Life during a pandemic has taught us to adapt, to be resourceful and to think outside the box. While the world still grapples with COVID-19, the coming year feels more hopeful with vaccinations rolling out and a growing familiarity with our new normal. As travel demand slowly grows, increasing bookings will continue to be the urgent focus of hoteliers around the world.
Your hotel website plays a crucial role in attracting guests to your hotel’s front door. Make sure your property’s website adapts to give travel consumers what they’re looking for as travel begins to rebound in 2021.
COVID-19 prevention plan & precautions
Maintaining communication with customers is key to recovery. Hotel cleanliness and safety will remain top of mind for guests in the coming year and so it will be important to continue to communicate your property’s COVID-19 prevention plan and precautions on your website to help reassure guests and let them know what to expect.
We recommend a dedicated, regularly updated COVID-19 page that outlines all property procedures and policies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Compose information in a caring yet professional tone, first reassuring customers that their health and wellbeing is top priority, and then clearly outlining precautions to keep guests and staff safe. Link to your COVID-19 prevention plan page in reservation confirmations and pre-arrival communications.
Flexible cancellation policies
Bitten by travel cancellations when COVID-19 first hit earlier last year, many travelers will be wary about booking travel without flexible cancellation options for the foreseeable future. Flexible cancellation policies will give travel consumers the confidence to book in a still unstable travel environment.
As long as social distancing regulations are in place, avoid displaying photos and videos on your property’s website that show people congregating in communal spaces. Images that show limited capacity and guests social distancing in a natural way will help reassure potential guests and reinforce the positive experience that awaits at your property.
COVID-19 has changed many things in our lives and your property’s demographic may be no exception. For example, hotels that previously catered to corporate customers may now be seeing a majority of staycationers. It’s important to adjust your marketing efforts in accordance with changing demographics and booking behaviours (e.g. shorter booking windows). Use your website analytics to find out who is booking, where they’re from, when they’re booking and how they’re booking, and then use that insight to target your current market with relevant offers, packages, messaging and imagery.
Value & unique experiences
In the face of tightened traveler budgets and limited hotel services, travelers are looking for value. Highlight your property’s USP (unique selling proposition) and exercise some creativity to find ways to make up for limited services to maintain value and competitiveness, for example, by offering additional in-room amenities.
With the rise in staycation travel, many of today’s travelers are seeking unique, local experiences that help them get to know their own backyard better. While booking windows are typically shorter, the dreaming and planning stage is longer, so give potential guests something to dream about! Consider collaborating with other local businesses to offer packages that include authentic cultural, culinary and recreational experiences. Use your blog to fuel travel dreams by posting about these unique local experiences too.
Also consider highlighting your property’s unique on-site experience on your website with 360-degree video tours, which are proven to increase engagement.
In our current COVID climate, hotel reviews are more important to travelers than ever. Wary travelers rely on recent online reviews for reassurance that a property provides a safe and enjoyable experience. Don’t make potential guests leave your website to read reviews. There are simple web applications that allow you to pull your reviews from trusted third-party review sites like Tripadvisor onto your property’s own website. Your potential guests will appreciate the convenience and transparency.
Speed and accessibility
Because user experience directly impacts conversions, it’s imperative that a hotel website loads fast and works well across devices. Check your website and website booking engine on your phone and be objective; does it look good? Is it easy to navigate? Do pages load fast enough (in under three seconds)? Try Google’s PageSpeed Insights test and Mobile-Friendly Test for a free analysis of your website and tips for improvement.
ADA compliance is also crucial to website accessibility, ensuring customers with disabilities, including vision and hearing impairments and limited fine motor control, can access and understand website content.
Last, but definitely not least, today’s travel consumers expect to be able to book direct on a hotel’s own website. In fact, due to the challenges faced by OTAs and OTA customers when COVID-19 caused mass cancellations, many travelers are choosing to book directly with hotels instead, for better customer service and communication. Make sure your direct booking strategy is supported by a quality website booking engine to maximize conversions and revenue. Look for a secure, commission-free website booking engine that integrates with your property management system, gives your customers a simple, user-friendly booking experience, and offers the flexibility to sell your rooms the way you want.
Travel demand and customer expectations will continue to evolve during the year and it’s important that your hotel marketing strategies evolve with them. We hope you find the above checklist helpful for ensuring your property’s website is up to date and relevant to your potential guests as travel begins to rebound. All the best for the New Year!