With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases globally and the precautionary measures adopted by governments, hotels have been greatly affected as domestic and international travel has slowed, causing a negative impact on occupancy rates.
Marketers should approach the situation delicately with an evolving plan of action, and agencies should take the opportunity to reassure brands they work with of their commitment towards long-term partnerships.
Apart from the brand-safety precautions of updating one’s negative keywords list and placing restrictions on categories, specific websites and content, hotels should provide assurances of complying with health and safety regulations where safety is of utmost importance.
Here is a three-prong approach that you could adopt for your media campaigns during this difficult period:
Phase 1 | Lull Period
• Pause the branding efforts as the audience would be cautious to travel, but keep retargeting and search efforts active with a conservative budget to increase top of mind amongst an audience who are familiar with your brand and showing intent.
• Prospecting efforts for the domestic market could be considered where short burst flash sales, advance purchase, local resident offers, as well as flexible and free cancellations are provided to drive consideration and bookings.
• Apart from the above, this would be an excellent time for brand building exercises with new content creation and even a revamp of existing brand guidelines and websites along with lead generation efforts to grow your CRM database. These complementary efforts during the lull period would allow brands to be more reactive when the situation improves and stand out against their competitors.
Phase 2 | Slow Growth
• Reactivate the prospecting efforts when the situation has improved for key primary markets, especially those that have shown destination and search intent and where bookings primarily originate from.
• Relying on holistic data sources – paid media campaigns, bookings data, search and destination intent – to make informed decisions would be key during this period.
• Focus on customized messaging for specific target audiences and leveraging brand awareness formats such as; videos and instant experiences to provide an overview of key unique selling propositions and offers may prove fruitful in driving bookings.
• Increase the media investment conservatively and prioritize the budget towards better-performing markets, channels, media, audiences and creatives.
• The continuance of enticing local residents’ and limited time offers along with valuable benefits – flexible and free cancellation, extended stay period – would definitely help to drive bookings, especially with those who are looking at taking advantage of preferential rates offered. A great way to drive direct revenue during this period with an Advance Purchase offer would be to allow potential guests to book now but plan their travels later.
Phase 3 | Recovery
• Resume prospecting efforts across key markets with greater media investments, and activate tactical media buys for the much needed added visibility during a period with increased competition.
• Refresh the creatives and adopt customized messaging for specific audiences to drive brand awareness, site traffic and bookings.
• Run tactical offers with greater relevance, encourage bookings domestically with the continuance of a local residents’ offer, and run flash sales to complement the existing offers to drive consideration and bookings. Marketers could consider running diverse and relevant offers for the branding component of their media plan, complementing the main messaging of highlighting one’s unique selling propositions.
Remember, partnering with an agency which is dedicated, understands your needs and reacts quickly to the ever-changing situation would definitely help to minimize the negative effects on your brand and work closely with you to bounce back when the situation improves.