There is also a formula for the 4 C’s of Marketing Communications: Clarity, Credibility, Consistency and Competitiveness. Since circumstances have dealt 2020 a gut-wrenching blow, we have envisioned a new set of 4 C’s — the 4 C’s of marketing communications in a COVID and post-COVID world. Consider instead: Compassion, Comfort, Clarity, Credibility.
With this in mind, what steps should we consider to message? And does sequence of channels matter?
Operations and Training:
Safety precautions and hotel updates must be communicated clearly to employees before the property is externally marketed. Whether it’s through the HR department or Executive Office, the operational changes and staff training are critical. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) can include and of course are not limited to: wearing gloves and masks; repeated cleaning of public spaces, guestrooms and more; installation of plexi barriers, hand sanitizing stations, checking body temperatures. Departmental discussions with staff are necessary in all areas: housekeeping, front office, reservations, and more.
Will buffets no longer be the norm? Will we find breakfast consists of individually wrapped items such as sandwiches, muffins, and granola bars? Will hand sanitizing stations be placed in high-contact public areas such as the lobby or meetings rooms? We must inform employees and internal stakeholders first. Ownership/management should also refer to the appropriate State guidelines and coordinate for implementation. What’s key to point out here is that the operation implements modifications for COVID-19 first of course, and training must be in place before any marketing to external audiences.
2. On Property Signage / Reservations Department Scripting:
On-property information such as signage and posters are essential for communicating the hotel’s new safety policies to guests. Signage should be located at the main entrance, front desk, and high contact public areas that outline the property’s social distancing and mask policy. (A recent local “staycation” witnessed signage in restrooms communicating the importance of taking 20 seconds for hand washing). Ensure that when people call by telephone to connect with the front desk, PBX, reservations, or the concierge, that everyone is prepared to respond to all guest inquiries – consistently, compassionately, clearly and credibly. Frankly, all associates should be trained to speak to the specifics of the cleanliness and sanitation measures throughout the hotel.
3. The Sales Department:
There were likely some relationships hurt when clients requested monies back for their non-refundable deposits during the early weeks of pandemic. Hotels tried hard to keep these pieces of business on the books for cash flow. The sales department may need to keep the lines of communication open for relationship repair too. In other cases, the sales department was likely reaching out to clients since the beginning of the “shelter-in-place” orders – to connect, check in, and ask about clients’ well-being. Or, sales managers may have been furloughed our laid off, so there may not have been any client communications at all. Now it is time for that same sales managers to convey that the hotel is taking extra precautionary measures to ensure the hotel is as safe as possible for guests to help restore trust and confidence. Since many sales managers may have not been working, now is the a period for renewed contact.
The Hotel Website:
Now that the internal communications is in place, time to focus on the digital footprint. It is interesting how this pandemic has flipped certain phenomena upside down. For example, in the last decade, the consumer trust of the proprietary website has waned as the reliance on user-generated content was found to be a more objective and credible resource. Customer reviews are trusted 12 times more than marketing coming directly from an organization (CrowdRiff.com, 2018). Now, however, as hotels are just starting to reopen in some markets, and more eyes will certainly scrutinize website content for COVID best practices, the need for compassionate, comforting and clear communications directly from the hotel is critical.
What should be included on the website? How specific should the information be? As specific as necessary to demonstrate thoughtfulness and detail of precautions in place. For example:
Housekeeping and sanitation practices:
What measures will now be in place to clean guestrooms?
What measures for in-room and/or public (space) restrooms?
Will hand sanitizing stations be available throughout the property?
Will temperatures be checked – of employees, guests?
Are rooms vacant for 24 hours between guest visits?
How are we reducing contact between guests and employees or amongst employees?
Change in policies:
Is there a new cancellation policy?
Can guests check in on their phone?
What other steps may be replaced or relaxed to encourage physical distancing?
Food and beverage options:
Will meal options be modified? Temporarily?
Will restaurants serve breakfast, lunch and/or dinner?
As a value-add, can the hotel provide a list of restaurants nearby which deliver or provide a pick up option?
On-Site and Area Activities:
Are on-site or town beaches open? Is there parking?
Are local museums open? If not when will they open? Any restrictions for guests?
Should activities/reservations/tickets be booked online and in advance?
