Hotel marketing must “focus less on the hard facts of Covid-19 policies and more on the emotional story behind them” to encourage tourists to return, according to a study led by the University of Bath.
Its findings show that marketing that emphasises the “shared emotional responses” to risks will enable tourists to “humanise” the hotel brand, and encourage them to make a booking as restrictions continue to ease.
It comes as researchers from the Universities of Bath, East Anglia (UEA), and the University of the West of England (UWE) said recent study findings challenge the approach that “dominates” current crisis communication, which is to “focus on commitment to cleanliness and the hotel’s cancellation policy”.
While hotel groups such as Four Seasons and Hilton all “emphasise their commitment to cleanliness” to reduce perceptions of the risk to health, researchers argued that this approach “ignores the all-important emotional response to risk, focusing only on the cognitive, or rational, aspects of risk perceptions”.
Dr Haiming Hang, from the University of Bath’s School of Management, said: “During Covid-19, fear and anxiety are the most common emotions among both tourists and the hotel sector.
“Tourists experience fear and anxiety towards the health risks of Covid-19, while the hotel sector feels fear and anxiety about the uncertainty it faces.”
He added: “In practical terms, hotels should highlight that their commitment to cleanliness is fuelled by the same fears that tourists experience: hotel employees and their families face the same risks to coronavirus as they do.
“They can also talk about the anxiety and worry of the impact of the pandemic on bookings and an uncertain future.”
Dr Lukman Aroean, of UEA’s Norwich Business School, said: “Understandably hotels wish to reassure customers about the practical precautions they are taking.
“However, we argue that crisis communication focusing on shared emotions during the current coronavirus pandemic is very important, as it can establish emotional attachment with tourists better than rational statements can.”
He added: “This can be crucial for tourism recovery, because emotional attachment can increase tourists’ intentions to visit when the outbreak ends.”