As uncertain as current times are with coronavirus restrictions, travel is slowly being encouraged to resume. However, while Americans are eager to start traveling again, it’s going to take more convincing to prove to them that hotels are taking the necessary steps to ensure their safety and wellbeing. There are many ways that hotels can continue to entice guests amid COVID concerns, which will require operators to step out of their comfort zone in multiple ways. In this blog, we’ll provide some tips that can help to provide peace of mind to your guests.
- Use Technology to Reduce Customer Touchpoints
It may seem antithetical for hotels to cut back on the number of customer touchpoints they have as Americans face ongoing social isolation, but operators should take social distancing to heart. Technology such as contact-free RFID door locks can allow guests to open their guestroom doors with their own mobile phones, allowing them to skip the front desk if they choose. The Coronavirus is giving this technology the boost it needed to become travelers’ preferred check-in option, and as a bonus, it also adds other operational efficiencies, as well, such as reducing staff workloads at the front desk.
This is an example of operators working around a guest challenge and meeting them on their level, rather than putting them into unnecessary interactions that can put their safety at risk. Additionally, mobile communication between hotel staff and guests can be a more personal way to communicate amid social distancing, while maintaining guests’ connection to the property.
- Improved Safety and Sanitation
Sanitation is a main focus and is high on travelers’ list of priorities. Hotel operators should have a strong sanitation plan and may want to offer multiple hand sanitizing stations across their property in high traffic areas. Hoteliers also want to cut down on the number of items that must be cleaned in the guestroom between stays, such as throw pillows, drinking glasses, and minibar products.
For many travelers, seeing is believing. It is important to highlight the steps your property is taking to improve safety on the hotel website, that way travelers are immediately aware that your hotel is taking their health into consideration ahead of their stay.
For more information on safety and sanitation visit AHLA’s Safe Stay guidelines here.
- Smart Marketing
First, hotels should use their social media platforms to showcase the extent of their safety and sanitation programs. Second, hotel operators should embrace all of their property’s strengths to the best of their ability. The hotels best positioned to survive this downturn are those that understand how to use their location, and who their guests are.
Similarly, hotels should assess who their historic guests are throughout the year and build a marketing campaign around enticing their best customers to return. According to STR, U.S. hotel occupancy surpassed 40 percent in the second week of June (up from just 22 percent in April) thanks to an increase in activity in leisure destinations within driving distance of travelers’ homes, as well as an uptick in visitations to natural parks, beaches, and more. Hotel operators with access to historic guest data can assess who is most likely to take a trip to their property based on past preferences.
Even amid COVID-19 travel demand exists. A hotel in a leisure destination within drivable distance of a mid-sized population center may struggle right now with mid-week occupancy, but a low-cost social media marketing blitz to a relevant audience could help attract guests looking for a weekend getaway.
- Promote Social Distancing
Reminding guests to keep a six-foot distance between each other and hotel workers at all times may be a challenge. Hoteliers should post signage requesting they adhere to social distancing at key areas of the property, such as at the entrance, front desk, and elevators. It may also be helpful to include signage on the floor to show where guests should queue to avoid intruding on other guests’ personal space.
Hoteliers should show guests that they are considering their needs right now, before travel resumes. The U.S. government is currently considering a number of initiatives to stimulate the travel industry, such as travel credits and incentives. These initiatives are still in the planning stages, but when consumers sit down to book a stay they will remember the companies that worked hard to prioritize their health—and avoid those that didn’t.
- Maintain Positive Review Scores
Although travel is resuming, the experience itself has been transformed. Hotel guests can be stressed, as they deal not only with the traditional challenges that come with travel, but also new concerns about their well-being, and the quality of the hotel they are entrusting with their health. Hotel staff should be hyper-aware of this, and may benefit from updated training to help educate them on how to best anticipate guest needs in this altered reality. Today’s travelers will have an entirely new set of questions for hoteliers once they arrive on property—such as how to call for or postpone housekeeping, or what new amenities are available in the guestroom. It may be prudent to prepare answers ahead of time, in order to optimize their experience and maintain positive review scores.
In general, the post-COVID hotel guest is laser-focused on safety and sanitation, but many are itching to travel if given the right reassurances. By forming a complete plan to enforce social distancing, properly displaying key safety signage, and investing in technology that works with your guests instead of against them, hotels can create an environment that supports continued bookings. And, once these plans are in place, hotel operators should show the fruits of their labor over social media channels. Guests already know hotels have their safety and comfort at heart. They just might need a little reminding.
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