Marketing to Mitigate the Impact of COVID-19

Sarah Darling

Cutting marketing budget during an economic crisis is a knee-jerk reaction for many hotels. But when you cut your advertising, you also cut away your property’s access to the flow (or trickle) of existing and future demand in your market.

Your marketing efforts might not have the same ROI as they did pre-pandemic, but they will ensure that you are able to tap into any available demand and give your property a head start in the digital landscape when the economy turns to recovery.

Understand current and potential demand in your market

It’s vital to make decisions based on conditions in your market. These conditions are changing on a daily (even hourly) basis – and they’ll continue to do so throughout the course of the pandemic.

Frequently monitor the key indicators you need to make marketing decisions that enable you maintain through recovery:

  • Market demand: How has demand changed in your area? How much are you capturing? Will any upcoming major local events or conventions be affected?
  • Rate conditions: How have the other hotels in your market changed their rates? Are your rates within their typical competitive range?
  • Feeder markets: Have governments placed any flight restrictions? Which segments still have active bookings in your market? Which channels are still driving business into your market?
  • New audiences: Is there an increase in demand from new markets who may view your destination as an alternative? Has there been a pickup in local bookings?
  • Existing business: Have you reached out to guests who have booked with your property? Are your large corporate accounts imposing internal travel limitations?
  • Visibility: Are your competitors still advertising? Are you maintaining your position compared to online travel agencies and other hotels in your market?

This data will give you the tools you need to be able identify what kind of promotions and messaging will still produce results, which campaigns to focus on with remaining marketing budget, as well as when and how to communicate to your guests in a way that drives long-term loyalty.

Build appealing promotions that offer private rates to strategic markets

Limited demand is still demand: Combat lower occupancy or rates with private offers for longer stays or a value-add to specific opportunity markets.

What added value can help capture available transient demand?

  • Stay visible and flexible with qualified rate plans: Promote relaxed or eliminated cancellation penalties to encourage future bookings.
  • Drive urgency with limited-time offers: Leverage the demographics of people who are currently booking your hotel and boost occupancy by targeting more conversions from this audience.
  • Create special rates for local business: People may adjust existing trips or still use planned time off but stay closer to home. Target last-minute getaway offers towards guests in your region or within driving distance.
  • Provide additional incentives to book: Offering discounts on longer stays or any operational F&B (such as room service, for example) through promotions or value-added messaging can help offset room revenue losses.
  • Leverage your loyalty program: Show loyal customers you appreciate them with a members-only offer, like reducing the number of points members redeem to stay in your hotel.

Keeping these promotions limited to the audiences most likely to book enables you to capture existing demand and future bookings while protecting your long-term rate strategy.

Focus spend on bottom-funnel campaigns

Travelers and travel agents are still looking to book future business: Even if you are temporarily closed or have travel restrictions in your market, it’s possible to generate bookings by maintaining search, display, social, and GDS advertising.

Continuing bottom-funnel campaigns narrows your advertising spend to the audiences that are showing true booking intent, while protecting your share of market demand from competitors and online travel agencies.

Maintain your market share of consumer bookings with search and display advertising

Use the buyer profile that you’re maintaining to target similar audiences. Your advertising costs will be contained by demand: By focusing on the lowest funnel travelers with booking intent, you can maintain reasonable returns on your advertising.

  • Build profiles of the guests who are still booking your hotel.
  • Advertise disproportionally to top feeder markets and audiences that have true travel intent.
  • Use CRM data to target loyal customers with traditional PPC campaigns.
  • Emphasize remarketing.
  • Focus messaging on guest comfort and safety.

Learn More: Generate bookings during COVID-19 with digital advertising

Capture bookings from travel agents searching in your market

Travel agents are still searching for hotels to book through global distribution systems – and even through this pandemic, the GDS has maintained its position as the highest ADR channel, with higher on-property spending.

Your advertising costs are contained by demand: The number of impressions served is directly correlated to demand in your market, ensuring you’re paying for visibility with travel agents looking to book.

  • Use your market data and buyer profile to refine targeting so that your ads are only visible in relevant searches.
  • Target regions booking into your market (rather than specific agencies) and serve a larger than normal share of ad impressions to regions most likely to book.
  • Select promotion dates 60+ days in the future if your market has present travel restrictions.
  • Position your property to benefit from rapid rebound during recovery since the majority of corporately-managed travel hotel reservations are booked through GDS.

Build loyalty with mindful communication

People will remember how you respond to them during difficult times. Let future and prospective guests know you prioritize their safety and comfort by distributing meaningful updates via email, website, and social media.

  • Be flexible and empathetic to guests who have been affected.
  • Share helpful FAQ content that addresses your audience’s concerns.
  • Respond readily and consistently to inquiries on all channels.

Learn more: Win guest loyalty with your COVID-19 communication strategy

Marketing is essential to win bookings, loyalty, and cement your market position before demand recovers

This crisis marketing series is built to help you navigate this pandemic and provide useful, practical information that you can start implementing today.

Up Next: How to generate bookings during COVID-19 with digital advertising

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