The coronavirus (COVID-19) is forcing hotels to rethink their digital marketing strategies. Travel bans, social distancing, mental challenges, newly imposed health requirements are now forcing us all to look at digital marketing from a new perspective.
Hotels that can use new technology and tools well to keep on going despite uncertain markets through an innovative digital marketing transformation will be ahead of the competition.
New technology is also making it easier for hotels to adapt to new digital marketing strategies.
Let’s take a look at how digital marketing is enabling a paradigm shift for hotels that are looking to tap into new travel markets today.
Why digital marketing matters for hotels
A recent survey by AHLA shows that as much as 2/3 of hotels will lay off more employees without further aid.
- 68% have less than half of their typical, pre-crisis staff working full time currently
- Half of the hotel owners said that they are in danger of foreclosure by their commercial real estate debt lenders due to COVID-19
- Without further governmental assistance, 74% of respondents said they would be forced into further layoffs
- More than 2/3 of hotels (67%) report that they will only be able to last six more months at current projected revenue and occupancy levels absent any further relief.
This data illustrates the urgency for hotels to take deep dive outside traditional market segments and better understand what is important for travelers that now are looking for accommodation.
Today it has become more important than ever to understand customer states.
Their cognitive behaviors (perceptions) are influenced by new technology and mobile devices. And the pandemic also has influenced issues like health, hygiene, safety, and trust.
Which again will impact customers’ affective state (intent). New data shows that intent is influenced by the ability to communicate what type of actions your hotels have taken about health, hygiene, safety, and trust.
Hotels need to utilize digital marketing today to communicate and create new awareness.
New digital marketing strategies in a relevant context will help hotels with the recovery process.
Mental health awareness
In this era, we live in today the most important aspect I look at introducing a digital marketing blueprint for hotels is mental health awareness.
A survey done by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows a widespread disruption in critical mental health awareness.
- Over 60% reported disruption to mental health services for vulnerable people
- 67% saw a disruption to counseling and psychotherapy, 65% to critical harm reduction services, and 45% to opioid agonist maintenance treatment
- More than 35% reported disruptions to emergency interventions
- Around three-quarters reported at least partial disruptions to school and workplace mental health services
The numbers are staggering and tell us that COVID-19 represents an unprecedented pandemic none of us has experienced before.
To help with mental awareness 70% of countries have adopted telemedicine and teletherapy to overcome disruptions to in-person services.
Superior health protocols
Travelers still heavily rely on reviews, and the behavioral state (action) will come as a direct result of how well your hotel communicates the right information for the cognitive and affective states.
A recent survey from the World Travel & Tourism Council shows that;
- 58% of travelers plan to take domestic trips for the rest of 2020
- 70% of North American leisure travelers say they would book during COVID-19 if charges were fee-free
Health and Hygiene
- 80% of travelers’ fears quarantine as much as contracting the coronavirus
- 69% of traveler’ cite cleanliness and health measures as a critical component of travel brands crisis response
- 89% of Americans are more conscious of germs now than before COVID-19
Hotels should take the necessary actions that will help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses. AHLA Safe Stay® is an industry-wide initiative focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.
CDC provides additional and relevant information for hotels on how to handle COVID-19.
Are collaborate with Valpas to offer a hygiene protocol that also takes advantage of new technology to reassure your guest and keep your hotel free from bed bugs.
Digital innovations and opportunities
- 69% of people using video conferencing for the first time during COVID-19 expect to continue
- 66% of consumers are using less cash and move towards more contactless solutions
- 45% of travel passengers are ready to shed their paper passports for digital identifications
- 44% of travelers increased their time spent browsing social media during COVID-19
- 89% of travel brands say that the skill gap in the local labor market is a barrier to the adaptation of new technologies
- 33% of travelers expect to work from home at least 1-5 days per week post COVID-19
The survey from the World Travel & Tourism Council shows a significant shift in how consumers and travelers now are using digital media.
They expect to be informed by the travel brand what type of actions are taken to keep them safe before making any travel plans.
And even travel brands that in the past have been resistant to work at home alternatives have been forced to now allow this.
