I haven’t written for over two months because, like you, I’ve been wrapped up in this totally unexpected situation. I’ve had to channel all my efforts into managing things and making sure we can still operate once the crisis is over.
In the past two months, I’ve held many meetings, taken part in webinars and discussed the situation with dozens of hotel industry professionals. I’ve also gleaned ideas which have been used to prepare for lockdown easing.
Below are a few I particularly value.
I. Finding Guests
Tourism professionals are now all talking about one thing and one thing only: staycations!
Simply put, a staycation is a holiday near home. With new maximum travel distances being imposed in some countries and citizens under lockdown increasingly keen to travel, staycations look set to become more common during 2020. After that, who knows?
Websites like www.staycation.co already specialise in this kind of holiday. Do some research and register wherever you can.
Another simple technique is targeted advertising. You can create marketing campaigns targeting the XX miles around your premises using Google AdWords or Facebook.
Finally, if you’ve been reading my blog for a few years, you’ll have built up proper customer databases. If this is the case, I recommend listing/segmenting your customers by postcode and/or town. This way, you can run email campaigns targeting customers who might travel to your hotel. I’ll take this opportunity to add that if you don’t currently have an email marketing tool to send out a campaign like this, you can use our free one by registering here: https://www.experience-hotel.com/crisis-management.
II. Arrival Day Distancing
Once your first guests are booked in, you’ll need to prepare to welcome them “COVID-19 style”. First, you need to manage arrivals and make sure people stay a safe distance apart.
It’s worth using systems like PreStay or PreCheckIn (which send the guest forms to fill in before they arrive) to stop people congregating in the reception area and reduce waiting times. Your guests will spend much less time on administration at reception if they’ve already provided this information.
Although these types of tools work wonderfully, they won’t be any use if you’ve no way to contact guests before they arrive (i.e. no email address and no mobile phone number to text). With these guests, you have a problem on arrival day. Because they won’t have provided much information, they will have to spend a while at reception, which will make it harder to keep people the recommended distance apart. Rather than installing check-in terminals that have to be constantly disinfected, you could choose a solution that sends documents straight to a guest’s phone when they arrive at reception. To help our hotelier clients, we’ve created a system that produces a custom QR code to scan when guests arrive.
Finally — and in line with a trend that began a few years ago — we’re going to be seeing a new kind of reception without a traditional desk. Instead, the receptions of the future will have mini lounge areas with armchairs and coffee tables, where guests can have a coffee when they arrive and provide missing information using their phones.
III. Managing Guest Stays
You need to maintain contact with your guests while staying a safe distance away. You should also avoid face-to-face interaction and your customers having to move wherever possible. This means your bedrooms need to be fitted with a system that can communicate with reception. It could be an email address just for this purpose (checked almost in real time by your teams) or a chat setup.
One good idea I’ve seen is to put health kits in bedrooms. This 1) shows how careful you’re being to keep your guests safe and well and 2) means they can enjoy peace of mind when they stay with you.
Also provide inventory forms. This way, guests can rest assured that nothing has been touched while they’re out and their bedroom has stayed closed.
IV. Communicate with Every Guest
You won’t be seeing all your customers again straight away. That much is obvious. But don’t forget about anyone who is unlikely to return soon.
Indeed, communication is more important than ever during this time when it’s hard to meet face to face. Talk about you, measures you’re taking to welcome back guests, any renovations you’ve completed during the lockdown, special offers you’re going to run in future, etc.
Don’t be afraid that you customers will be unhappy to hear from you. Over the past two months, I’ve been able to support over a thousand hotels with customer communications as part of our free email marketing programme https://www.experience-hotel.com/crisis-management. The results haven’t just been good: they’ve been astonishing! We’ve seen open rates and CTRs double or triple what they used to be on average and extraordinary responses from travellers.
And your customers will be happy that you’re checking in with them!
The basics I cover in this article are all easy to do. My aim has been to give you a short to-do list to help you prioritise certain tasks.
I don’t have any big conclusions to add, except to say that I hope you can all bring this period to an end and reopen as soon as possible!