The worldwide hospitality industry has been one of the hardest-hit due to COVID-19, with travel restrictions, increased health & safety guidelines and more causing many businesses to struggle - particularly vacation rentals and hot-spots. Many of these “destination hotels” already rely on busy seasons to create the majority of their profit, and with the travel industry itself still limping along, destination hotels need to make waves with a smaller market.
Before COVID-19, hotels and vacation rentals were popular and trending on social media. Popular for vacation selfies and the unique local experiences they offer, destinations are now under further scrutiny: Are their rooms cleaned regularly? What are the cancellation terms - especially if the area becomes COVID-sensitive? And finally, are there social distancing measures to keep guests safe?
Although international travel is still widely restricted, destination hotels can do their part to reassure guests and boost their own profile during these unusual times. Here’s what you can do to adjust to the “new normal” and meet guests’ changing expectations.
Be prepared for a wave of bookings and new types of guests
As restrictions ease, travellers can’t wait to get outside and see the world again - or even a different part of the country. Because of this, it’s important to expect an influx in queries and bookings. This will come from two main sources: people wanting to make up on lost vacation time, and people responding to the many calls to support local businesses.
To handle this successfully, ensure you have the right structures in place beforehand. Rather than increasing staff at the risk of further profit loss, using new technology such as digital assistants can let you take bookings at all times and across many different platforms. Not only is it cheaper for you, but it’s more convenient for guests!
Although many destination hotels’ bread and butter comes from tourists, the industry is likely to continue relying on domestic travel for now. With this in mind, hotels need to shift their focus to welcome domestic guests and accommodate their specific needs.
Appear everywhere and promote your brand!
Advertising is always key, but when times are tough it can be hard to allocate funds towards a strong campaign. However, there are many affordable ways to build up your presence online to reach the new wave of travellers. Here are some ideas:
Build a website / update your existing website with your latest pictures, offers and other points of interest for your location(s).
Update your Google My Business listing with the same kind of information.
Look into automating as many operations as possible to keep overheads low and improve the guest experience. Digital assistants/chatbots as we mentioned before are one great way to handle the biggest chunk of this.
Keep your social media channels active and use trending hashtags.
Build a presence in online hot-spots for domestic travellers.
Another thing that is crucial to emphasise is your health & hygiene policies. This is a hot topic right now and guests are highly aware of both their personal responsibilities and what they should expect from their stay.
Keep all your online platforms updated with the exact policies you have in place for social distancing, cleanliness and everything in between. Guests will feel at ease and more ready to book with that information.
Above all, stay flexible!
The most important thing we can emphasise is that the world is constantly changing right now, with expectations shifting every day. Many guests may already be on edge - and if they need to cancel, they will be more likely to take it badly if you cannot be flexible to their needs.
Consider having a looser cancellation policy in place and even waiving fees in certain cases. Once you know how flexible you can be, put this clearly on all your platforms so people feel more comfortable booking in.
Flexibility also means embracing faster, better ways of handling old processes. Hotels around the world are embracing technology to stay competitive. Now’s the time to let go of old operations that can’t handle the influx of guests, or can’t scale up and down as needed. For example, the Book Me Bob digital assistant - your premier hospitality chatbot - is designed to handle guest enquiries and bookings while changing scope depending on your requirements.
Contact us any time to book in a demo and claim your free trial of the Bob hospitality chatbot.
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