As some restrictions begin to lift with the easing of lockdown 2.0, there are a number of ways you can ensure you are in the best position possible now to maximise your revenues ready for when you can start to welcome guests back.
Make sure you are getting the most out of your data so that any reports and insights you do have can enable you to review past performances and ensure you are best qualified to improve future business and develop a strategic plan for the months ahead.
Prior to Covid-19, many hoteliers were already making significant steps in further understanding who their guests are so that they are then even better placed to deliver a more guest-centric approach in terms of marketing, packages and experience. Since the first lockdown this approach has become even more invaluable in supporting and safeguarding bookings and revenue.
Review your data by guest category – age, group type (families, couples), spending habits – and you will have a much more informed insight into how best to build packages and offers that will really resonate with them. Capturing guest data from online check-in will also enable you to build a stronger picture of your guests. This holistic guest view – really knowing and understanding your guest – will play a key role in enabling you to make better informed, smarter marketing decisions and make that marketing spend work even harder. Crucial when every penny spent is now more scrutinised than ever before.
Likewise, website data – in particular the effective use of Google Analytics and its most recent version, Analytics 4 (GA4) – can give valuable insight into the profile and preferences of your website visitors. Which pages did they use to search originally and how did they arrive at your own website? Is it local tourism boards, wedding or MICE listings websites which act as referrals for you? And do these pages adequately reflect your own USPs? Knowing the background to your guest’s website journey before they arrive at your homepage can again be invaluable when planning your online marketing budget.
Whilst occupancy might not be at preferred levels use the time available to reappraise your current software. Even though times have undoubtedly changed, guest expectations of high-quality customer service and a positive experience have remained constant, if not increased when it comes to the digital tools and services on offer. With this in mind consider making even small investments and upgrades that will pay dividends in the long run. Now is the time to streamline and automate your operations that will enable you to build efficiencies and cost-savings during current challenging times. Look at companies that take a true, partner-based approach to really understand your challenges and operations and are then fully qualified to deliver a solution that will drive your business forward.
Ensuring you are making the most of the cloud is a key part of this review process to deliver true agility and flexibility for your operations. Likewise, contactless solutions should also be part of this process. Certainly for the short to medium term they will be required as standard but it is important that they effectively integrate with current software and platforms. And with any new technology taking the time to invest in thorough staff training and engaging each department is key to ensure you are getting the best return on your investment.
Yes, any review and the implementation of new technology costs time and money in the short term. However, the cost of ignoring it and not making changes could seriously impact revenue margins in the long term. For the most effective review it is worth taking the time to analyse all of the tools you use and their monthly cost. Once you have a solid understanding of this you will have a better idea of not only current spend but what you can afford to review and upgrade.
Your website is your shop window and an invaluable resource in supporting current and future business on the books. In a similar vein to the review of technology you use, now is the time to undertake a serious review of your website.
First and foremost, in light of the pandemic and the ever-changing restrictions and guidelines, it is imperative that details of how you are Covid-19 compliant are clearly stated on your homepage and supported with a dedicated page within your website. Be sure to include key messages around availability of contact-less payment and check-in and deep clean policies for example. Consider investing in website and SEO performance and marketing tools to also bolster this.
Utilising your guest data, consider if it is time to change the images, add more seasonal photographs and enticing descriptions, showcase your food and beverage offer and the outdoor spaces available (including those in the local area) which no doubt will continue to be in demand despite the drop in temperatures. The real litmus test comes when you make the leap to mobile. The growth in the percentage of hotel searches and bookings online continues apace as does the volume of bookings made via mobile. With this in mind it is imperative that your website is optimised effectively for mobile and the user experience is as positive as possible. As with your desktop website it should be easy to navigate, pages should load quickly and all content including any animations should be displayed clearly. It is also important to be aware that from March next year Google has confirmed that it will be switching to a new mobile index. Historically websites have been built with desktop as the priority, followed by a mobile version. This is set to change so that websites will now be developed as mobile-first and then desktop-optimised. So to keep indexing, keep mobile. Bearing data analysis in mind, it is also essential to track which device is also the most popular for your guests – desktop or mobile – so any online marketing can be planned accordingly.
Investment in guest relations and communications to ensure you are enhancing the guest experience and building brand loyalty at every stage of the guest journey goes hand-in-hand with a bright, inspiring and responsive website and will always be money well spent.
Ensure your communications (across email, social media, in the press) are on-brand, slick, easy to navigate, fully functional and fit for purpose to encourage engagement and adoption. Well-branded communications and clear links that show your property and brand name clearly and don’t look like spam or phishing emails will also help to reassure and build trust with your guests.
Before, during and post-departure, relevant and timely communications to guests inviting them to return can build loyalty, confidence and trust, and also help drive direct bookings. Regular, guest-approved communications detailing special packages or particularly in the current climate updates on how you are managing and responding to Covid-19 and the latest restrictions will demonstrate transparency and also build trust. Utilise your current database to maximum effect, but also seek to build on it with prospects. For example, encourage them to subscribe to your newsletter in return for a 10% discount on their next booking. Not only can you build your current customer base but you also have the chance to increase the opportunity of a direct booking. A win-win.
Building brand loyalty and direct bookings can also help reduce OTA commissions. Certainly OTAs are an important booking channel but have a strategy in place to ensure you are not overly-reliant and paying more commission than you need to.
Review your current marketing strategy and ask yourself if you really are making the most of every sales opportunity. The answer is there is most likely scope to do more to turn that ambition into a reality. For the time being keep your local market firmly in your sights. Partner with local businesses to offer packages and co-promote each other’s businesses to get in front of new audiences and also help you make the most of capitalising on the staycation market. Likewise, homeworkers who might want a change of scene to work for a portion of the day and hungry locals looking for a different takeaway option are all potential short-term and hopefully long-term guests. Working from home has the potential to shift to working from hotel. For many hoteliers the ambition now, and in the long term, is to be able to offer rooms and other spaces within their properties on a subscription-based contract model.
For example, extend your technology to offer online F&B ordering and boost revenues through deliveries, takeaways and collections to new customers located off-premises. Once they have sampled the food and experienced excellent customer service they may then be inclined to order again or book a stay. Consider adding incentives like 10% off your first overnight stay once you spend a certain amount on food to help drive revenues. For those hotels that are located in more rural areas or away from city centres there are many workers who have been at home (and may well be for the foreseeable future) that would no doubt welcome a change of scene from the kitchen table. As restrictions both at home and abroad continue focusing your efforts on the local market is more important than ever and once again, will help lay the foundations for a loyal customer base in the future, when we can hopefully look forward to recovery.
By Hamzah Hafesji, senior product manager at Guestline
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