By Zsolt Makkai, Marketing Executive, FIHR – Romanian Hotel Industry Federation
Tourism and hospitality will never be the same. From the travel culture to tourism products, everything will be redefined. It’s a fact. The same happened during the 2008 crisis, when the usual business culture changed dramatically and returned to what it was. The first good step we can take is starting to accept these new times.
In the middle of this crisis, many hotels are closed or work in soft mode, and those are the normal steps. Obviously, the question remains: What will happen after this?
I would like to narrow down this question to: Who is taking care of your marketing? Marketing is key for your survival during crisis; it’s the first priority when it comes to get back to normal and open your door again for hotel guests. Instead of cutting off your marketing expenses or contracts, take some time and think again.
Desperate times need pragmatic measures, and this is why communication should be the first thing you do not want to stop, especially during a crisis. Let me share some thoughts.
Create a solid internal communication plan for your employees.
Make sure your staff understand the importance of the situation, let them share their thoughts and talk about it. Never underestimate the importance of being open and, at the same time, pragmatic: This will help your team be part of creating the company policies, as well as understanding and complying with them.
Another subject you should focus on is your customer-facing staff: They need to be ready to answer questions from your guests. When facing a stressed-out client, it’s important to make sure your staff has immediate access to all channels as a resource to verify any information in real time. Clarity is trust.
Don’t hard sell. Show support.
Your communication should be empathic, fair and clear: Explain what measures you take during the crisis, show your clients your commitment to safety and prevention, or simply, just make sure that it’s easy to get in touch with you and your contact information available on as many channels as possible including email, telephone, web page or social media. Turn your effort into support.
Increase your brand exposure and online effort.
I am sure you have already realized this; so make sure you communicate your brand. Don’t lose your positioning and SEO history; keep it working. Nothing will be the same in sales after the crisis: You will need to change everything, from your price policies to your promotions and, of course, your sales strategies. When communicate with your guests online, make sure your promotion or message include complimentary offers. Rewarding guests is essential.
Marketing leading, Sales following.
The crisis will change the perspective on marketing. Those who communicate will survive. If before, sales used to state their expectations and marketing offered support and strategy, it will be different from now. The marketing strategy will be followed by sales, and this will lead all the strategies in the hotels. Remember the 2008 financial crisis? All guests chose to stay in hotels just for the bed and the breakfast, i.e. the bare necessities. Now Covid-19 will change again the guests’ behaviors. One example: guests will choose a hotel on basic criteria: safety, online facilities, easy access and in-house services. But they will also choose to stay in the hotel as much as they can, and this means opportunities for your sales department. Creativity always sells.
Ensure brand safety!
I left maybe the utmost important piece of advice for the end: Ensure brand safety! Protect your brand at any cost. Before, guests chose hotels based on reviews and you made the follow up. Now? Reviews will be about extremely sensitive topics with loads of high expectations and increased stress level. This will be a challenge for us all. This is why your hotel’s marketing and communication strategy is more than essential and will actually be your safety belt. Activate your marketing strategy, now!