Can we provide a list of activities to do in the area?
Even though some hoteliers may feel like they are operating on borrowed time, just waiting for the next restrictions to be announced for their area, it is clear that preparation paired with the advantages of hospitality software is helping hoteliers to adjust to the times and tailor their service efforts. Many are using tech tools that make sure guests are satisfied before, during and after they spend time and money with the hotel brand of their choice.
A large number of clients added a few questions to surveys, specifically about the effects that COVID-19 may have had on guests’ travel experiences. Some of these questions were:
Do you feel an appropriate amount of care was taken to mitigate the risk of contracting Covid-19 at the property?
Did these new COVID-19 measures impact negatively on your stay with us?
Did you feel safe during your stay?
Keep learning about your guests
A guest’s experience with a hotel brand is a journey, one to be kept track of and improved over time in order for it to be repeated; with carefully considered details that add to why people would choose your hotel every time, and even trust your hotel when searching for a safe and enjoyable place to travel during the pandemic.
Finding out where your guests come from, the nature of their visits, whether they have any special dietary requirements, and so on, allows hoteliers to personalise a guest’s stay. Even if your staff end up referring them to other restaurants for example, your guests will be more likely to book with you in the future if you kept their needs top of mind.
In a time where guests are taking extra care about where they go, hoteliers should be spending more resources on getting to know more about the intentions and preferences of their guests moving forward.
Communicate your safety procedures with guests, and take their opinions into account
Finding ways to ease guests’ anxieties is an ongoing process, and no hotelier wants to miss communication opportunities with prospective guests that could allow you to share information that would decrease travel anxieties while increasing travel interests.
Do guests know which payment options you have? Are there touchless solutions at your property? Do you offer online check-in? Make sure your hotel’s website has all the updated and mobile-friendly information that guests will need to see, this ties everything together and makes it clear why a stay with you is worth the risk (however minor you have managed to make it) for anyone looking to book a hotel during COVID-19.
Consistently engaging prospective guests with content about the care your hotel takes for their safety will attract increased bookings during COVID-19, as people may increasingly search for COVID-19 free hotels near them in hopes of finding a reliable option to visit, and come back from in full health.
Guests get relief from well trained staff
It goes without saying, in times like these the staff at a property should be prepared to exhibit their care for hygiene and safety beyond their call of duty, which is why management needs to make sure they are equipped with all the knowledge and tools to provide a visible and satisfactory effort towards guests’ comfort during their stay.
Researching the health and safety measures that are within your means, and to the guests’ satisfaction, will help keep your hotel staff agile to the needs of your guests, making it easier for staff to deliver a smooth experience to guests time and again.
We share our “Easing COVID-19 Guest Anxieties” infographic with you, which is our take on the kinds of thoughts and action items we hope will be of assistance for hoteliers trying to adapt to the times; and may make it easier for you as you revisit your website, pre-stay and staff training structures in light of the new and extraordinary precautions and regulations you are expected to meet.
Hoteliers will benefit further from meeting guests halfway by revisiting their cancellation policies, and making it part of their organisational culture to remain transparent about how compliant they are with the COVID-19 requirements and guest expectations.
And, though a number of retail and hospitality jobs will be on the line during this shaky period ahead, it’s important for those staff members who are still around to have some of the technicalities taken off their hands by tech and automated wherever possible, so that they can continue giving their best towards guest experiences, considering how few hands there are on deck these days.
Tap into the benefits of guest feedback
Looking at a breakdown of our clients’ online reviews gave us some key insights into how Covid-19 has affected our clients’ online reputations. Although reviews have dropped in quantity compared to last year, most of the feedback has improved in quality since our clients have re-opened their doors!
Tripadvisor ratings went up from 83.59% in 2019 (2401 reviews) to 86.38% in 2020 (962 reviews)
Google Reviews ratings went up to 87.91% this year (1841 reviews) from 87.2% (3602 reviews) last year
Booking.com ratings dropped slightly from 89.38% last year (3679 reviews) to 83.12% (3494 reviews)
Hotels.com ratings went up from 87.93% last year (232 reviews) and are now at 88.26% (187 reviews)
These few ratings results are suggestive of guests still being fully connected to the digital platforms at their fingertips, poised to make informed choices about their stays and also be involved throughout their journeys; possibly in order to ease inevitable “Permanxiety” – a portmanteau coined by Skift to describe the near-constant state of anxiety that travelers experience due to geopolitical events, climate change and other local issues.
