It’s no exaggeration to say that the current climate of imminent lockdowns and border closures has never posed a greater challenge for everyone in the hospitality industry. The constant worry of whether travel plans will be disrupted has seen many consumers change the way they approach booking accommodation. So how do you adapt your marketing strategy to take account of this and minimise the impact of travel uncertainty on your business?
Over the last 12 months consumer behaviour has changed considerably when it comes to booking travel. People now tend to travel locally and with a short lead-in time. Many consumers are leaving it much later to book accommodation and value ‘booking flexibility’ over the lowest price available. They are also more likely to book directly with a property than they have ever been.
We talked about the importance of giving potential guests peace of mind and removing potential barriers to booking in a recent blog: The COVID New Normal: ‘Worry-Free Reservations’.
Armed with an understanding of how consumer needs have changed, there are a number of things accommodation owners can do to put themselves in the best position to win more bookings.
Interestingly according to new data by Expedia, Queensland is winning the domestic travel recovery race, accounting for 40 percent of domestic searches, followed by New South Wales and Victoria. In light of ongoing local lockdowns occurring sporadically and the trend for consumers to book locally, it’s more important than ever to ensure that you optimise your Google My Business (GMB) listing so that you appear in local searches.
A well-optimised GMB profile is invaluable because it gives you the opportunity to appear in local pack listings. In ‘Local Packs’ Google shows GMB listings, not websites so, without it, you will not have the chance to feature in local organic search results or Google maps. A GMB listing also gives you the opportunity to gather Google reviews for your business.
If you’d like more information about increasing your on-line visibility using GMB read Google For Hotels Guidebook 101 – Getting Your Business Online.
Make sure you encourage previous guests to leave a positive Google or Facebook review for your property. Social proof goes a long way to building consumer trust and securing new bookings as many people will look at previous guest reviews before making the leap to making a reservation. Having active and engaging social media profiles also plays a part in giving travellers the confidence to book with you. Make sure you post regularly, have lots of good quality images of your property and respond quickly to questions and queries on your social channels.
If a consumer arrives at your website from an OTA, make it as easy as possible for them to book directly with you and make your direct booking proposition a ‘no-brainer’ when compared to booking through any other channel. This is sometimes referred to as ‘The Billboard Effect’: the profile your property gains from an OTA leads to them discovering your website for the first time.
Search Engine Optimise your website to ensure you appear high in Google’s search results for relevant search terms.
Winning the trust of the potential booker is key. Remove as many barriers to booking as possible. So for example, if you have previously specified a minimum 3 night stay, adjust your pricing to reflect the higher demand on certain days e.g. Friday or Saturday, reduce the minimum stay and make sure you are not missing out on potential bookings. This is another way in which you can capitalise on more of those last-minute booking opportunities.
If a potential guest lands on your website, make sure that your homepage highlights the measures you have in place to ensure they won’t be penalised if they have to change their booking due to last minute travel restrictions. Some simple ways you can do this include offering flexible booking options such as:
Flexible booking and penalty free cancellations have become so important in most travellers’ searches that Google and some OTAs now offer a specific filter or badge to highlight properties that offer this.
Also think about some incentives that you could offer if a potential guest books direct. Some easy wins include:
Finally, although it’s become almost expected, it’s worth also reassuring guests about the increased COVID hygiene and health and safety measures you have in place.
One aspect of winning a direct booking that is frequently overlooked by property owners is the value of ‘owning’ the data when a guest books directly with you. In the current climate, it is hard to put a value on this information. It’s probably the single biggest competitive advantage property owners have over the OTAs.
When you have guest data at your fingertips, it makes remarketing to previous guests so much easier and cost effective. Make sure you are leveraging all your previous guest data and creating email campaigns to remind past guests to book again. Simple gestures like sending a small discount code for their birthday or a free bottle of wine work wonders for encouraging repeat bookings and increasing guest loyalty.
If you need support managing the marketing of your property, the team at HiRUM can help. Talk to us today about the marketing packages we have available to help you maintain visibility in the market and keep your occupancy rate as high as possible.
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