Whether it be by SARS in the early 2000s, the global financial crisis in 2007-8, or the recent bushfires in Australia, hoteliers are no strangers to strong external forces and with the coronavirus outbreak are once again being tested for their resilience and agility, as they seek stability and hope.
In any period of emergency or significant uncertainty, history shows us that the travel industry will always be one of the most heavily impacted. It also shows us that as a whole, the industry will bounce back.
While nothing remains certain during these early months of 2020, by taking small measures such as using technology to broaden one’s visibility and focussing on the domestic tourists that currently account for around 80% of all hotel stays in the UK, hoteliers can seek to sustain business, even incrementally, in the peak pre-summer months ahead.
What are examples of measures that hotels can take to maintain revenue on the books, in the short-term?
Communicate clearly with current and future guests
By communicating regularly with guests who have existing bookings, hoteliers can instill confidence that they will be safe and supported during their stay. Customer reassurance and peace-of-mind at this time are key. When customers feel informed and up-to-date about the situation on the ground, they are less likely to cancel their plans. On the contrary, they are likely to grow their loyalty to you.
Make guests feel comfortable before they’ve even arrived
Guests are incentivised by pricing and packages at any time of year, and it’s especially during these times that you will want them to feel valued and rewarded for their stay. By offering personalised ancillary services and room upgrades prior to travel, you can incrementally increase your existing revenue and reduce your losses.
What are examples of measures that hotels can take to help drive business in the short-term?
Relax cancellation policies and offer more refundable rates
Remember that the uncertainty felt throughout the world extends to your guests. By offering more relaxed cancellation policies, you gain the opportunity to secure both their loyalty and future business, once the challenges subside. This, alongside offering more refundable rates at a lower cost, can increase traveller confidence, mitigating a sharp downturn.
Market in a targeted way to those that can travel
By staying close to the latest global travel trends and updates, namely travel restrictions and rises in local guests, you can ensure that your marketing dollars are being invested in regions that are actively seeking to travel at this time. By having a clear understanding of where your guests are coming from, and via which channels, you can target those geographic regions, driving more similar bookings and providing those travellers with an experience that will see them return.
What are examples of measures that hotels can take to position themselves for when the demand increases again?
Optimise distribution channels for last-minute bookings
Last-minute booking channels that target travellers from the likes of France and Germany will be key to drive bookings from those markets once the situation stabilises, and can also be used to attract the increase in UK travellers staying locally. By connecting to channels such as HotelTonight and Lastminute.com, you can look to secure these bookings.
Look at the full stack of distribution to ensure visibility in all markets
SiteMinder data shows that UK properties connected to at least five channels receive up to 90% more bookings than those just connected to just one or two. By tapping into a wider range of channels, and leveraging the benefits of the GDS and wholesalers, you can significantly reduce your risk, and increase the total number of potential guests that you are reaching online.
Offer rates for longer lead times to encourage guests to book further in advance
Booking lead times are shortening, perpetuated by a more spontaneous consumer and increased booking ease. However, by providing early birds the opportunity to take advantage of discounts and offers, and giving them a reason to book directly, you can hope to start forecasting future bookings and planning ahead of the curve.
It is said that the only constant in the world is change, but within the UK’s travel and tourism industry, there is one other and they are our hoteliers. Hoteliers remain the lifeblood of the industry, and while the picture may currently look bleak, small and practical measures can provide hope for a future where we will all come out stronger together.
By James Bishop, senior director at SiteMinder