By Zsolt Makkai, Marketing Executive, FIHR – Romanian Hotel Industry Federation
Marketing is the last topic anybody would talk about with pandemic restrictions everywhere. This summer saw discussions among hoteliers looking for solutions and talking about various possible strategies. But then, I realized, after some research, that the marketing topics are still a mystery, and there is a defensive attitude towards them at the decision-making level. Talking about the future without marketing is like cooking dinner but missing the plate to serve it on.
In times of crisis, I see there are three types of marketing-related decisions hoteliers often make, apparently all for good reasons:
- Increasing the marketing budget—this includes investing in digital marketing and hiring marketing professionals to plan and manage the activities
- Keeping the marketing budget as it originally was, with the board members or executive directors micromanaging every decision, focusing only on short-term sales strategies and fighting for survival
- Reducing dramatically or cutting all marketing budgets and trying, in some cases, to replace outsourced marketing services with in-house options
My advice is, no matter what marketing strategy decision you make, it should be the one that helps you find new guests, in the end.
Where are the guests?
I would say, all guests who are willing to travel in times of crisis—when flights are few, restrictions are on and there are risks of infection—are heroes who save our industry. The good news is, they do exist. There are people who look forward to travelling and are ready to do it. So, look around and find new guests from all levels—domestic, regional and international—and create new products and services for them. How? Study and research information about your new target and market, learn their needs and reach them. Market your new product for your guests.
How can the guests find your hotel?
Simple: make them see you! Online is the easiest way, and offline also works, though mainly at a local and regional levels. If you have a website, improve it with safety information and easy contact options. If you don’t have a website, use social media. You need to be proactive, especially if you have multiple markets to reach. One piece of advice: make sure you have a dedicated marketing position. The worst thing that marketing can do is to do nothing.
When will guests travel?
Only when it’s necessary! Family or work—such motivations will always put some pressure on the travellers. You need to be extra flexible, hospitable and empathic with any customer’s request. Make sure your communication and tone of voice convey trust, care and understanding. Your guests’ motivation should matter.
What kind of hotels are guests looking for?
The safe ones! Please take this seriously. The new travel culture means sanitary safety first and this will be the new approach in communications and marketing, too. Make sure you have implemented health and safety standards and procedures, that your staff are trained and that each guest will have experienced the same treatment. Guests’ health and safety are not negotiable!
Why do guests choose your hotel?
Never underestimate your customers’ expectations. What makes the difference between your hotel and your competitors? What are your differentiating factors? What you do differently than before the pandemic? All these answers will lead guests to your hotel being their first choice. Repositioning in these times is the biggest opportunity for any hotel, and only your marketing communication will generate attention, indicate trustworthiness and provide your customers with choices. Reinventing your hotel is your new marketing strategy.