Sharing testimonials from satisfied (and healthy!) guests across multiple platforms, as well as details about all your precautionary measures in easily consumable forms on online listings for potential guests is invaluable, and could make all the difference when people are searching for nearby hotels that are visibly low-risk to book right now. This will echo out through all of the guests that do book with you and share their experiences.
Monitor the effects of changes on guest satisfaction
With hotels having so many changes in their pipelines; it’s important they track the impact of those changes on guests, as those changes do tend to involve resources that are already on the back foot for many hospitality brands. GuestRevu, for example, includes a Milestones feature that allows you to visualise tangible impacts that were felt by guests when you implemented changes.
The financial commitments that hotels are making towards health and safety infrastructure will reflect on a hotel’s bottom line, and adding a milestone marker to your guest feedback report timeline allows hoteliers to gain perspective on the return-on-investment they stand to gain; in real time.
Having this kind of feedback in your control allows you to jump at the necessary changes to make. So if your hotel is in the process of installing new facilities and supplies towards the battle against the pandemic, you can easily see how those changes are impacting your guest satisfaction ratings over time, and work on making those changes as comfortable for guests as possible on your campaign to stand firm as one of the safest hotels during COVID-19.
Opt for touchless solutions where you can
Todays’ hotel guests are likely still apprehensive about the risk of contracting COVID-19 by touching everyday surfaces at hotels. Hoteliers are faced with the challenge of mitigating that risk, and should be looking into touchless hospitality solutions to put guests at ease during these times.
The balancing act of having a minimal amount of guest-facing points at your hotel; while not completely losing the human element of your business, is made possible by the touchless technology options that many hospitality tech companies provide; and would put any hotel guest at ease during the pandemic.
Enseo, for example, assists accommodation providers with in-room entertainment; high speed internet access; integrated room control using the Internet of Things; and even Associate Distress Systems, with panic buttons that enable quicker responses between staff members in the case of a guest’s medical emergency.
A guest presented with this kind of room control from their smartphone will feel well taken care of; as they may even control their doors and lights, book amenities, set room temperatures, live-TV and apps that they can personalise to their taste while mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19 by touching surfaces and everyday objects.
To assist in bringing relief to prospective guests, Asksuite introduced the topic of COVID-19 to their chatbot, to help travelers with quick and comprehensive answers that are specific to travel during the pandemic. They are also striving to ensure hoteliers meet guests halfway through these tough times, by campaigning to encourage guests to reschedule bookings, instead of cancelling altogether.
And as we see more of voice command and virtual check-in assistants, contactless payments in dining areas, gesture control, digital menus on tablets instead of paper, and QR scanning to transform one’s smartphone into a control device for guest experience as a whole; we might also see more guests who prefer to book with early adopters of these solutions.
The availability of these game-changing technologies in hotels amid the pandemic, is changing the face of “branded hotels” and guiding them to adopt the intimate, charming and trendy features of “new-generation boutique hotels”, or Lifestyle hotels for the future hotel guest. Now is the time to bridge the gap between ‘the new normal’, the expectations of guests, and the standards of hotels moving forward.
Sharpen your hotel’s inner workings to better your guest experience
The image above displays the world’s best hotel tech products of 2020 (sourced from Hotel Tech Report), that have been helping hoteliers keep up with guest expectations and satisfying guests at different stages of their journeys; and hotels are leaning on their hotel tech options especially during these times of social distancing, reduced staff and working from home.
Communication is key; in order to drive more direct bookings and improved guest satisfaction, faster problem resolution time, and faster service response time are elements that your hotel can tackle along the guest journey with the right balance of human service and tech solutions, as displayed above.
Having social proof and guest feedback platforms on your side plays a major role in showing your prospective guests what they actively want to know or share about your establishment; which builds a relationship of trust and a culture of health and safety related transparency to the public on behalf of your hotel.
The tech tools of today are interdependent in their nature; all to the benefit of an improved hotel brand. The advent of automated hotel technology and machine learning (Artificial Intelligence backed software), have made it so that a comfortable guest is kept at the centre of the hospitality business.
