Hotels are leaping out of the freezer and into the frying pan, so to speak, as U.S. hotel occupancy has surpassed the lows of early 2020. These signs of recovery are a breath of fresh air for an industry that has had to “do more with less” and adapt to a challenging, unpredictable market. But even as we celebrate a return in demand, we should keep in mind that a return to activity does not mean a return to business as usual for hotels.
The impact of the pandemic will continue to be felt far and wide, from the way hotels are run to the manner in which travel restarts. COVID has created new challenges for hotels looking to retain guests and stand out amongst their competition, and the only way for operators to keep up is to recalibrate your hotel’s marketing and commercial strategy to create a holistic source of bookings.
After a year spent fiercely competing for modest occupancy numbers, hoteliers are understandably skeptical about the possibility of an expedient return to business. Operators are competing hard for the leisure travelers just now returning to the market, but the industry must be prepared for the tide to turn as leisure travel gains steam and business travel eventually resumes. When it does, it will be critical to have your hotel represented in front of the right guests, with the right rates, at the right time.
Who are your current competitors? When are properties reopening in your market? Are you competing against hotels across segments? Who are your customers—and are they the same customers you served before the pandemic? The answers to these questions, and hoteliers’ ability to reliably find answers, are holding the futures of many hotels in the balance today.
The ability to not only set the right rate for the right moment, but also contact your ideal guests with the proper timing, requires a high degree of accuracy and agility which can only be reliably provided by a connected organization leveraging advanced data management tools.
In many ways hoteliers are moving into the unknown in terms of understanding who currently comprises their guest set. In the past, bookings were heavily influenced by traditional factors, such as price, ratings and location. However, the pandemic has created a diverse blend of travelers frequenting just about any property, less motivated by price and more interested in locations, amenities and experiences that may not have caught their attention before. The relevancy of the property to the experience the guest is trying to find will be a major influencer of future booking patterns as recovery continues.
Hotels are in a challenging position: while many are using advanced data analytics to better understand their guests than ever before, it’s possible many of their current visitors are a result of chance encounters thanks to trip intent, and favorable rates may be the final straw that solidifies the booking. Now it falls to hotels to understand who their core guests are going to be, all over again. This requires attention and alignment from nearly every corner of the hotel, from operations to sales, to marketing, to revenue, and distribution.
Hoteliers will have to engage with guests on a personal level just as they have done in the past, but they should do so now with transformation in mind. A new target audience may desire entirely different amenities or services from what was previously offered. Failure to adapt to these changing needs is tantamount to handing future bookings to new hotels reopening later in our current cycle of recovery.
Most importantly, every department within a hotel must work together to understand tomorrow’s travelers and meet their needs. Looking at guest reviews is always valuable, but it is not enough to understand the sweeping shifts taking place in hospitality. Hoteliers must access their pooled resources and move away from outdated operating strategies to utilize new internal data sources and team members. This can only be achieved through a unified commercial strategy.
Marketing Automation Meets Operations
In many ways, the hospitality industry is looking at its need for a more agile marketing, sales, revenue, and distribution strategy the wrong way. Investments in technology to increase agility in these business sectors is necessary and available today, but such an investment would be a waste if it is not accompanied by a robust shift in operational approach to unite all hotel associates under a singular commercial strategy. The ability to provide impactful agility comes not just from technology, but from the staff behind the wheel.
It’s time to look at the importance of staffing as it relates to revenue management, distribution, and pricing. Hotels have fewer hands on deck, but today’s workers are skilled and invaluable in their ability to compartmentalize the most critical elements of hospitality. Business flexibility will allow organizations to take revenue strategy to the next level, but only if this flexibility is natural and available to all hoteliers under one umbrella.
The perseverance that allowed hotels to survive in 2020 set operators on the path to success this year by stripping away the non-essential aspects of hospitality and embracing technology and agility. The reality is that no one in hospitality knows the speed of recovery for each segment, region, or property.
In fact, many industry analysts are split on how travel will return, when business travel will recover, or if business travel will recover at all. However, with an efficient and informed technology partner, trained staff, and undivided commercial strategy, hoteliers will be able to understand more of their competitive position, quickly pool their resources, and accurately target their most profitable business opportunities with the necessary speed and agility the post-COVID market requires.
About the Author
Mike joined IDeaS, a SAS Company, in 2016, bringing more than 15 years of progressive experience in driving growth and strategy in enterprise SaaS technology, eCommerce platforms, brand management and marketing for companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 organizations. As vice president of IDeaS’ global marketing and enablement & engagement teams, Mike currently oversees product marketing, demand generation, branding and communications as well as client, academic and industry education. In this dual role, he leads strategic initiatives to amplify IDeaS’ industry-leading reputation for hospitality revenue management software and services and provide best-in-class training and learning experiences for its users.