World over, businesses are in a state of lockdown due to the CoVid-19 pandemic.
This includes hotels that are perhaps witnessing the worst year on record because of tourists and business travelers staying away. Even the most optimistic authorities expect the lockdown to continue for at least a couple of more months; with some countries expecting partial or complete shutdowns till as long as September.
As a hotel owner, the next few months can be excruciating. You may also be expected to lay off staff and work out a moratorium on lease with your landlord. However, to look on the bright side, this gives you an opportunity to optimize your operations and do things that you were always planning to.
Here are a few suggestions.
Optimize your bottomline
Hotels have a number of unavoidable expenses like labor, utilities, reservation management software, Now is the time to look into your bottom line and find ways to reduce your costs. For example, hotels need to be compliant of local regulations across the world.
In some countries, for example, they are expected to hold identification records of all people who have checked in. Sometimes, this regulation is restricted to travelers from outside the country. Also, since a lot of hotels still take phone reservations, the paper trail for these bookings need to be constantly synchronized with electronic bookings.
Investing in an EDM (Electronic Document Management) system can help bring down paperwork as well as make your business more seamless. You may also use a tool like Zapier to automate data gathering from various sources and aggregating them in one place.
Invest in renovation
The economic impact from the CoVid-19 outbreak is expected to last at least a year or two. This means that it is going to be a while before your hotel can get back to full or at least the pre-CoVid-19 occupancy levels.
Although this spells doom for a lot of hotel business owners, this can also be an opportunity to grow up the value chain. Are you a budget hotel that has been holding back from renovating your rooms because you did not want to shake up the status quo? The lull in the travel industry this year could be a good time to redo your interiors and possibly, rebrand as well.
Invest in organic marketing
Paid acquisition channels are quite popular in the hotel industry. This is because of the predictable costs that come with it. You may scale your PPC marketing costs up or down based on seasonality and occupancy levels.
But here is the thing – paid acquisition channels degrade your profit margins and prevent you from offering competitive discounts that large brand hotels are able to. While organic marketing strategies need a long-term outlook and an upfront investment of both time and money, they can provide you with virtually free traffic over time.
The reason many hotels do not invest in organic channels is because of the time it takes to rank on sites like Google. But with a long lull awaiting you, there is no better time than now to invest in organic channels. The idea here is that by the time these strategies start showing results, the industry may be back to full capacity.
There are a number of things you could do here. Firstly, you could look at fixing your own website’s copywriting to meet SEO best practices. Hire a digital copywriter who can adhere to these guidelines while producing a persuasive copy. Backlink acquisition is another long-term strategy that you could invest in right now to start seeing results a few months down the line.
Building an email list is another highly profitable organic marketing technique that hotels must consider. This strategy is especially popular among hotel chains that are spread across multiple cities. These businesses benefit from email marketing since travelers prefer sticking to the “tried and tested” hotels when they are in a new city. With emails, a visitor acquired once through paid or organic channels can be marketed to, again and again.
There are various email marketing platforms that you could choose from. Pick a platform that can go beyond sending newsletters to include automation and integration with other third party services. Make sure you are in compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR while investing in email marketing.
Fix your listings
Listings on third party OTA (Online Travel Agent) websites play a big role in hotel customer acquisition. Most often, marketers focus on the elements that contribute to better rankings on these listings. This includes accurate geo-tagging, increasing review count, improving average rating, and so on.
While these factors can help with improving your rank, they are not sufficient by themselves. A poorly formatted listing can cause low conversions for your hotel.
This is the time to focus on fixing these issues with your listings. Conversions tend to be higher when you have a lot of visual information presented to your prospective client. Hire a professional photographer who can capture photos of your hotel. You may also work on walk-through videos – they play a critical role in the purchase part of the customer’s journey.
There are tons of other things that you can do – work on your social media following, talk to corporates and work out a discount deal for business travel, grow an email list, diversify your business to host events and business parties rather than catering just to travelers looking for a place to stay. The opportunities are endless. No matter what you focus on, it is a good idea to consider this lean phase as a stepping stone to bigger business opportunities when the economy turns around.