What are the trends in the hospitality industry? And how can you get ahead of the competition in these very challenging times?
It goes without saying that the hospitality industry has experienced turbulent and extremely challenging times during the past 18 months. Many businesses, particularly those that don’t have the luxury of deep pockets, have collapsed and are no longer with us. Those that wish to survive moving forward into the latter part of 2021 and beyond into 2022 understand that they need to rapidly adapt to the current environment that faces all of us.
A vital part of this adaptation is for a hospitality agency to create a hotel marketing or hospitality marketing plan that enables your business to not only survive but potentially thrive in these truly uncertain times.
It’s important to remember that there are always opportunities during times of crisis. And in the face of adversity, rather than being defeated, we can develop and grow.
Here are 10 marketing trends happening right now that all hospitality marketing agency managers need to consider:
It’s clear that many hospitality customers’ primary needs or wishes are currently heavily influenced by the global pandemic. Safety, peace of mind, cleanliness, and clear communication (in all areas) are many of the customer-driven needs that every hotel and hotel chain must recognise when formulating marketing plans.
Some of the more important considerations include:
- Free cancellation
- Digital check in
- A reduction in the number of touchpoints
- An understanding that customers are increasingly making their booking closer to their travel dates than they did previously
- Reduced queuing at check in and restaurant buffets
- Offering a to-go station to take away drinks and snacks
Hygiene and the importance of communication
While many people still don’t feel quite ready to venture back out to hotels, many millions more desperately want a return to everyday life. And while some of these customers are already behaving in much the same ways as they did before the pandemic started, a significant proportion of customers are not only very concerned about hygiene protocols when deciding where to rest their heads for the night, but they will also not stay at a hotel unless the hygiene standards they desire are clearly communicated to them. This means making your hotel’s hygiene policies abundantly clear in your social media and direct messaging communication as well as on your website.
It is also essential that all of your employees, in all departments, are fully aware of your hygiene protocols and any of them who come into direct contact with guests during check-in, in your spa, restaurants and in any other direct hotel services can clearly communicate these protocols to customers. At the same time, though, we must remember that customers are looking to stay at a hotel to have fun and unwind from the stresses and anxieties of the past 18 months.
So, hygiene messaging must not overwhelm the marketing message and diminish the branding and pure pleasure of staying at a hotel.
Nature inside and out
One positive trend for humanity is that more and more of us have become reconnected with nature during the pandemic. Much of this is explained by the fact that many people have been forced to slow down their lives which has meant we suddenly more readily notice birdsong and the turning of the seasons. During lockdowns, nature has been the last bastion of freedom for many of us. And almost everyone will agree that they have spent far too much time indoors of late!
Hotel marketing plans should recognise the increasing desire from customers to be surrounded by or have access to nature. This means pointing guests in the direction of green zones, parks and hiking trails. Creating green spaces inside hotels is also a wise strategy, from the hotel lobby to your eating areas and roof terraces.
More info. Better info
Countless hours stuck in front of our screens has made us more computer savvy. We also spend more time online searching out helpful information. One important marketing trend is potential customers looking for more quality information and images. Virtual walkthroughs, 3D hotel tours, and professional photos are some of the tricks at your disposal to entice bookings in your direction. Creative and genuinely informative emails are also the way forward.
Reputation is everything! Well, almost.
Reputation is more important than ever! Yes, the hospitality industry can spend big budgets on advertising and advertorials, but increasingly nothing quite beats online reviews and word of mouth. 81% of people frequently or consistently read reviews before booking a hotel (Hotel Business). Travel Pulse found in a survey of guests that customers will value guest ratings over a hotel brand in 72% of situations. Increasingly too, guests are happy to pay more for accommodations that have higher average review scores. Trivago, for example, discovered that 76% of guests are willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores.
As well as ensuring that your customers are happy, we also need to encourage them to tell others this! Review generation through post-stay campaigns and email communication is one way you can do this. Furthermore, a great tip from hoteliers is to hand out a Tripadvisor business card during check-in where they get 10% off in F&B outlets if they post a review.
Review cards (which can be ordered online from Tripadvisor) can be also placed in rooms and handed over with meal bills in the restaurant.
More and more people are going direct!
Hotel booking sites and review portals are as popular as ever, but more and more customers use these as reference points before going directly to hotels to make reservations.
By 2022, Phocuswright predicts, direct bookings are on track to grow to a 50% share.
Therefore, it is critical that your hotel’s website is fit for purpose, user friendly, and totally up to date.
One wrongly listed phone number could cost a hotel business tens of thousands of dollars in potential lost income. One broken link will likely cause a potential customer to shop elsewhere. Many of the bigger hotel chains are now investing in expensive campaigns to encourage guests to book directly with them.
One of the ways to ensure this happens is to offer potential customers best-rate guarantees where the property guarantees they will match the prices of any 3rd party booking platforms advertising lower rates.
Your brand message is more important than ever!
Your brand message and voice is critical to your hotel business success. Potential clients want to quickly understand what kind of product you are offering. What kinds of guests choose that hotel? If the branding message is unclear, they will likely quickly move on and look at other options. When formulating marketing strategies for the coming 12 months, you must first understand who you are and what you offer.
Understanding your target market
The habits of consumers are constantly evolving. Has your hotel’s clientele changed in recent months? Are your core target customers luxury customers? Value seekers? Habitual travellers? Independent travellers? Only by identifying your target market can you begin to turn your attention to your online digital marketing campaign.
Understanding how to best utilise digital marketing.
The digital world is a fact of life. People use their phones and devices for personal banking, ordering food and keeping in touch with friends and family. Naturally, millions also use their devices to research and book holidays. According to Statistic Brain, 57% of hotel bookings come from the online world. If your business does not have a digital marketing strategy, then your hotel could soon be dead in the water.
What are the ways in which you can best utilise digital marketing? One of the easiest ways is to embrace the most popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. And, while it is tempting to try to utilise and have a presence on every platform out there, it is better to focus on doing one or two of these well. Creating excellent professional quality content is a sure-fire way to build your brand image and follower count. And as well as professional images, high-quality video is increasingly the way to go!
It has been estimated by World Hotels Collection that ‘Bookings are 67% more likely when a video tour is included on a website’ and ‘65% of business travellers visit a hotel’s website after watching its video’. Remember though that any content you post on social media platforms must be relevant and catered to the target market who use that particular platform! What works on Tik Tok doesn’t necessarily work well on Facebook or Instagram!
Don’t forget about your local community!
Since the spring of 2020, many hotels have survived because of domestic rather than international tourists. As – hopefully – we return to a situation where foreign hotel guests are the main bread and butter, hotel marketing managers must continue to recognise the importance of the local community. Tailor marketing campaigns and special offers to the local community during the low and shoulder seasons. Google My Business is an excellent way to connect with the local community and improve your local digital footprint.
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