Dust Value

HOW THE POST-PANDEMIC HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY CAN LEVERAGE DIGITAL MARKETING TO ITS ADVANTAGE

While it’s true that a vast majority of all major business sectors were hit particularly hard by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing lockdowns, few would debate that the hospitality sector is having it the worst. This should come as a no-brainer, since most hotels and restaurants, by their very nature, tend to function as hotbeds for pandemics like the current one.

The worst thing is: it wasn’t even supposed to be this way. According to a Financial Express article published last year, the hospitality sector was in fact poised for strong growth during the financial year of 2019, largely off of the back of increasing tourism (especially foreign tourists) and expendable income. While the initial impact was low, by the financial year of 2021 – despite support from the RBI in the form of the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme 3.0 (ECLGS) – the industry was estimated to have suffered revenue losses worth Rs.1.3 lakh crore. The current situation of the industry is apparently so dire that the Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) has once again asked our government to bail them out in the midst of yet another wave.

As bleak as things may seem, however, knowing the right digital marketing strategies might just be the ticket out of the sector’s current predicament. No, we’re not joking: while the following tips may not be enough to bring it back to its former trajectory of growth (not counting other tried-and-true strategies such as Pay Per Click and Search Engine Optimisation), they’re certainly more than enough to ensure that hospitality businesses stay afloat through these times of turbulence.

A social media account you can trust

Forget everything else, even if for a moment: the most important thing that you as a Hospitality Business Owner need to worry about is making your establishment seem safe, secure and homely enough to inspire the trust of curious potential customers scrolling through your social media account from the comfort of their homes. Achieve that by:

  • Reviewing each one of your rooms thoroughly and taking high-quality images them that can be reused across multiple channels.
  • Placing testimonials from other customers upfront, especially the positive ones, on your website.
  • Analysing website traffic to figure out the kind of clientele you tend to attract, based on which you can modify your brand image accordingly.
  • Utilising properly lit and edited videos of your establishment. These videos serve a dual purpose: they are not only more eyeball-grabbing and trust-inspiring in and of themselves, but they’re also ideal for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
  • Introducing your staff members in creative and humorous ways through both your website and social media handles. The more familial your organisation seems, the easier your potential clientele will find to trust you.

We hear you

Of course, appearing trustworthy is not enough when it comes to getting your business back to a secure place in the current pandemic – you also have to be trustworthy. What better way to achieve this than to listen to your customers and understand their anxieties and fears regarding booking a hotel room in the midst of a pandemic? Here are the ways in which you can stay ahead of the curve:

  • Going through your customer reviews carefully (and we mean carefully) in order to get a clear idea of where your enterprise may be lacking. While this might seem obvious when read independently of this article’s context, keep in mind that the impact of issues such as these are going to be far greater now more than ever, thus making it a significant reputational risk.
  • Heeding the suggestions provided, if any, in said customer reviews in order to improve upon your products and services. You could even try looking up travel company reviews (such as those of Trip Advisor) in order to get an idea of the kinds of services and amenities specific to the pandemic that are received positively.
  • Sharing critical pandemic related information on both your social media and your website. This can also include clear and apposite Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sections updated accordingly (perhaps also in video form), or even social media posts that demonstrate your awareness and knowledge of the pandemic and its impact on your business.
  • Communicating directly with your customers in order to make the custom arrangements necessary for their stay.
  • Allowing full flexibility and 24-hour cancellation periods (preferably pushed to all channels, including Online Travel Agents) for those who may have made bookings before the onset of a particular lockdown.
  • Creating outreach programmes (via weekly video spaces) where you check in on your former customers to make sure that they are healthy. While this is the ideal way to let your customers know that you really care, do steer clear of crisis-centric advertising as it might cause the programme to backfire.

A trickle appears!

As unforgiving as the pandemic may seem, it does provide businesses fruitful-if-brief periods of respite in between its waves. While you might heave a sigh of relief at the increasing trickle of customers walking through your establishment’s door, do not forget that the pandemic isn’t over yet and that it won’t be over in quite a while. As a result, your potential customers might still have lingering feelings of trepidation – feelings that are best addressed (and countered) as follows:

  • Creating email-based loyalty programmes with personalised (i.e., based on the user’s personal preferences), eye-catching offers aimed at repeat or “loyal” customers.
  • Reach out to said customers when they change their mind and decide to cancel their bookings.
  • Discussing attractive packages and new offers on your website in creative and memorable ways.
  • Regularly updating your website’s content with compelling headlines that highlight your establishment’s unique selling points.

In conclusion, we’d also like to stress that while the hospitality sector might currently be in dire straits, the predicted future is quite far from being bleak. In fact, the Fortune magazine article we’d cited earlier in this article cites a report by the Indian Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) which predicts that the sector is estimated to reach $125 billion by the year 2027. So, worry not and hold tight for the next few years with the tips we’ve listed above!