Updated: Jan 19
The travel & tourism sector is one of the worst-hit ones when it comes to the on-ground effect of COVID-19. During 2019, 10.89 million foreign tourists arrived in India. Total Contribution of Travel and Tourism to GDP at Real 2019 was $ 268.29 billion according to IBEF Report of February 2020. It looked like a very promising and lucrative field to invest in or to work with, especially in India.
Since COVID-19 hit International and domestic travel alike with the world going under a total lockdown, multiple aspects of the economic flow were disturbed from transport services to tourist purchases, foreign exchange reserves and employment at hotels & restaurants which are direct losses to the industry. The indirect losses account from vendor level losses to total halt of work with local food vendors to hotels, bulk outsourced laundries, and much more to count. With such a huge cascading effect blowing the whole economy like a house of cards, there is a tremendous need to make a come-back. After all, India thrives on tourism as we are a country with the deepest and the richest culture and history.
We have now entered a digital era. It is no more a thing of the future, rather the future is now. While international leisure tourism still seems farfetched till a vaccine is invented, local tourism has started picking up the pace and business travelers have no other option than to travel. There are quite a few things that hotel brands need to do to attract tourism.
Exploring Local market through data mining from the property management system (PMS) or point of sale (POS) system
The historic data of the last 5 years can be picked from the Property Management System or point of sale system and analysis needs to be run as to which nearby state or city or district gave the hotel property the maximum business in the past 5 years. There is a high probability to get business from the same markets again as travelers are indulging themselves in short vacations over the weekends.
Organizing the local markets into groups:
The identified local markets can be divided into groups of High, Medium, and Low business probability after finding out which places gave the maximum local tourism since last 5 years. Each hotel follows something called a registration card system which is a legal aspect to meet for every guest check-in. This registration card needs to have postal codes of the travelers picked up from their ID card given at check-in. The postal code of each guest fed in the system will help identify the patterns of travel for communication strategy from the hotel.
Email and SMS Marketing:
Instead of spending excess money on social media ads, a simple SMS, WhatsApp or Email once or twice a week to the regular guests of the hotel can do wonders. The open rate of an SMS can be achieved as high as 98% and it has been proven to be the most cost-effective way for marketing. Amazon, Flipkart and many other giants use SMS and email marketing heavily to achieve their sales targets. Even you must have received many of them personally.
A hotel needs to put out offers and festival event details into small creative formats and share with those guests whose data they mined from the PMS or POS. Many of the ERPs installed by the hotels have these services inbuilt within themselves so that the hotels can shoot emails, WhatsApp and SMS from the system itself but most of the time, they are under-utilized. The cost of a simple SMS or WhatsApp or email can be as low as INR 10 paise/-. There are a number of applications that can be used for this purpose. Click here to know more about them.
Social Media Marketing:
The trend of making fancy creatives which don't work is a passé but making micro-videos of how safe the hotel is, guest feedbacks and interviews of hotel management are in trend as they give out the real picture of the on-ground situation. Having a media calendar covering all topics with continuous repetition can go a long way. Running ads on social media can be pushed back for now as the hotel might be in a cost-saving mode. Instead, the employees of the hotel must be requested to circulate the links of the hotel’s social media activities among the repeat guests of the hotel who have developed a genial relation with the hotel staff, so that the message can spread within the exact and worthy audience.
Avoid spreading the message among competitor hotel professionals and to people who cannot afford the rate card of your hotel as it might bring in likes and comments but will never yield into actual business due to wrong targeting. Also if another hotel knows what you are sharing with your clients, their management will take no time to replicate your communication.
In case a hotel does not have enough manual circulation from its employees, they can opt for advertising on social media. The ads on social media must only be run on the phone numbers and email IDs mined from the PMS and POS. YES…!!! Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn have this feature of marketing only to the specific phone number or email list if you have one. Once you upload a list there, the ad will only be visible to those accounts which have that email ID or phone number registered. This way you can save a lot of cost by not advertising to people who might or might not be able to afford your rate card. You are advertising with pin-point accuracy to those people who have already visited you and availed your services in the past.
Blogging is of utmost importance as of today. Not only will it help your website for SEO in the long run but also it will provide the customer/guest with the right information which they might not know about. There can be numerous topics the blogs can be written about such as-
How local tourism is evolving after COVID in your hotel's locale.
What are the precautions to take when traveling to your hotel's locale after COVID.
Which places have opened up again in the city for shopping and clubbing after COVID.
Which is the nearest COVID check-up center to the hotel and what facilities are provided.
What are the upcoming festivals that would be celebrated after the unlock and what can tourists expect after COVID-19.
Post COVID-19 itinerary.
These blogs then need to be circulated among the data we mined previously to achieve the maximum impact.
Whatever you are making this communication to your potential and existing clients, it needs to carry your offer along with the message. For example, towards the end of these blogs, you could write in brief about your newest offer or give a link for the reader to navigate to. This is important because all travelers research before they travel. They want to check out the places where they will be visiting and want to look for options. This also helps in better preparedness for their journey. Every traveler does their own research and when they do, you need to make sure you are the one providing that information to them.
Circulation is of utmost importance as no-one will ever come to know by themselves where to look for or if something is even posted by you. Check out this video to know more about the manual circulation of organic posts to achieve the best results.
The conversion rate of the communication given out by a hotel can very well be tracked and quantified by attaching a unique discount code to each medium. An email can carry a separate discount offer code and SMS and blogs can carry separate ones. Once the reader reads it, they will carry the code along and will redeem it at the hotel in one or the other way. That will give you the exact breakup of which communication and channel worked for your brand.
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