Time to check-in
Hanna Garrett, Senior PR and Marketing Executive:
- A clear, multi-channel communication strategy is essential
- Leverage all owned media to reach target audiences
- Personalise email marketing for impact and return
The disruption caused by COVID-19 forced many organisations to pivot their business model to create an alternative revenue stream during the national lockdowns. For others, the only feasible option was to close completely. After months of prolonged closure, businesses in the hospitality and travel industry are now facing more challenges: staff shortages, which are affecting their operations; budget restrictions, with marketing spend having been slashed over the past 18 months; and customer retention, due to a lack of consistent communication and brand presence over the last year or so.
As the vaccine programme continues to be rolled out rapidly, and people’s appetite for dining out and travelling returns, how can businesses ensure they are ready to succeed in the shifting, post-pandemic landscape?
The first step is to understand customer priorities. With 70% of travellers prioritising COVID-19 safety and security when choosing an accommodation provider, operators need to ensure clear, cross-channel communication of their safety measures, online and offline, to create a cohesive message for prospective customers to combat uncertainty and secure their booking.
With international travel still restricted, thereby reducing the number of international visitors to the UK, capturing a fair share of the staycation market is essential. Now is the perfect time for companies to emphasise their leisure opportunities. Reviewing online travel agent and competitor websites to understand which search terms consumers are using will provide important insight in order to enhance website copy for SEO performance. Swimming pools, spas, destination dining and proximity to key tourist attractions should be highlighted and complemented with high-resolution imagery. Differentiating a business from its competitors in a crowded space can be difficult so focusing on customer requirements, and showcasing USPs, will help.
If a restaurant or hotel has been closed for months, they will be facing the additional challenge of re-engaging with their customers and re-building their brand awareness. These properties should utilise owned channels, including social media and website, to engage and communicate with loyal audiences and consider increasing the frequency of e-mail marketing to take advantage of the current, increased interest in travel. People expect personalisation, with 72% of consumers saying that they only engage with personalised messaging, and personalised emails see a 139% increase in click-through rates, so changing the frequency and segmentation of email marketing will see higher open, click through and conversion rates.
Another way to build a company’s brand awareness is to turn happy customers into social brand advocates. Over 90% of people trust advocates, compared to influencers, so they are a powerful tool. Organisations in the hospitality industry should encourage their customers to like and follow their social media pages, leave short reviews and share their positive experiences. This will help organically increase brand reach, exposing the business to new prospective customers.
With staff shortages impacting all areas of the industry, leveraging automation in the form of auto-responses on social channels and chatbots on websites will enable rapid responses to customer queries and encourage booking completion, regardless of staffing levels.
Finally, a clear crisis communications plan will continue to have value in the coming months, with the threat of outbreaks, and subsequent closure, forever looming. Having a clear strategy and understanding of how to handle an emergency which threatens business operations empowers employees through the knowledge that they have the tools to tackle an unprecedented challenge.
With so many opportunities to capture market share, and build stronger relationships with customers, a robust marketing and communications strategy remains as important as ever for companies and should continue to be a focus as the industry works to re-build after the devastation of the pandemic.