And, while industry professionals aim to recover from and adjust to the uphill battle against the pandemic, hoteliers will endeavour to use an increasing variety of means to create wholesome experiences for guests to enjoy – without the incessant worries of getting COVID-19 to spoil their stays.
At least 90% of the world’s population has been affected in one way or another by the current pandemic. Borders have shut down, social distancing has required citizens to isolate in their homes, and economies have been put on hiatus.
While many industries have been impacted, the travel and tourism industry has been particularly hard hit. Travel and quarantine restrictions coupled with tight budgets and fears of infection have significantly reduced tourism. By the end of 2020, international tourism is expected to decline by 80%, resulting in up to $1.2 trillion in lost revenues. Additionally, an estimated 100 million tourism and travel and 25 million aviation jobs are at risk.
This has left many industry experts, employees, and travelers unsure of what the future will hold for tourism. Currently, the travel industry and its providers are adapting day by day but some are now looking to post-COVID-19 recovery. This article explores expectations companies and tourists may have surrounding travel in the near future, and key travel technology trends that may change the face of travel in the long term.
In this article:
How will tourism look in the near future?
Tourism tech trends post COVID-19
Looking to the future of tourism
How Will Tourism Look in the Near Future?
It is not yet clear when the pandemic will be over, however many governments are already trying to restore health to national economies. This means deciding which industries should go back to normal operations, and redefining what “normal” means for each industry, including tourism.
Focus on local tourism and hospitality Post COVID-19, countries need to strike a balance between public safety and economic recovery. Many countries are trying to achieve this balance by restricting international tourism, setting their sights instead on domestic tourists.
An example of this can be seen in Airbnb rentals across Europe. In France, Denmark, and the Netherlands, rental rates are beginning to return to normal but with almost exclusively local residents. This also seems to be the trend going into the summer. This was after a near 90% drop created when borders were initially restricted.
This type of local-first tourism approach may diminish traditional tourism offerings, but it can also promote the following niches:
Health tourism: As people become more health-oriented, many are expected to seek wellness, restoration, and healing vacations. Yoga retreats, spa treatments, and other pro-health activities should be particularly appealing for tourists.
Heritage and culture tourism: When limited to nearby locations, heritage and cultural experiences can gain the spotlight. This means an increase in interest of museums, restaurants, history tours, and other local sites.
Outdoors tourism: Without a vaccine, social distancing and isolation remain the main COVID-19 prevention method. This may lead to a rise in outdoor vacations, including camping, hiking, or watersports.
Family and friends tourism: In places where lockdowns have been enforced, and families and friends have been kept separated, tourism packages focusing on day outings, might see an increase rather than week long excursions.
Remote or secluded locations While remote locales have always been popular with certain tourists, these vacation options are sure to see more interest post-coronavirus. As flights return and border restrictions are lifted, isolated locations with limited access can provide an uncrowded vacation setting.
Such locations could include remote islands, mountain lodges, or even backcountry campsites. The actual location isn’t as important as the ability to enjoy the luxury of a vacation without fear of the virus due to an influx of tourists.
A focus on small groups Whether it be accommodations with limited rooms (like bed and breakfasts) or private tour groups, tourism in the post-COVID world should start small. For instance, instead of cruises with thousands of people on a single ship, tourists may start seeking out charter boats. Or, rather than crowded theme parks, tourists may look for individual attractions.
Likewise, tourists will probably prefer private transportation over public and vacation rentals over hotels. Such private options provide tourists more control over who and how many people they interact with on their vacation, limiting the risk of infection and increasing peace of mind.
Controlled acceptance of international tourism Once virus fear has decreased, companies and governments are going to start competing to draw international tourists back in. This will require careful filtering of who is allowed to come in and under what conditions, as freely allowing visitors could lead to new infections.
One possibility for managing this return is the use of screening certificates or immunity cards. These proofs of good health or immunity could be issued under internationally sanctioned conditions. For instance, some countries and airlines, such as Emirates, are conducting on-site rapid COVID-19 tests based on internal standards. Additionally, many countries also have quarantine restrictions in place, requiring multiple rounds of testing upon arrival or for visitors to remain in isolation for up to 14 days. At this time, most European countries are in the process of reopening borders and this is where the real test for measures will be seen.
