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How to reopen a hotel after a global pandemic is the question many hoteliers are wondering. Since March 2020, the pandemic has brought uncertainty to the tourism and hospitality sectors, but now that a good percentage of the population is vaccinated, people are starting to feel safe to travel again. Hoteliers must take advantage of this burgeoning desire to travel to recover profit post-Covid.
To do so, hoteliers must be aware of changing travel trends and customer behavior in order to implement clear strategies to drive bookings and make back the lost profit. In this article we will look at the six key steps to reopening your hotel.
Six steps to take when reopening your hotel
No one said reopening your hotel post-pandemic was an easy task, but with an action plan in place, anything is possible. So, let’s take a look at the different steps to take.
1. Start with marketing plan
The first step in increasing bookings post-Covid is letting guests know you’re back in action, and you can do this by establishing a robust marketing and communication plan.
The strategies you decide to implement need to be adapted to meet the changing needs of your guests. Now more than ever, potential guests will have a lot of questions, and the easiest way to solve these doubts is by updating your FAQ page. Here you can answer questions about your safety protocols, your cancellation policy, hygiene practices, and anything that will give your guests a sense of security.
In your marketing and communication plan, it’s fundamental to update your social media strategy. Make sure to create new content that establishes a sense of security and makes guests feel like you have their utmost safety in mind. Use this opportunity to create a video and tell potential clients about everything you’re doing to make staying at your hotel safe.
You may even create Google Ad campaigns or social media ads in order to drive more paid traffic to your web and boost bookings this way.
This is also a great time to review your SEO and work in keywords into your website content related with safety, cleanliness, hygiene, and any other concepts that people are concerned about. Make sure to update any of your social media and Google Business profiles.
Bonus tip: having fresh content is also a great ranking signal for Google, so use this opportunity to create new content to your favor and boost your organic rankings.
2. Reach out to regulars
When recovering from a pandemic, don’t shoot for the stars; instead, rely on your regulars. It’s much easier to attract repeat guests who have already stayed with you and know what to expect rather than new customers. For that reason, you should have a plan of action to get in touch with your regular clients, whether that be through a newsletter or through social media. Make sure when you contact them that you communicate your health and safety measures, and while you’re at it, why not offer them a discount for advanced purchases to thank them for being loyal customers?
If you already have a loyalty program in place, you will also want to reach out to the customers in your loyalty program to let them know you have re-opened. Give loyalty customers special benefits like free cancellation, free changes, or even an upgrade. Make them feel special so they will want to come back and stay with you.
Use your hotel property management system to manage bookings and find out who stayed with you just before the pandemic and invite them to come back as your hotel will be fresh on their mind, especially if they haven’t traveled since Covid-19 hit.
3. Reassess your distribution channels
Now more than ever, direct bookings are crucial to recovering profit, reducing commissions, and increasing the average earning per booking. In this way, you can also encourage guest-friendly and flexible cancelation policies that support bookings. In fact, your distribution channels may need to change to reflect the changing customer landscape post-pandemic.
Reach out to partners, contact your traditional travel agents and tourism bureaus via email, virtual meetings or phone call to let them know you’re back in business and see if there are any joint promotions you can run together to incentivize tourists to start visiting your hotel. Check your other distribution channels and make sure they are offering flexible cancellation policies, if not, consider removing your hotel from these channels.
4. Update cancellation policies
Now is the time to update your cancellation policies. You need to offer flexible and transparent cancellation policies to encourage people to book. Consider offering a discount for advanced purchase with a flexible change policy – this is key to stimulate your hotel’s cash flow. You can also offer the possibility to book now and not pay anything up front, or a 24-hour cancellation policy. This will give guests the peace of mind they need in order to book a stay at your hotel.
Read about maintaining the art of hospitality post-Covid.
5. Revenue management was never more important
This is the time to maximize revenue in order to keep your business alive. It’s important to analyze the data you have to make data-driven decisions. The market post-pandemic is certainly volatile, but don’t undervalue your hotel or its prices. On the contrary, this could negatively impact your brand’s positioning.
Yes, you may need to lower prices and offer discounts and promotions, but in doing so, consider offering packages to encourage guests to stay longer, and include extra services. Packages are a great way to make your rates less transparent by grouping together different services. Most importantly, keep monitoring and optimizing your performance in order to offer the right prices at the right time on the right channels with the help of a revenue management tool.
Learn more about post-Covid revenue management.
6. Reduce and optimize expenses
Reducing expenses is another point of business. Since there are so many fixed costs associated with hotels, it’s also important to optimize the expenses you do have. Everyone is in the same boat as you in the hospitality industry, so try to negotiate new contracts, payment terms, and other deals with providers and suppliers. When it comes to human resources, make sure to hire the staff you need, but make sure that your staff is multi-functional and can easily be moved around departments should your needs change.
How to reopen a hotel after a crisis is never an easy process, but by following these key steps you can set yourself up for success. The key learnings are to give guests a sense of security through your communication efforts; reassess your distribution efforts; have guest-oriented cancellation policies; be flexible, and be sure to optimize revenue and spending where possible. With the right action plan in place, you can be sure to boost bookings and recover profit post Covid-19.
Eva has over a decade of international experience in marketing, communication, events and digital marketing. When she's not at work, she's probably surfing, dancing, or exploring the world.
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Mews Data Dive 2023