With all that’s changed and continues to change so rapidly due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, our daily lives have been disrupted to the core. For many hotels and other businesses in the tourism sector, this global health and economic crisis is having a profound impact. Most businesses can no longer function as normal, and marketing teams are challenged to find the right approach to maintain, manage and strengthen their connection with customers during this time of border closures, lockdowns and widespread emotional and economic stress.
While marketing spend across the industry has decreased to control costs in line with plummeting demand, maintaining communication with customers via digital channels right now is key to a strong recovery. Use your property’s website to inform customers of your COVID-19 status and policies, assure them that their wellbeing is important to you, and reinforce that you are there for them, to answer any questions or concerns they have.
Make Your COVID-19 Statement Clear
With the threat of COVID-19, people are cautious and concerned about travel restrictions, lockdowns and sanitization. Alert levels and mitigation measures currently vary from country to country.
While the situation is fluid and changes to travel restrictions can happen suddenly, keep your customers informed of your property’s current COVID-19 status and policies through your website.
If your property is open, it’s important for your website to reassure customers who are nervous about making any immediate (where permitted) or near-future travel plans. As many hotels have already done, we recommend adding a link to your homepage (for example, “COVID-19 Update: Details”), in a prominent position above the fold, that takes website visitors to a dedicated page outlining your property’s COVID-19 statement and policies—including service closures if appropriate (restaurant, gym, spa, event facilities), precautionary measures to protect guest health and safety, and flexible cancellation policies implemented at this time.
As an example, take a look at the Four Seasons website:
IHG provides another good example.
The information contained in your COVID-19 statement should be delivered in a caring yet professional tone, first reassuring customers that their health and wellbeing is top priority along with the health of hotel staff, and then clearly outlining policies in place to protect both customers’ health and their bookings.
It’s important to acknowledge that your policies may change as the situation evolves, and to assure customers that you are closely monitoring and adhering to the latest information from health and government authorities. Consider providing links to local health and government authority websites where customers can find official, up-to-date information regarding the virus.
If your property is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, let customers know on your homepage. As recommended above, consider adding an above-the-fold message (for example, “Closing 3/18 through 4/20 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Read more,”) that links to a dedicated page containing your COVID-19 statement. Your statement should reassure customers that the closure is temporary and is in the interest of keeping guests, staff and the community healthy and safe. Let them know that you are looking forward to welcoming them back when it is safe to reopen.
Whether your property remains open or is temporarily closed, invite customers to contact your property directly with any questions or concerns they may have regarding COVID-19 and your property.
Update Content to Reflect Current Customer Needs
As well as highlighting flexible cancellation policies, strict cleaning procedures and other precautionary measures in your COVID-19 statement, update content on your homepage and throughout your website as appropriate, without replacing existing content (which can be detrimental to SEO).
Focus on promoting length-of-stay and other packages or specials aimed at bookings in the short term (such as local travelers and self-isolating guests), as well as discounted advance bookings backed by a flexible cancellation policy. Consider temporarily downplaying non-cancellable rates and packages.
Update your FAQ page (or create a COVID-19 FAQ page) to include questions your customers are asking right now, such as how long your property will be closed, what your cancellation policy is during this time, what hotel services are available, what your property is doing to manage the health and safety of guests and employees, how to cancel OTA bookings, whether your property offers self-isolation packages, etc.
If you have a property blog, use it to help stay connected to customers. Even if your doors are closed for now, your blog is a great way to show your customers that you care about them and that you are looking forward to seeing them again soon. Approach blog topics and content carefully. Your blog should remain a positive space without dismissing the gravity of this crisis. You could share popular recipes from your restaurant’s kitchen, property improvements and renovations you are getting done during this quiet time, safe places to enjoy in your local neighborhood, and boredom-busting ideas for those in self-isolation, etc. Share blog content on social media and in your e-newsletter as appropriate.
Add COVID-19 Messaging to Your Website Booking Engine
Your website booking engine can also help clarify your COVID-19 status to customers. If your property website booking engine is integrated with your property management system, you should be able to add customized messages that display on all availability searches and/or when a search returns no availability.
For example, if your property is open for business but some services are closed (like your restaurant or spa), a customized message informing customers of limited operations could be set to display for all availability searches within a designated time frame, ensuring all customers are aware of unavailable services.
If your property is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, consider updating the “no availability” message that displays when a search returns no available rooms to explain to customers that you are not accepting reservations at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that you look forward to welcoming them in the near future. Such a message is much more helpful in clarifying your property’s status to customers than a regular “Sorry, there are no rooms available for your dates” message.
It is also appropriate to reprioritize the display of rates and packages in room search results to feature those that are applicable in the short term first, and those that are not, further down the list.
The situation is evolving rapidly, but it’s important to keep your customers informed about how COVID-19 is affecting your property. Use your website to communicate your COVID-19 statement, reassure your customers, and maintain a positive brand image. Your property’s website is a key channel for connecting with new and existing customers and it plays an important part in strengthening customer relationships that will last through this crisis and beyond. If you need some help with your website, contact our web design team.