By Laura Pop-Badiu, TrustYou
- Expect a more cautious and selective booking behavior
- Prioritize safety and cleanliness above everything else
- Communicate openly and honestly
- Highlight outdoor activities and events
- Keep an even closer eye on feedback than before
Change is never easy, especially when it is imposed by negative circumstances such as the COVID-19 outbreak. In the travel landscape, everything changed at an incredibly rapid pace and, as one of the most affected industries, there are countless turns and shifts still ahead. While we slowly come to terms with the new face of travel, it’s important for hoteliers from around the world to acknowledge the immediate impact of the crisis and focus their efforts towards recovering and reopening safely and in the most beneficial way. Just like hospitality businesses are already going through major changes, so will the traveler behavior and the way people perceive their travel journey. In this best practice guide, we’ll explore the five most significant ways in which hotels can support their own recovery and prepare for a successful reopening.
Expect a more cautious and selective booking behavior
The very first step towards recovery is setting the right expectations. It’s understandable that, after losing weeks or even months of bookings and implicitly, revenue, the first impulse would be to focus on making up for the financial hit. However, the most beneficial thing that hotels can do during the present time is to carefully assess the situation and its implications. Even though this won’t pay off fast, it will pay off in the long run. The COVID-19 outbreak will undoubtedly have repercussions on travelers and their booking behavior, as well as their needs and expectations. In fact, many are starting to refer to a “post COVID-19” traveler, one that will display different traits and particularities. It is becoming obvious that, once the crisis clears and the travel restrictions will be lifted, people will want to travel again but they will travel differently. Hoteliers should expect a most cautious and selective approach from travelers, the majority of which will want to travel domestically first. Not only that but it’s important to understand the reasoning behind the expected traveler behavior: after months of uncertainty, travelers will choose destinations and accommodations that are safe, close to home, easily accessible by car, and most importantly, clean. Good ratings in these categories might influence the booking decision even more than price.
Prioritize safety and cleanliness above all else
If there’s one thing that travelers will pay closer attention to than ever before, that is the level of cleanliness. In order to turn travelers into guests once more, hoteliers need to create a safe and clean space, one that will be trusted and enjoyed without fear and worries. The most important way of ensuring a clean and safe environment within a hotel is to set up regular disinfecting sessions, a more thorough housekeeping and even a check-in point or kiosk where incoming guests can check their temperatures. Also, hoteliers should ensure the placement of disinfectants all around the hotel space, at the front-desk, in the hallways, even inside the rooms. A not-so-obvious way of prioritizing safety and cleanliness is through operational excellence. Hoteliers should implement strict rules for their staff and also provide them with efficient ways of communicating and solving any issues that might arise. A messaging solution is extremely valuable in this new landscape since it enables staff members to communicate with guests as well as with each other. Not only that but they are able to set and prioritize internal tasks that lead to more efficient operations and higher productivity. It should be noted that post COVID-19 guests will likely have many questions directed towards the hotel staff and the ideal way of responding to them is through a messaging app, rather than face-to-face.
Communicate openly and honestly
That brings us to the next strategy, which is to communicate as openly and as honestly with guests. By now, everyone’s aware of the shortcomings in everyday life and it’s safe to assume that even when travel picks back up, issues will still arise here and there. It’s normal and it’s human and expectations of perfection are making room for reality just as it is. This is why now, more than ever, it’s crucial for hoteliers not to try and sweep any problems under the carpet. Especially in the COVID-19 context, many possible issues can be completely understandable, as long as they are communicated in time and in an honest manner. Back in March, when consumers were still traveling, our own semantic analysis of guest reviews determined a large number of mentions that referred to hotel staff not letting new guests know that they have previously registered COVID-19 cases on the hotel premises. This is one reason why travelers left negative reviews, saying that they would have liked to know about that particular situation, instead of it being left unmentioned. Not only that but some guests left post-stay reviews complaining about certain amenities (like the pool or the spa) being closed, something that they have not been notified about. In order to set the right expectations straight from the beginning, communication in a post COVID-19 world will matter more than ever before and hoteliers need to keep in mind that once more, honestly will be the best policy.
Highlight outdoor activities and events
It’s safe to assume that, once the travel restrictions are lifted, travelers will approach the idea of spending time in a closed and crowded accommodation with caution. Because of health concerns and after spending so much time indoors, people might focus their attention on hotels and destinations which offer multiple options for outdoor activities and events. Knowing this and acknowledging the new preferences and expectations of the post COVID-19 travelers will enable hoteliers to focus their efforts towards promoting what will matter most: safety, cleanliness, open spaces, outdoor activities, small events, etc. Hotels who already use the marketing solutions have the option of displaying their scores and excellence badges in certain categories, with the end goal of establishing trust and encouraging travelers to make the right decision for their stay. Not only that but it is encouraged to actively promote any of the above mentioned features or activities that will be valued by travelers.
Keep an even closer eye on feedback than before
While everyone in the business is trying to ease the hits taken during this time, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that hospitality is one of the most people-centric businesses. Revenue is indeed the end goal but we are talking about an industry in which the consumer’s experience sometimes matters more than the bottom line. This is why hoteliers should consider guest feedback even more than before the crisis since the way and the pace in which a hotel business will recover depends on how travelers perceive it. While many hotels are on lockdown, a smart move from the management’s part would be to use this time to analyze past performances, to see what weaknesses can be adjusted in the future and what strengths need to be promoted more. Also, once the hotels reopen, hoteliers need to ensure a constant communication with upcoming guests and to encourage their feedback throughout their entire stay. This will help the staff to fix any issues on the spot and to generate a more positive post-stay feedback which will continue to positively impact the booking decision of future guests.