Reservation calls, website visits and social media traffic are up. These are a slow-but-sure reminder that uncertainty is thawing in select hotel and vacation rental markets.
As travel restrictions ease, hoteliers and owners need to be proactive. The past is irrelevant; those who succeed in the post-crisis world will utilize technology, fix inefficiencies, and find new ways to create demand as travelers reevaluate how, when, and where they travel.
In our recent webinar, NAVIS’ Director of Enterprise Sales, Stacie Bushaw, was joined by Garth Peterson, Managing Director of IDeaS, Stuart Butler, COO of Fuel Travel, and Edward St. Onge, President of Flip.to to discuss bookings and technology strategies as travel returns.
The webinar covered four broad themes: priorities, marketing messaging, competition, and the role of technology. Within each, we discussed lessons and how to move forward as the industry reopens.
Here a few key takeaways from the webinar:
1. There’s light at the end of the (travel) tunnel.
Call volume and inquiries are up after bottoming out last month. NAVIS’ Reservation Contact Center reports 30-50% week-over-week growth. Abandoned cart and website traffic is up, too.
In particular, Southwest, beach, and small town submarkets show resilience. And industry surveys show shifts in travel readiness broadly. Nearly 40% of leisure travelers report “a willingness to travel to destinations within two hours in the next one to three months.”
2. Leaders must reassess priorities.
Avoid the tyranny of the urgent. Instead, focus on basic blocking and tackling. Look at configurations, pricing strategies and structures, and selling systems. Walk through booking experiences with fresh eyes. Emphasize profit-making – even if you won’t feel it for a while.
There has never been a better time to reevaluate. Every leader has a technology or process they’ve tolerated. Fix that clunky PMS or inadequate email tool. The stakes for finding and fixing bugs during this time are low.
Revenue managers must spend the rest of the year on their toes. Capture data and understand forward-looking indicators; why travelers are booking or not, conversion rates, guest interest, and demand volume. GMs, revenue managers, reservations leaders and marketers must align on priorities and data use. Centralize all guest data for email, outbound, SMS, and digital marketing. The old playbooks are gone.
3. Comp sets have changed.
The future is evolving too quickly to keep up with trends. Every hotel in your area is now your competitor. “If they’re nearby, the Omni and a Hampton are in the same comp set.”
Use data and analytics to grasp the leading edge of competitive intelligence. Travelers aren’t locked into specific destinations anymore. There’s a new decision matrix. Figure out where travelers from well-known, outbound and feeder markets are going. These are your competitors.
There are properties “successful at 60-70% occupancy” doing this.
4. Move beyond empathy-only messages.
Stop the “woe is me” messaging. Trickle outbound updates, move to soft selling, then get aggressive.
Unsure what your audience is comfortable with? Ask. People are energized to provide feedback. Survey regular guests and add their views into a CRM database. Tonal segmentation is better than spray-and-pray.
It’s OK to be aggressive because “the cost of mistakes are minimal”. Be the early adopter who moves on from sympathy messaging. The market will flock to sales messages once someone is successful – and you don’t want to be late.
4. When fear and uncertainty are present, segmentation matters.
Yes, “we’re all in this together”, but there’s different boats in the same ocean. Batch and email blasting needs to stop. Divide your messaging to meet those who are risk averse and risk tolerant.
An “all clear” won’t signal the restart of travel. There are guests ready now, and there are others who won’t leave for months. Build data around each.
Realize that the ‘stay’ is just one part of the travel journey. People can’t enjoy this phase, but the dreaming, aspiration, anticipation, and planning steps are still relevant. Use marketing tactics to address each. Move past sympathy and “get people dreaming.”
5. Address all technologies
Technology raises the bar; it lets you outperform your potential. If you can’t answer who’s travelling right now? then you have holes in your tech stack. Data analytics and aggregation are cornerstones.
Be critical of every technology and process. If all your staff can’t be “strategy people” – and execute your priorities, then your tools are wrong.
Now is the best time to swap tools. Vendors are pricing aggressively, guests are away, and staff will need retraining anyway.
Consumers’ habits have changed – and they are willing to try new things. An example: mobile applications with keyless entry and remote check-in are booming. Find investments that can “improve data gathering and guest experiences”.
Here Are Some More Highlights
> “You can’t tap into demand, you need to invent it creatively.”
> “Avoid falling into the triage mode trap. There are lots of things to accomplish, but don’t let those dictate your priorities.”
> “Figure out when events were rescheduled from Spring. Don’t overlook these and miss compression opportunities.”
> “Every playbook and process you had in the past is moot.”
> “ Travelers don’t understand why we work in this space. Show them the joy it brings you to leave imprints on others’ lives. They want human connection.”
> “People miss being social. Expect new multi-generational, buddy, and family reunion trip demand.”
> “At some point, you need to open your doors and get comfortable ‘losing less money.’ Otherwise, you’ll be behind the curve.”
> “Dropping rate is a way to steal demand, not create demand.”
Check out the full webinar on-demand