The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the hotel industry. If your agency has clients that own hotels, you can be sure that those businesses are struggling. As a marketer, you can help hospitality clients rebound.
In this article, we’ll explain a two-pronged approach to increase clients’ hotel bookings. The strategy involves two simultaneous marketing activities, where each activity drives the other. It’s a cycle:
- Email outreach to customers who have stayed during the pandemic brings them back for another stay.
- During their stay, those guests are heavily solicited for social media sharing—social attention that brings in people who would otherwise stay away.
- The same set of guests, along with new customers who booked a room after seeing their friends do it, receive ongoing email outreach to encourage more stays. Onsite solicitation of social sharing continues, as does the entire cycle.
It may be tempting to resume your pre-pandemic marketing activities, and directly targeting the concerned masses with appropriately adjusted messaging should get some of your attention. However, the approach suggested in this article is likely to yield faster results. It plays off the willingness of the current and recent guests as a means of reaching a prime group—their friends and families.
In this article, we’ll further explore how your agency can get willing patrons to convince reluctant customers to book a stay. We’ll go over details about the messages involved and describe how WiFi marketing plays a key role.
Let’s get your hotel clients back on their feet!
Willing Customers Are the Key to Attracting Reluctant Customers
It’s a marketing approach that’s designed as a reaction to the pandemic—targeting the friends and family of willing guests to convince the less willing that it’s safe. Let’s look at how to accomplish that, starting with an important definition.
A willing hotel customer is one that:
- is currently staying at the hotel,
- has stayed at the hotel at least once since March 2020.
Willing hotel patrons are the key to winning back more people.
Filter your customer database—all visits after March 2020. Those people are the best target for email marketing outreach. If you can get them back for another visit, that’s when you can press hard for a social share, one that will convince their friends that it’s safe.
When a person who’s reluctant about staying at a hotel due to COVID-19 safety concerns sees a Facebook post from their friend who’s enjoying a safe hotel stay, they’ll be more inclined to book a stay themselves.
It’s time to get into the details about this cycle. When email marketing and onsite solicitation of social sharing occur in an endless loop, it’s hard to decide which to cover first—let’s go with the email outreach.
Engaging Topics for Willing Hotel Guests
The email messages you send to people who have stayed in the hotel since March 2020 should focus on the hotel’s operational response to the pandemic. Your email outreach should cover how the hotel’s cleaning standards have changed, discuss pandemic-related guest policies, and point out the ways your hotel client is helping guests work around travel complications caused by the health crisis.
Explain Updated Cleaning Standards
Just because a customer has stayed at the hotel during the pandemic doesn’t mean they’re not interested in the business’ COVID-19 safety measures. Also, that’s exactly the kind of information a guest is likely to share with friends and family.
In your email outreach, summarize the steps your client has taken to adjust their hotel’s disinfecting practices in response to the pandemic. Explain what the business has done to augment its already stringent cleaning standards. Describe increased cleaning of rooms and common areas, changes to food & beverage service, and other safety measures that customers would find reassuring.
State Current COVID-19 Policies for Guests
Your client’s hospitality business may be subject to government-imposed rules about mask use, large gatherings, etc., or they may implement changes voluntarily based on CDC and WHO guidelines. Either way, it’s important to let potential guests know about the hotel’s COVID-19 policies.
State that social distancing and mask usage are required; present it as a good thing. For some email recipients, learning there’s a mask requirement might be just the reassurance they need to book a stay—learning there is not a mask requirement could have the opposite effect.
Stating your client’s COVID-19 policies won’t bother less-concerned prospects, and for wary prospects, such information can provide a significant confidence boost. Omitting these policies from your customer outreach or implying that the hotel is being run exactly as it was before the pandemic will definitely keep frightened would-be guests from booking a stay.
Highlight Vacation Planning Support
The pandemic has caused closures for many types of businesses, some of which are the kinds of places people like to visit while on vacation. Restaurants, bars, museums, zoos, waterparks, movie theaters—if these places are still open, have the hours been adjusted in response to the pandemic? Won’t there be too many people there? What are those places’ rules about mask use?
Make customers aware that the hotel staff will know what’s closed and what’s open. They’ll have details about how popular local attractions have been operating during the pandemic and can advise guests about safe options for things to do during their stay.
Describe Increased Booking Flexibility
Seeking goodwill among their customer base, many hotels have had to go without the revenue that’s usually brought in through high cancelation and change fees. Explain to prospects that your client has adjusted their reservation policies to account for the complications that the pandemic has added to everyone’s lives.
State that all new and existing bookings within a given date range are eligible for a full refund upon request.
Will there be more canceled bookings than usual? Yes. But there will also be more bookings in which the guest had a great time and, in response to your requests, posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter about their stay!
That tees up our next topic: ways you can ask guests to post on social media. Getting social media attention from the friends and family of the current guests is a path to increased bookings.
Get that Social Share! Use Guest WiFi to Mount an On-Site Onslaught
In your pre-pandemic marketing strategy, you may have already been using guest WiFi as a platform to prompt social media activity or ask for reviews. It’s an effective technique because you can time that communication perfectly.
Hotel guests should be repeatedly asked to check-in on Facebook, tweet about their stay, or otherwise share their experience on social media.
This can be done using the WiFi splash screen. In your welcome message, you can include a reminder about the new safety policies and take advantage of your first opportunity to prompt social media activity.
You should also employ precisely timed email or text messages. The key is being able to send these messages at the moment the guest is most receptive, and that’s accomplished by basing message delivery time on events related to the guest WiFi network.
Login, logout, and out-of-range events can help you time your outreach and tailor it for the moment. A patron who has just connected to the WiFi router near the pool might see a different message than the person who just connected to the router in the bar.
If you consider all the moments during a guest’s stay in which the person may be receptive to a suggestion to share on social media, you will probably come up with a lot of ideas. Link as many of those moments to corresponding WiFi network events and you’ll have the framework for your campaign to increase social sharing.
Won’t that be too many requests for social sharing?
Normally, it would be. If there were no pandemic, it would not be advisable to take such an aggressive approach. But there is a pandemic, and getting guests to draw in their friends and family is the best approach your agency can take to help hotel clients.
Every Guest Can Be a Social Media Influencer on a Small Scale
Hotel usage is slowly coming back as more people decide it’s safe to travel. Nevertheless, the formerly thriving hospitality industry is a mere shadow of what it used to be.
The pandemic has polarized society in many ways, with people holding a wide range of beliefs about the safety of public interactions. The people who feel it’s safe can have a strong influence over those who are approaching the pandemic with more caution.
Enlist your client’s hotel guests to be laser-targeted social media influencers. When they share their stay with friends and family on social media, some of those people will be reassured about safety concerns. Taking their friend’s input as an indication that it’s safe to stay in a hotel, driven by the feeling that they should be having fun too, they’ll book a stay. Getting that to happen is no small feat, especially when so many people have locked in their decision to suspend all travel until the pandemic is over.
Made possible by WiFi marketing techniques, the cycle of email outreach to willing guests and onsite engagement soliciting social shares can be endless. One tactic drives the other. Over time, your agency’s clients will see bookings increase and they’ll slowly regain some of the revenue they’ve been missing due to the pandemic. We hope this strategy helps your agency get its hospitality clients on the road to recovery.