By Dillon Lockett
It’s been hard for hoteliers to see empty properties and wait for the first signs of recovery. Ever since hotels had to close their doors or experience reduced capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been anxiously looking forward to the days when travelers return. This new normal has left them with unheard of situations in which they have had to rethink and possibly reshape their business model to adjust to shutdowns while trying to maintain their business.
Some of the regular day-to-day tasks before the current pandemic have been thrown out the window, so it may not be intuitive for managers to recall some of the advertising procedures that used to be seamless for them. As many states are beginning to enter their reopening processes, hotels should prepare to welcome back visitors in accordance with local regulations and brand guidance. At Koddi, we’ve put together a few recommendations to ensure your hotel is ready to capture new bookings:
1. Make sure your website is up to date to welcome guests back.
Whether your hotel has been operating with reduced capacity or completely closed, you should ensure that your hotel’s website is updated not only to indicate that your hotel is open for business, but also provides pertinent health and safety information. Many people visiting your website will have questions about what measures are in place to combat COVID-19. By creating an easily accessible COVID-19 FAQ page, potential guests will be able to find quick answers to their most common questions. This should document measures taken to comply with health protocols established by local governments and the World Health Organization.
Better yet, add a personal touch and send personal emails to currently booked guests before they arrive. Make sure they understand what is available during their stay and what is closed. Over-communicate—make sure guests have a total understanding of what to expect when they arrive and set proper expectations ahead of time.
2. Set your property up to be searched on the internet.
Start by providing all media agencies with your reopening date so they can reactivate your search campaigns. During this process, review and update your paid search ad copy and extensions to ensure that you are displaying relevant, up-to-date information that is sensitive to the current travel climate. Make sure all of your local listings (Google My Business, Bing Places, Yelp, Yext) reflect new business hours, contact information and any important check-in procedures.
3. Adjust your metasearch strategy.
As more travelers are active on their mobile devices during this time, you should evaluate your mobile bid strategies across metasearch publishers. Update your Google Hotel Ads callout to reflect special messaging (Free Cancellation, Flexible Booking, etc.). Remember to deactivate the “business closed” notification on all of your listings. Monitor key data points (advanced booking windows, length of stays and geographic data) to stay ahead of trends so you can appropriately adjust as needed.
Remember to provide your metasearch partners with updated cancellation and health and safety policies to be published on their sites. Work with publishers to showcase cleaning policies with banners, badges and filters where applicable.
4. Consider sponsored placements.
Creating dedicated sponsored placement campaigns is another way to enhance web traffic for your property. To do this, reach out to publishers to ensure that the new campaigns are whitelisted so they will be activated. Since sponsored placements are a separate ad type, you will want to reach out to your publisher to add this to the insertion order (IO) when you turn your media back on. This IO would outline crucial details surrounding the pricing structure, delivery timeline and cost for these new placements.
The sponsored placements should have updated ad copy or callouts to highlight updated cleaning measures, free cancellations and other features that travelers are looking for.
5. Rejuvenate display and social ads.
Try refreshing your creative for your display and social ads with messaging focused on thoughtful service offerings such as flexible cancellation, refunds or rebooking policies. Apply location targeting to your campaigns to reach potential customers in areas where there is travel demand before expanding into prospecting or new customer acquisition. Closely evaluate who you are targeting and considering additional exclusions around news, politics and health-related content to avoid controversial ad placements.
There is one thing for certain: The travel and hospitality industry thrives on the hustle and bustle of travelers. Customers will slowly come back in search of the warmth, friendliness and service that they have grown to trust.
Dillon Lockett, senior director of media at Koddi, has more than a decade of experience in the travel vertical, in brand, agency and technology capacities. Most recently, Lockett led digital media at dentsu luxe, a division of dentsu X. At Koddi, he is responsible for overseeing the strategic growth of paid search, display and social channels, translating advertisers’ strategic objectives in those channels into scalable technology solutions.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.