Hotel marketing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a journey full of ups and downs. Between ever-changing state-by-state restrictions, shifting traveler preferences, and decreased budgets, hotels must do more with less. However, travelers are ready to go, and a recent report found that 99 percent of American travelers are eager to travel again. While rooms are booking up for the summer travel season, customers are still eyeing AirBnB-type accommodations. Since many hotels have reduced headcount, many non-marketers are finding themselves in marketing roles–and they’re working to drive bookings in an increasingly competitive landscape.
Given the high stakes and low budgets, travel marketers cannot risk deploying campaigns simply on instinct. Data holds the key to increasing sales while controlling costs. By deploying some simple digital marketing strategies, hoteliers can make every dollar count and demonstrate return on investment every step of the way. Here are three ways hotel marketers can start their digital journey.
Deliver the right message at the right time
Conveying the right message to travellers is critical to increasing confidence and winning bookings. This means hotel marketers must work to differentiate their establishments while addressing customer concerns about safety, restrictions, and more. Proactive, compassionate messaging that highlights cancellation policies or even alternative services, such as “work from anywhere” packages, will give customers the piece of mind they crave. Just like travel trends are changing almost daily, messaging should as well. Currently, U.S. hotel searches are up by 85 percent, giving marketers ample opportunity to test and learn. By testing content to see which calls-to-action, text, or images drive the most bookings, hotel marketers can fine-tune their ads to maximize return on investment.
Find travellers anytime, anywhere
Finding travelers across channels requires multichannel campaigns. While deploying a multichannel campaign may sound intimidating, marketers can easily start small using simple techniques. First, marketers must focus on mobile. In 2020, the travel industry saw a mobile traffic increase of five percent, and that trend will only continue to grow. A “mobile-friendly” site is a requirement if brands want to create an intuitive purchasing experience that will drive incremental direct bookings. In addition, websites must be simple, easy to navigate, and offer clear, unique calls-to-action that minimize risk and maximize value. A COVID-19-specific information page is imperative for highlighting safety protocols.
Beyond the website, hotel marketers can leverage social media to inspire travelers to book. Over 1.9 billion people log into Facebook every day and over 70 percent of users research businesses on Instagram. Given the visual nature of social media, brands can use rich images to highlight the best parts of the property while emphasising smaller groups and personalised service. It’s also important to keep all social media accounts and the hotel’s Google My Business account updated with current hours, services, and pricing.
Band together to increase buying power
During a time of smaller budgets and heavily reduced resources, a marketer’s first reaction is to scale back all spending. However, sometimes it makes sense to redirect that spend and use it to try new avenues. Having access to the right digital tools and data to quantify will enable marketers to test new campaigns and quantify return on investment. Strategic partnerships can give marketers access to those tools as well as traveler data to bolster campaigns and do more with less.
One way to cost-effectively deploy campaigns is to consider a co-op program. Co-op programs enable multi brands to band together to increase buying power and promote different aspects of a destination. For example, hotel groups and tour companies can work effectively to support hyper-local domestic travellers. Increasingly, city and regional DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) are working together to deploy targeted campaigns that benefit all stakeholders. Now more than ever it’s important for travel and tourism players to work closely together, and a co-op is a great way to pool resources to drive bookings at a destination level.
Hotel marketers can easily wade into the digital marketing pool to identify new sales opportunities and drive bookings. While digital marketing holds the key to future success, newly-minted marketers must track and test every part of every campaign in order to evolve. If something isn’t working, marketers can easily switch gears to try something else. From there, they can optimize campaigns and once again bring travelers through their doors.