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How Can Hotels Adapt Their Marketing Strategies Now in Preparation for the Rebound?

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During the last six weeks, stay-at-home orders around the United States have disrupted the hotel and restaurant industries to the Nth degree. While politicians and doctors may disagree on when to lift those stay-at-home mandates, eventually citizens will be allowed to once again travel – both nationally and internationally. While confined to their homes, many consumers have been planning future getaways for “when this is all over.” With this in mind, how can hotels adapt their marketing strategies now in preparation for a return to travel?

To find out the answer to this question, HT spoke with Nicole Amsler, vice president of marketing at Formation, an AI-powered offer platform that works with loyalty programs in travel and other industries.

How can hotels engage with future customers in meaningful ways while they're at home?
Right now, hotels should be focused on customer retention and ensuring that their digital interactions with travelers are relevant and personal. As many hotels’ customers are unable or unlikely to travel, it’s important to focus on maintaining relationships to ensure customers are still engaged once able to travel again. As digital channels offer the only real opportunities for hotels to connect with customers right now, it’s important that hotels double down on communicating through these channels. And it is even more important that the conversations are relevant and personal. Hotels, like any other company, need to acknowledge that the current situation isn’t business as usual. Relevance is both about tailoring communications to an individual traveler but also recognizing the larger context of what’s happening in the world. Maintaining this personal engagement through digital channels can help build long-term loyalty.

How will AI be a part of engaging with guests prior to travel?
While guests aren’t traveling, there’s an opportunity for hotels to use the technology at their disposal to better understand their guests. AI can play a key role in helping hotels to take that understanding one step further, to actually create more relevant promotions and digital experiences. The technology can help hotels synthesize what they know about customers and develop promotions that are more relevant and effective, and adapt as individual customer preferences and behaviors change as they gear up to travel again.

What will be some of the challenges when guests start traveling again?
Two of the big challenges will be around customer trust and confidence. Hospitality brands are going to have to figure out what actions will be enough to encourage customer confidence and how best to communicate those actions to each individual customer. The business traveler might be more willing to start booking trips and stays before the family traveler for example, and hotels need to be able to understand what motivates and is relevant to each individual customer and ensure the promotions and experience of travel builds confidence for each individual.

When do you expect the rebound to happen/travel to begin again?
When customers CAN travel versus when customers WILL travel are two different things and will happen at different times. A true industry rebound will only happen once travelers are confident and trust the travel experience. On a company level, the rebound will be more difficult for businesses that try to come back from a marketing standstill. While it can feel natural to pull back on marketing right now amid uncertainty, laying the groundwork for the rebound with customer engagement can avoid customer retention issues when travel begins again.

What kind of exciting hotel technologies/marketing technologies may get a boost post-Coronavirus?
There’s an opportunity for technology that bridges the digital and in-person experiences. For example, mobile technology that facilitates things like digital room keys, remote check-in, personalized concierge services and other digital experiences that travelers can take advantage of during their stay. These technologies have dual benefits. First, they diminish the need for things like room keys to change hands and also decrease person-to-person contact. This could be valuable to consumers as they rebuild confidence in the travel experience post-coronavirus. Second, these technologies also offer hotels an opportunity to create more engaging experiences during guests’ stays by bolstering the in-person experience with digital personalization

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