Tourism Tech Trends Post COVID-19
As countries and travelers prepare for the future, many companies are also working to build and integrate tech to make the transition smoother. While there are many types of technology that can help, below are a few of the most promising areas.
Contactless technology Reducing points of shared touch and face-to-face interactions is a primary concern for travelers and tourism providers. To reduce these issues, many organizations are looking for ways to incorporate contactless technologies.
For example, some airports are investigating alternatives to handling tickets, passports, and other travel documents during check-in and boarding. A number are considering the use of biometrics, such as IATA’s ONE ID. Biometrics can include contactless fingerprinting, iris scanning, or facial recognition. Other options include touchless entry, including gesture controls, document scanning, or voice commands.
Another area that is gaining popularity, especially with hotels and accommodations, is the use of mobile applications. These applications can enable guests to check-in or out of rooms, unlock doors, or pay for services. Applications can also be used to replace information cards or room service menus, remotes, or environmental controls all of which have the potential to spread the virus via their surfaces.
Enhanced cleaning technologies Cleaning and sanitation are another main focus for both travel providers and customers. Travelers expect companies to take precautions to ensure clean environments and employees want to be reassured that they can work safely.
To address these concerns, providers are implementing stricter standards. For example, Marriott hotel chain recently created the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council.This council is focused on creating a standard for global hospitality, including best practices for minimizing risk for visitors and staff. It includes the use of electrostatic sprayers with hospital grade disinfectants, enabling a more thorough disinfection of difficult to clean surfaces such as lobbies or gyms. It also incorporates ultraviolet light technologies to help make sterilization more effective. This article on how hotels can get ready for business post-COVID-19, provides useful guidance on steps to help meet customer expectations alongside the new requirements.
Airports are too using a variety of technologies to improve sterilization. In Hong Kong, this includes full-body disinfection booths, antimicrobial coatings on high touch surfaces, and cleaning robots. According to reports, the booths can disinfect a person and their clothing in 40 seconds and incorporate photocatalysts or “nano needle” technology, designed to kill pathogens. Meanwhile, the robots are equipped with ultraviolet light and air sterilizers making cleaning efforts more efficient.
Automated processes With many providers struggling to meet revenue goals or expenses, companies are likely to have less staff available to help customers. To work around this, incorporation of automation is a possible solution.
In addition to the self-service that customers can access through the mobile apps mentioned previously, some stores may begin implementing automated checkout processes for easier and interaction free purchasing. For example, by incorporating Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology, airports and hotels could switch to self-service gift shops or cafeterias. Airports are also likely to include additional automationed processes. For example, incorporating thermal cameras into security monitoring to detect fevers. Or, integrating data from contact or symptom tracing databases to help screen passengers.
Another option is to adopt universal identity documents, such as that proposed by the Known Traveller Digital Identity initiative. This initiative suggests creating a coalition between individuals, governments, authorities, and the travel industry to enable providers to share data and resources. This would significantly speed screening times and health verifications.
Smart door-to-door transportation Another trend expected to increase in popularity is door-to-door transportation services. With many travelers concerned over the safety of public transport, they are seeking alternative ways to get around. Smart transportation services help travelers to find the transport solution that best meets their needs, in terms of safety, budget, and convenience.
For example, smart transportation services can be integrated into a hotel or online travel agency website. Such as in the recent partnership with HERE Mobility and Booking.com, which sees HERE Mobility’s smart transportation technology integrated into the Booking.com platform. Through the collaboration, Booking.com users have more possibilities to order their rides from the airport or their hotel, at the same time they make their travel reservation.
Looking to the Future of Tourism
Although the present may seem challenging for tourism, most experts expect the industry to recover in 2021. While this recovery may look different from the industry pre-COVID, people’s desire to travel is unlikely to disappear. In particular, experts foresee an increase in leisure travel and visits to friends and family as citizens seek to unwind and reconnect socially after prolonged periods of isolation.
However, to enable this recovery, the industry and destinations need to take steps to safeguard travelers and workers. Companies will have to operate with tight budgets but be willing to invest in new processes and technologies, and to be flexible to changing needs and requirements. Assuming they are able to do so, they should be equipped to effectively adapt to the post-COVID-19 world and its “new normal.”