Hotels should be prepared for this and look at tools that allow team members to work from home.
Hotels now have to understand the role and importance of digital marketing.
Digital marketing today is storytelling and conversational marketing techniques that utilize laptops, desktops, mobile phones, and other digital media and platforms to communicate new products, service offers, and information of high value and importance.
Are collaborates with Asksuite to provide new digital innovations that seize on new opportunities for hotels.
Taking charge of the recovery process
Most hotels with respect for their guest and themselves have a guest service recovery strategy in place.
Now we are looking at a service recovery process that has implications for the chain that supports travel and hospitality.
For many hotels, their traditional market segments are non-existent for the time being.
Save Hotel Jobs
My great friends at AHLA have initiated a grassroots movement “Save Hotel Jobs”. I encourage everyone with a heart and passion for hotels to take part in this movement.
But together we have to do our job to take charge of the situation. We can’t put the industry in a situation where we fully rely on the political process.
We have to understand who is traveling now, and what means of transportations are they using to get to their destinations.
Travel is returning but is a slow process that depends on several factors.
Travelers today are turning into digital nomads. All of us are taking part in online shopping and virtual meetings. The digital transformation has become as unprecedented as the pandemic is now.
Digital Marketing Shift
Data from China shows that post-COVID-19 more than 90% of trips were booked within 7 days of the trip itself.
Are hotels in the United States capable today to respond to this unprecedented shift?
Hotels need to use this transformation to their advantage and start leveraging new market segments.
We are already seeing many hotels starting to understand the new patterns among domestic travelers.
Hotels have created several new markets from these new patterns;
- First responders
- Long haul drivers
- Quarantine workers
- Dorm rooms for students
- Business offices
The key is to understand how your hotel reaches these new market segments.
Traditional marketing channels will not do the job for your hotel today. Today’s travelers rely on dynamic real time and relevant information.
Implementing digital marketing strategies that take advantage of storytelling and communications is essential.
Creating a new culture for the future of hotels
Traditional advertising will not help you with generating appropriate mental awareness.
All the digital marketing processes we put in place today is to help your hotel take back lost shares from OTAs and home-sharing and educate travelers about new unique experience offers.
Besides the fact that COVID-19 initiated an unprecedented situation for the hotel industry, it also brought on some adjustments that the industry to take back control of their markets again.
It is all about value innovation in context with a growth mindset to create a new culture for the future of hotels.
As part of the grassroots movement “Save Hotel Jobs”, I believe we must start implementing new innovative digital marketing strategies that reach new domestic travel markets.
Similar to this process we will prepare to meet demands from new international travel markets.
If you want to build a digital marketing campaign for an uncertain market, you need an elaborate plan to succeed.
Conversational marketing will leverage new opportunities for hotels
Work at home or stay at home is not a recommendation that typically aligns with hotel services. But today this has become a new norm that we as hoteliers have to find new unique ways to respond to.
Most of the travel today happens in the virtual sphere. That is why we as hoteliers have to understand how to communicate and reach travelers in this space.
How can hotels reach these travelers without communicating through known and traditional channels?
Conversational marketing and chatbots will help hotels create personalized information at scale.
For many brands, AI and chatbots have played an essential role in responding to concerned customers.
Asksuite provides a unique platform where chatbots and humans work together to help hotels with conversational marketing that react and respond to an uncertain market.
Expect digital marketing to continue to evolve fast as we also learn more about COVID-19. It is critical and very important that we work together to install confidence for travelers to make plans that include your hotel.
Today we want hotels to take part in creating a new culture that is capable of responding and communicating with an uncertain market.
Hotels now have a unique opportunity to take back shares that were lost to online travel agencies and new innovative home sharing markets.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence will help us gather new data while creating a new culture that is responding and communicate appropriately to new challenges and needs.
So how do you think the future of hotels looks like?
Related article: Guide to Finding a Remote Digital Marketer for Your Hotel
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About Are Morch
Hi, I am Are Morch. Your Digital Marketing Coach and Customer Experience Expert that specializes in creating effective digital customer experience offer for hotels while growing and scale customer acquisition and revenue.