How Hoteliers Can Leverage Marketing Tech to Ensure Bookings Continue Amid Coronavirus Concerns
In its short life span, COVID-19 has had a seismic impact on the travel industry. Countless conferences have been canceled, companies around the globe are issuing travel bans and leisure travelers are wary to board a plane, a boat, or step into a hotel. All of this is happening and yet there is no domestic travel ban within the United States of America and there are only five countries that fall in on the CDC’s risk list: China, Iran, South Korea Japan and Italy. It’s also true that consumers are still traveling.
With a quickly evolving environment leading to dynamic changes, it is important for the travel industry to understand the appropriate role to play. How can advertisers leverage technology to keep this trillion-dollar industry moving forward while most importantly putting health and safety first? The answers are evolving, but what we do know is that leveraging digital tools is imperative to ensure bookings continue even if at a slower clip.
Put your digital assets on the front lines.
Travel providers need to be proactive with consumers with any breaking updates via their website, CRM channels, and text alerts. Where relevant, the travel sector should provide information about sanitization processes and safety measures being put in place to mitigate disease transmission but should avoid being alarmist in nature. Travelers are looking for information. Keeping consumers as up to date as possible also reduces stress on burdened customer service channels.
The first place that travelers will go when deciding to either keep or book new travel is your website. To this point, direct search traffic has held steady and even increased for some travel providers with much of that traffic is seeking content related to COVID-19 for their existing or future travel plans. Marketers can use this valuable real estate to put travelers’ minds at ease and adjust your home page user-flow to allow for easy rebooking.
Focus on the lower funnel.
Unless and until travel bans are issued, a portion, albeit a smaller portion, of the US and global populations will still need or want to travel. Weddings, family events, important meetings, and Spring Break vacations are all still happening. When a consumer shows intent, it’s important your brand is front and center as conversions become harder to achieve.
Focusing on lower-funnel tactics like remarketing and CRM are more efficient ways to spend valuable media dollars while holding the top of the funnel budgets until the virus is better contained and demand returns.
Addressable media is another way to efficiently reach lower-funnel prospects who are looking to travel. Targeting specific individuals who have demonstrated high intent signals such as shopping for travel-related goods or visited travel related sites can be valuable.
Build agile communication plans.
As always, traveler safety has to come first. Be ready to adjust media flighting and messaging. Marketing organizations, agencies, and media partners all need to work to be responsive to the changing situation. Building a taskforce with a regular cadence in meetings enables agility between workstreams and sets a foundation for clear and quick communication. Stay on top of your search and traffic numbers to help forecast the impact of COVID-19 on short term bookings. Be sure to arm both your social media and social care teams with your policies; and be vigilant with social listening so you can immediately mitigate travelers’ concerns or help them navigate their travel options.
Whether consumers are traveling because of a business mandate or embarking on the trip of a lifetime, travel can be stressful even without the external factors of a pandemic. Make sure travelers are aware that their plans can shift as news, both positive and negative, comes to light. Through proactive communication and careful coordination between your teams and your technology, the travel industry can allay some of those concerns and anxiety.
Brandy is a results-oriented global marketer with deep roots in the travel industry. She has helped hotel and airline clients acquire and retain loyal customers for 20 years. Brandy is the Sr. Director of Client Success for Merkle in the Travel Media and Entertainment vertical.