With light finally being shed on when this will all begin to pass, it is truly time to start planning for your re-opening come July.
With the slow and steady pace of change back to something that resembles normality, we’re still going to be faced with national and global restrictions, and aversion, when it comes to travel.
With this in mind, it’s crucial you turn your focus towards the domestic market. As has been demonstrated in China, it’s this kind of travel that will be the first to be revived. We held a webinar earlier on this week where two of our Ecommerce experts, Danielle Jordan and Marion Abbey, guided attendees through what future bookings will look like and and how to prepare for them. Here are some of the key takeaways.
To start with – when are people booking for?
We’ve been monitoring the data very closely over the last few weeks.
Looking at bookings that came in in April, we can see that guests became more confident with their bookings from July onwards. Since the government’s update last Friday 1st May, we noticed a pick-up in bookings over the weekend – especially for August! These figures will continue to creep up. People want to get away – they just want to be smart about it.
Who’ll be travelling?
It’s too broad to tell you you need to try and appeal to the ‘domestic market’ and leave it at that – who exactly are you talking to?
Firstly, we’re expecting couple, family and even individual weekend breaks. Small groups of people looking to reunite after so long in lockdown or isolation, and weekends are an easy 1-2 nights that tend to suit most.
The return guest
While we have been faced with so much fear over the last few months, it’s natural for people to want to return to what they know – somewhere they’re familiar with. Investing time in personalised ezines and newsletters will be key to bringing these return guests back – it will help to make them feel valued, and will remind them of you, too.
There will be countless families who will have had to cancel their trip abroad this year. We’ll start to see more than a short one-two night stay where these groups are concerned – there will be a shift towards the staycation ‘holiday’, not just the weekend break.
They may be more flexible when it comes to days of the week they travel and stay on, but keep in mind that schools will be back in late August / early September – so they might have less time to play around with.
The golden years
They are one of the most vulnerable groups in society, especially at the moment – while they may need to isolate for longer than everyone else, and their level of caution will most likely be higher once they can return to a more normal life, it’s likely they won’t be jumping in the car immediately in search of a holiday!
They will be looking for later in the year and maybe even early next year, too. So keep this in mind when you’re developing your strategy and have your packages open and ready.
What do all these groups need from you?
So once you’ve identified the groups of people within the domestic market you want to target, you need to consider and list their wants and needs. This will help you develop personas, which you can then tailor the right packages to.
First up – location
Take a look around! What surrounds your property? Whether it’s a quaint, unique village or glittering sea and hills as far as the eye can see, leveraging your location helps make a destination, not just a hotel.
People will be attracted to where you are – not just what they get or see when they arrive in the door.
Make sure you list all the things that could be of potential interest here – not just the basics, but the likes of having large windows in your rooms, or rooms with a balcony. Your amenities help differentiate you from your competitors!
We’re all aware that it’s a different world we’ll be stepping back into. With social distancing becoming part of our ‘new normal’, in-room dining might become more prominent and even be the preference for many initially. Consider sprucing up your menus, extending your food choices and even review your serving hours.
The Room Mate Group mentioned recently that they are updating their food offerings. As part of phase 1 when their hotel re-opens they’ll be serving breakfast to the rooms, in phase 2 they’ll move onto a la carte to avoid crowding at the buffet, and in phase 3 they’ll open their breakfast buffet – while maintaining necessary safety measures.
One of the incredible crutches for us all at this strange time has been technology. It has proven itself invaluable across so many avenues in our lives, facilitating work, social life, relationships, the capabilities of businesses – everything.
If you have certain technological capabilities within your hotel, let people know! You might have something implemented that makes life easier for the guest, but you haven’t been loud about. For example – can your guests avail of virtual check in / out? Tell them! This will be a big benefit over the foreseeable future.
Rudy Tauscher, general manager of the Four Seasons in New York has said: “Like in an Apple store, there will be less human interaction. We’ll do with technology a lot of things we used to do in person.”
Health and safety
Cleanliness – one of the key concerns of your guests post Covid-19, more than ever before! Being vocal about how you maintain cleanliness in your property and amongst staff and outlining measures taken to ensure cleanliness is upheld will appeal to your guests. This is something they will be looking for now – whether consciously or unconsciously!
‘Social distancing’ is a phrase that has made its way to the very top of our vocabulary and it’s not going anywhere. We have all become so aware of maintaining safe distance between ourselves and others over the last few weeks – it’s almost as natural as taking a breath. This newfound consciousness won’t be going away, it’s hard to see a sudden shift back to the way things were before it came into play – and hotels will have to try and accommodate this need. Paul Kelly of Failte Ireland has advised they will be providing operational guidelines in the coming weeks to assist your hotel when it comes to public confidence.
The next thing to do is consider your current offerings. A lot of things come into play – the language you use, the value, the types of packages.
It’s important to be flexibile
Making your flexibility clear, as well as offering flexible rate plans to your guests will be more important now than ever before. Add words like “Free cancellation” “Flexible” “Pay at Hotel” “No payment today”. All of these kinds of phrases will reassure guests and give them confidence when booking.
Many people have not been able to go on their planned holiday or mini break, and those looking to get away post restrictions will all be looking for value. The price will be the first thing your customer will see. Once they see that, they’ll check to find out what it includes and how that compares to another offer.
Take a look at what you currently offer, and perhaps add a few small things in like late checkout, early check-in or maybe even a welcome gift. It’s the small things that make a difference!
Look at your packages
As we await further guidelines from the government, many hotels are revisiting their packages and looking to develop new ones. Try not to over complicate them. Having too many will only cause confusion.
Advance purchase / prepaid rates
These rates used to be our way of rewarding the guest for booking early – by giving a discount for paying now. However with the current booking environment in the shape that it’s in, we recommend revisiting the T&C’s on these rate plans, and consider simply rewarding the guest for booking early instead.
Getting in front of your target audience in the domestic market
All of this won’t be any good unless you get in front of your guests! Being present is so important.
Try and focus your tone and messaging in the direction of sentiments like, “Stay Safe, See You Soon“ or “Dream now, stay later”. Positive attribution and consistent content on social media such as recipes, self-care tips, home work-outs etc – this will all help to maintain brand perception and consumer confidence. We recently did a podcast on how you can use content and social media the way during this time, listen back to it here.
We’d recommend focusing on the following campaigns for the moment…
For brand awareness: prospecting via YouTube Bumper Ads, Google Display and Facebook
For search: brand search & Hotel Ads
Lead generation: Facebook Lead Ads to increase your newsletter subscriptions
So that’s it – your guide to winning over your guests in the domestic market
We will be through the worst of this situation and in recovery mode before you know it. This is a sensitive time, so just remember to be empathetic, flexible, and helpful in your tone and approach. We’ll get through it together!