COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery: Gaining a Competitive Advantage [Webinar]

by | July 2, 2020

Although the road seems long, every day that passes is one day closer to recovery and a promised “new normal.” As restrictions across the country begin to ease, we will see an appetite for travel that the industry has not experienced in a very long time. So how do we prepare our hotel for all of this pent-up demand, with Americans anxious to start traveling once again?

Let’s cover what strategies hoteliers have put into place during this pandemic to start gaining a competitive advantage over local competition as the hotel industry pivots and starts to ramp up towards the road to recovery.

 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic for the U.S. hotel industry, in March and April the industry saw record low, never before seen numbers in almost every metric across the board: in occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR. The decline was swift and steep. Hotels were scrambling to figure out how to fill rooms during a time when almost no one was traveling. 

As time went on and hoteliers started realizing that travelers were not coming back until stay at home orders were lifted, you started to see a shift in strategy. Instead of focusing on the people that were traveling and filling their rooms, hotels turned their attention to the people that weren’t. Targeting their messaging and marketing to travelers sitting at home endlessly scrolling through their social media feeds, travelers researching and dreaming of all the places they would visit first. Hotels during these months were using this time as an opportunity to plant seeds of recovery. 

Today, with a multi-week streak of occupancy gains, hotels are seeing the fruits of that labor and are now transitioning their mindset from “seeds of recovery, to speed of recovery” Hotels are now seeking an edge on this race to recovery and it’s the hotels leveraging their digital marketing channels like social media, online reputation, and hotel websites that will come out on top and gain that competitive advantage. 

Objectives of Social Media

Some of the most fruitful seeds of recovery were planted by hoteliers on their different social media platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic evolved the ways hoteliers communicated with travelers and leveraged their social media profiles. The goals and objectives of a hotel’s social strategy shifted as properties navigated the crisis. Let’s check out 3 of those objectives and how they were utilized by hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Awareness – It doesn’t matter if you are a franchised hotel or independent, if travelers don’t know you exist, you will never be chosen. Brand awareness helps extend reach and expand your hotel’s online audience.
  • Consideration – Once a traveler is aware of you, they can start to consider your hotel as an option. Consideration is measured by traffic & engagement on your hotel’s social media profile page.
  • Conversion –  For hotels, conversion simply equates to bookings. Call to action posts featuring links directly to your website are great examples of social media conversion. 

Every successful social media strategy includes each of these three elements. Most of the time, equally incorporating awareness, consideration, and conversion. During this pandemic, however, hotels have had to adapt and evolve how to best leverage their social media pages to position themselves for rapid recovery.

Leveraging Online Reputation During COVID-19

The next place hoteliers were planting seeds of recovery during the early stages of the pandemic was on popular online review sites like TripAdvisor and Google. As more and more travelers start returning back to our hotels a 5-star experience at a property could look completely different from before and hoteliers need to be ready and adapt.

For example, the content in a five star review written by a hotel guest pre-COVID could include elements like: “The GM greeted every guest individually and shook their hand,” or “Although the lobby was crowded, check in was fast and easy.” Prior to COVID-19, if you saw any of this feedback within one of your hotel’s online reviews you and your team would be ecstatic and it would most likely be associated with a 4- or 5-star rating. 

Today, some of the same terms and phrases used in these comments could negatively impact your business. If travelers read reviews from recent guests that show the hotel has not implemented the necessary safety precautions expected, it sets a different type of “new normal” hotel experience than imagined. At this point, it does not matter what the review rating is, you have lost the trust and decreased the consumer’s comfort level in booking with your property.

Be sure to set the right “new normal” expectations for your travelers and share with them what the new 5-star experience looks and feels like at your hotel. This is the type experience and online review feedback that is critical to gaining a competitive edge over your local hotel competition. Every hotel right now is posting and sharing online the changes that they have made since the start of this pandemic, but it’s when travelers publicly take note of these changes that it really moves the occupancy needle and increases consumer comfort levels to a point where they choose your hotel over the competition. 

So what happens when we implement this strategy from start to finish? We set the right traveler expectations by utilizing the three objectives of social media and we deliver on that service promise by providing the 5-star “new normal” hotel experience. 

Perhaps the best way to illustrate what happens is to look at a popular children’s game Hungry Hungry Hippos – for this example, we will call it Hungry Hungry Hotels. For those of you who are not familiar, the objective of this game is to collect as many pearls as possible by pressing your hippo’s lever and extending its mouth. The more times you hit the lever, the more opportunity you have to capture pearls. The hippo with the most pearls at the end of the game wins. 

The same is true with hotels competing for travelers. As more and more travelers start to emerge and enter the market, hotels are going to be battling for the opportunity to capture them. So what can we do to press that lever, extend our hotel’s reach, and capture more market share than our competition? That’s where our social media and online reputation strategy comes into play. I want you to imagine that every time you see an extension, that hotel is either expanding its reach online by posting on social media or increasing consumer comfort level by generating a positive online review. Some hotels right now are extending their reach slower or faster than others. That’s because some hotels are just sitting and waiting for travelers to come to them instead of hitting that lever, reaching out, and reestablishing their hotel as the market share leader in this post-COVID hotel world.

As we look to see the final results of the game you can see the correlation between the hotels that were actively extending its reach to travelers and market share. 

  • The Yellow Hotel – Inactive on both social media & online review sites experienced the least amount of market share.
  • The Green Hotel – Being a bit more active was able to capture a little more market share by occasionally asking for reviews from guests, but once posted the hotel could not find the time to respond to them. 
  • The Blue Hotel Captured more market share than both the yellow and green hotel by posting occasionally on Social Media & responding to some online reviews, but in the end still leaves a lot of occupancy left on the table.
  • The Pink Hotel – Consistently posts 4x/week on all Social Media sites, uses post-stay emails to earn positive reviews, and responds to every review online. Although not the newest, nicest, or highly rated, the pink hotel was able to capture the most market share and revenue by leveraging these strategies as travelers started to re-enter the market from stay at home orders.  

So as we take a look at this, ask yourself: which hotel are you right now in this game, and which hotel do you want to be? Travel Media Group has helped hotels extend their reach and capture more revenue throughout this pandemic, jumpstarting them on the road to recovery.

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