Author: Nicki Graham, Cendyn
Ghosting is never a good look. If your hotel has closed completely due to the coronavirus, now is not the time for radio silence. With millions of travelers confined to their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, people are likely daydreaming about travel or looking for entertainment from brands they admire.
Use this opportunity to nurture your database and remind them of all the things they love about your hotel. Whether it is expert advice, showcasing your CSR efforts or protecting loyalty status, now is the time to stay engaged with your guests on a personal level, so when travel opens back up, your guests will be first in line to book a stay with your hotel.
Tone and tempo
Tempo, sentiment and messaging are key right now. Once things return to normal and travel resumes, guests will remain loyal to the hotel brands they know well, trust and respect. During the quarantine, keep this close to your strategy as you craft messages and time outreach to your database. At this point, that requires a daily check in and reflection both locally and globally to set this against the news of the day, making sure that your values are clear in anything that you communicate, the cadence of your outreach and sensitivity to latest developments.
Whatever you do, do not go silent – stay in touch with your past and prospective guests with an authentic, consciously minded voice that is unique to your hotel. That does not mean every message must start with ‘during these difficult times.’ Light-hearted content is very soothing and welcomed by consumers right now, so if your hotel is a playful brand, don’t suddenly switch to a stiff conservative tone. Maintain your brand and overlay with mindfulness in your approach.
Flexibility and value-adds
A huge segment of the population is currently unemployed, furloughed or receiving reduced salaries. Showing guests that you are mindful of reduced incomes by adding value with things like complimentary room-service breakfasts or flexible policies will go a long way to not appear tone-deaf to what people are experiencing on a personal financial level. Be clear about this in your messaging, as they place their trust and limited dollars in your property for their post-quarantine trips.
Consciously minded promotions
As mentioned before, hotels that survive the crisis will likely have had a deep personal connection to their guests. A big part of that connection will be shared values – does this hotel line up with what is important, noble or fair to me as a guest. A way to show your commitment to being a good corporate citizen would be consciously minded promotions. For example, buy one, get one … If a guest books a future stay with your hotel, your property commits to giving a donation to a non-profit fighting the coronavirus or feeding needy populations. That way, the guest can see how booking a stay with your hotel actually does multiple things – reserves a trip they can look forward to, stimulates the economy and helps fight the pandemic – all at once.
Protect loyalty status
Telling your guests that their status, points and rewards are protected is very important for nurturing brand loyalty and allegiance. Consumers will see your action here as the opportunity for a brand’s true colors to shine through, so maintain your integrity with loyalists especially. For example, extend date frames for members with Elite status; don’t expire points. Reduce elite status qualifications for 2020, since travel is almost at a standstill in many locations across the world. For members who have free night awards, give extensions so the stays can be used at a later date
Fuel their travel daydreams
We will travel again. Hopefully, that day will be soon! Now is the time to share your most beautiful property and location photos to inspire a healthy dose of travel wanderlust. As lockdowns and quarantine continue, people are dreaming of travel – places they have experienced before, reminiscing about amazing stays they’ve had at your hotel and exploring new destinations. Use this as an opportunity to stay front of mind during this time and showcase the beauty of your property, as well as the people who are masters in the art of hospitality. Be a source of positivity and inspiration – something people are holding dear right now.
Entertain guests under lockdown
Entertain guests under lockdown with videos of your staff showing off their skills and things your hotel is known for. Cooking tutorials, craft cocktail lessons, how to arrange the perfect charcuterie board or tips for turn-down service are just a few examples of short videos your staff could film, bringing your hotel to people’s screens. If your hotel has a golfing range, have your pro give advice on perfecting your swing. Do you have a spa? Share DIY home spa treatments like body scrubs or have your yoga instructor lead a guided live online meditation.
Did your hotel have a lounge or live music area on the property? Give free playlists or even virtual concerts from the home of a local performer who frequently played at your hotel. Or just give good advice your guests can use during lockdown. For example, Miraval Arizona and Miraval Austin have taken their well-being advice online by featuring tips about mindful grocery shopping and how to maintain positive relationships while quarantined with others.
Inform guests of your closure and keep them updated as recovery begins with the safety protocols you’ve put in place to re-open. The more transparent you can be about these changes, the better the overall experience will be for each guest. Remember, the guest experience is about the whole customer journey, and now, more than ever as an industry, we need to keep guest anxieties to a minimum. Communicate about important changes, such as:
- Room cleaning schedules
- Check-in process changes
- New restaurant opening times
- Restaurant seating arrangements and changes to access
- Airport shuttle restrictions/adaptations
In closing, it does not have to be perfect, but stay in touch with guests. There is still a conversation to be had, whether it is transactional or inspirational. Let authenticity be your guide and use technology to nurture the relationships your hotel has built over the years. Trust us, they will remember these digital moments and return when brighter days arrive.