A Covid-19 mitigation plan for hotels

Claire Sawier
March 3, 2020
As the Covid-19 coronavirus extends its grip, we all appreciate that the impact on individuals and families is very distressing. The tourism industry is being hit hard and the impact is being increasingly felt. Hotels, especially those in affected areas, are experiencing a downward trend in overseas bookings and an increase in cancellations. ADR drops are already evident. 

The increase in cases, as well as the intense media scrutiny is leading to more and more non-Europeans cancelling their travel into Europe, and more and more Europeans opting to stay local during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Bookassist and our client hotels are in this together. Every booking our partner hotels lose is a loss for us too. Our team is ready to help with any advice we can offer. The situation is changing rapidly, and strategies may also need to adjust as time passes so we will keep this information as up to date as we can.

So what can you do now to minimise the impact of this crisis on your hotel? And what can we learn from hotels in Asia, who have been through and recovered from the SARS outbreak of 2003 and the H1N1 swine flu in 2009? 

The 5 most important things to remember

  1. You must keep your focus on the long term. Don’t make panic decisions that you will regret. Ill thought out short term decisions can harm your business in the long term. Think before you act.
  2. You have to protect your public rates. Do not offer heavily discounted rates publicly. Doing so will have a long-term damaging impact on your business. It can take years to recover from discounted rates, so think carefully. Remember what happened when we all ran to the OTAs during the recession! 
  3. Be sure to look after your existing customer base. Take care of your existing business and don’t short change your loyal customers. Whatever you do, don’t compromise your service standards. It will come back to bite you!
  4. Concentrate your marketing efforts on the domestic market. Local markets are still travelling and still showing demand even as international business slows. Target your efforts on the markets that still want to travel. People who cancelled their overseas trips are looking for alternatives, so highlight the local option to them. Leverage your local presence to attract your neighbours and your local community. This could be a valuable new segment to grow for the future.
  5. Don’t be tempted to cut your marketing budget. Instead focus on capturing existing demand and divert your budget away from markets and segments where this is little to no demand. Focus your digital marketing budget on revenue drivers such as metasearch and retargeting. Talk to your OBM about which markets and segments are and are not working for you. 

10 ideas for your hotel to drive business today

  1. Reassure anyone visiting your hotel of your attention to cleanliness and safety. If you have a list of hygienic and preventive precautions which you are taking, then communicate this everywhere and update staff and guests regularly so they know you are proactive. Give the list to every guest on check in to reassure them. A great example of this in action is the Royal Plaza Hotel, Hong Kong.
  2. Revenues are already under strain so focus most of your marketing efforts on direct where margin is significantly higher. A strong direct strategy will lead to more profitable and sustainable business. 
  3. Improve your free cancellation terms (must always be better than OTA T&Cs). Give guests the comfort of being able to cancel without penalty if the situation changes.
  4. Reduce the uncertainty of making a booking by offering additional flexibility on your Non Refundable rates. Free rebooking is a great option. Pay now but reschedule if you need to (up until a particular date). 
  5. Instead of reducing rates, offer additional benefits. Rather than cutting €50 off, add €50 on by way of additional benefits. Free bottle of wine on each night of your stay. Free entrance to local attractions. Distinguish your offers from your competition. Bundle, package, and add value.
  6. Staycations should be heavily promoted through geo-targeted PPC & Metasearch campaigns in the domestic market. Consider also working with local domestic tour operators to offer accommodation or meals to domestic tour groups. 
  7. Invite your local community to experience your hotel. Push alternative revenue streams with your local market, F&B, bar, restaurant, spa etc can be promoted to locals. Hotels in Hong Kong during the SARs outbreak found that food and beverage operations were not as badly affected compared to the rooms business, with local residents choosing to dine in restaurants with better sanitation and high standards of cleanliness. Promote your hotel’s services on social media, local search, leaflet drops, as well as via email, e-zines, and targeting local companies in your neighbourhood. 
  8. Encourage local residents to stay at your hotel by offering special rates and packages. These offers should be geo-targeted to your local audience in order to avoid a reduction in rate to the general marketplace.
  9. Offer gated / fenced offers Instead of discounting across the board.  Use remarketing to target previous guests, newsletters with a promo code, geo-target display campaigns and display campaigns on local business sites. 
  10. If you are in an infected area use the low occupancy period (however undesirable) to retrain and up-skill staff, bring forward some refurb or maintenance jobs you had planned. Plan to come out of this challenging period more effective and better prepared for the future.

Add your voice to help hoteliers

Bookassist extends its support and solidarity to all hoteliers who are impacted by Covid-19.

We are asking hotels across Europe and beyond to inform us how they have been impacted and what steps they have taken and are taking to retain and drive more business. Help your fellow hotelier by contributing insights and ideas HERE

We will be posting regular insights and ideas to our LinkedIn page, so stay tuned!

Further Reading

A paper published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, The survival of hotels during disaster: A case study of Hong Kong in 2003 presents some really good, feasible best practice management strategies and operational procedures that hoteliers suffering from the impact of the Covid-19 virus can refer to.

So too does an article written by Cornell University Professor of Revenue Management, Sherri Kimes on how hotels can survive the coronavirus.

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