will look like after COVID-19. As borders reopen and fears subside, will travelers still travel like they used to? There’s a general consensus that domestic travel will see an increase, while business and international travel will decrease—at least for a while.
Recovery of the travel industry will be fluid and uneven, so it will be more important than ever for hotel marketers to adopt a flexible marketing strategy based on close analysis of their reservations data and market. As the world recovers from the pandemic, hotels should prepare to adjust their marketing spend and channels to align with shifting market segments.
What is certain during these uncertain times is that maintaining communication with customers is crucial. It’s important to reassure potential guests by clarifying your property’s COVID-19 status and policies, and to stay top of mind for guests looking forward to traveling again once this is all over. While marketing messaging during COVID-19 is a topic that deserves a blog post all of its own, now is a good time to evaluate the systems you have in place to reach out to guests. For example, if you aren’t already, seriously consider automating customer communications such as reservation confirmations and pre- and post-stay emails to take advantage of these key touchpoints to build the guest relationship and generate revenue through upselling and cross-selling opportunities.
Take a good look at your website and make sure content is current, updating text and images yourself where you can. If your budget allows, consider getting that website redesign underway. Look at creating fresh photo and video content for your website and to use for future ad campaigns and on your property’s social media accounts. If you haven’t yet started a blog for your property, now might be the right time. A blog is a great way to stay connected to your customers during these uncertain times, and provides good content for your property’s social media accounts and e-newsletters too.
Read Your Online Reviews
Spend some time reading through (and responding to) recent online guest reviews to become more aware of what your guests love about your property, and what they don’t. Reviews shine a light on the areas that really need improvement—which can sometimes differ from the areas we think need attention. Let positive reviews provide encouragement during these tough times, acting as a reminder of what you are fighting for.
If your property’s online reviews are looking a bit thin, consider ways to generate more. From asking at check-out to sending post-stay review requests, review management can be handled manually or via automated solutions that make generating and responding to reviews easy.
Online reviews were critical to a hotel’s reputation before COVID-19 and are likely to be even more important after. Hotel and room cleanliness, for example, has always been a significant rating factor within guest reviews and, going forward, will carry even more weight. Paying some attention to your property’s reviews and review management strategy now can help put your property on a stronger foot when the industry starts to recover.
Get to Know Your Hotel Operating Systems Better
Your hotel operating systems—including your property management system (PMS), revenue management system (RMS), point-of-sale (POS) software, customer relationship management (CRM) solution, among others—are designed to drive revenue and efficiency, and they will be key to maximizing both in our post-pandemic industry.
Make use of this time to delve deeper into your hotel systems to discover ways of doing things better. Explore features and reports you are unfamiliar with and consider how they might help make your workday easier or provide deeper insights into your business. What would you like your systems to do better? What cross-system integrations would improve workflows and the guest experience at your property? Now is a good time to reach out to your technology vendors with questions and customization requests. If any of your systems are holding you back, dedicate some downtime to researching alternative solutions. Although you might be hesitant to invest in new technology right now, contact solution providers, ask questions, and be ready to go with your top choice when brighter days come.
Cross-train Your Staff
As roles across departments have become quieter these days, consider using this time to cross-train your staff. The flexibility afforded by cross-training staff is always beneficial to a business’s bottom line—both during tough times and when business is going well.
The decision to cross-train staff within or across departments depends on each business and your employees’ strengths and skill sets. Giving employees the ability to step outside their primary roles when needed not only maximizes flexibility and efficiency in scheduling staff, but results in a more productive, engaged and cohesive team that delivers a better guest experience.
Reassess Your Expenses
The COVID-19 crisis has already driven most hotels and businesses across industries to reassess their expenses, looking for ways to reduce costs. While it may never have been so urgent to cut costs as it is now, identifying wasteful or excessive practices has always been key to maximizing profits.
Look for ways to become more cost efficient going forward without negatively impacting the guest experience or brand image. Assessing staff scheduling efficiency, cross-training staff, identifying opportunities for automation, sourcing F&B supplies from fewer vendors and reducing frequency of deliveries, implementing energy-efficiency controls, and sourcing cheaper office supplies are some examples of how and where costs could be minimized without affecting quality of service.
Find Ways to Go Greener
For the world’s population the novel coronavirus is a health tragedy, but for the planet, COVID-19 has brought about a much-needed breather—from us. Satellite imaging has shown a significant reduction in pollution all over the world as a direct result of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Climate change and the need to live and operate our businesses in a more sustainable way has been front of mind long since before this pandemic hit. Recent research showed that sustainable travel options were becoming increasingly important to today’s travelers. Tomorrow it will be even more important.
If you haven’t already given it much thought, consider ways you could go greener at your hotel and how you can promote your sustainability efforts. Some methods require little upfront investment, like installing energy-efficient lightbulbs, implementing towel and linen reuse programs, and replacing single-use packaging (water bottles, mini toiletries, salt-and-pepper packets, etc.) with refillable solutions. Other ways, such as adopting alternative energy sources like solar and wind power, and implementing automated energy management systems, involve much more significant upfront costs, but dramatically reduce operational costs and your environmental footprint.
These are the toughest times for the hotel industry in recent history, but try to stay positive and focused on the horizon. Use this time wisely to take a close look at your business and how you can emerge from this crisis even stronger.