10 tips to help hotels & destinations prepare for the post-COVID era
Dr Auliana Poon
With hotel occupancies down, mass gatherings cancelled and the cruise sector at a standstill, it’s safe to say that the tourism industry has been severely affected by the novel coronavirus.
Tourism is the lifeblood of many countries within the region, countries that are now grappling to come to terms and treat with the fallout caused by COVID-19.
Founder and Director of Tourism Intelligence International Dr Auliana Poon, said at this juncture there’s just no telling when some semblance of normalcy will return to the industry, as this is dependent on a number of factors.
She told Loop: “In these times, it is very difficult to give a specific response in terms of the exact time that travel will resume to ‘normal’. It depends on so many factors – the economic health of the travelling population’s economy; the health of the destinations to which travel is directed; air access, costs, availability, etc. etc. What can be said, is that domestic travel (e.g. Trinidad to Tobago, or for Germans within Germany) travel will recover fastest. Regional travel will be second to recover (e.g. Trinidad to Grenada; Germany to Spain, Italy or Greece) and the hardest to recover will be international travel.”
Dr Poon said it is also important to draw a distinction between business travel and leisure travel.
“Business travel will normally recover first, although with the extensive use of meeting technologies, CEOs will be thinking twice about travel spend. Leisure travel will take longer to recover,” she said.
Having monitored tourism and travel trends in the Caribbean for well over 30 years, Tourism Intelligence International has compiled a list of practical strategies for hotels, resorts and tourist destinations to survive in the post-COVID era.
- Don’t Engage in Panic Pricing
Do not panic and start dropping your rates, instead offer discounts. Studies have shown that hotels that are the fastest to drop their rates and who drop their rates the deepest can be the last ones to recover when demand comes back. Instead of price panicking, focus on how you can develop packages and bundles that add value to the consumer experience without costing you too much. Travellers will be looking for value, rather than dropping your listed prices increase your listed benefits. For example, if you are a 2-star property offer 3 or 4-star service rather than dropping your price to a 1-star level.
- Cut Cost but Not Excellence
Many businesses will be looking at ways to cut cost. This is understandable, however the standard of excellence should never be compromised. Look for those areas that you can cut costs that will improve your bottom line, but not diminish your brand integrity and image.
- Marketing is Still Essential
While things are dire and business is down, a key strategy is to maintain your marketing. During the last global financial crisis, Jamaica maintained their marketing while many other destinations cut back significantly. Jamaica was the only Caribbean destination to experience growth during the recession (4% growth in 2008 over 2007).
- Catch up on Content Creation to Keep Top of Mind
One important element of marketing that should not be ignored is content creation. Remember, content is King, and with more people ordered to stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, content consumption has remarkably increased. Be creative, produce content and devise a plan to share on your company’s website and social media platforms.
- Update Your Digital Destinations
While we are still on the topic of marketing, why not take the time to update and modernize your digital destinations? When was the last time you redid your website? Give your digital destinations, your website and social media platforms a facelift. Keeping things fresh and interesting is a sure-fire way to increase traffic. Use the down-time to get your online presence going, glowing and growing. Take advantage of the opportunity to wow and woo thirsty travellers.
- Get Your House in Order
Work with your team to identify areas that have been ignored for a while and develop a plan to systematically get them to where they should be. Some areas to consider are landscaping and menu revision.
- Real Estate is a Premium
COVID-19 has changed the way people see the world and each other. Now more than ever before, people will value their personal space and avoid crowds where possible. Those hotels and restaurants that can capitalize on this new desire for space will be winners in the new paradigm. Open-air dining will be in demand. Relook your real estate and consider where you can capitalize on this upcoming trend. Is there a garden area next to your restaurant? Perhaps you can convert this area into outdoor dining. Also, consider the layout of your restaurant. Perhaps, maximizing space to fill as many tables and seats may not be the best approach post-COVID-19. Rather than maximizing your space, consider optimizing your space to cater to your guests’ expectations.
- Invest in your Most Valuable Asset – Your Team
While many are cutting staff hours or even laying off staff outright, those who use the time to train and retool their staff will come out of this crisis as winners. Your success is built on orchestrating and delivering unforgettable experiences to your guests. Who delivers those experiences? Isn’t it your staff? If your staff is better, brighter and happier on the other side of this global pandemic, then you will be in a better position to meet and even exceed the needs and wants of your guests. Consider both technical and soft training. How about learning a new language, or at least learning the basics in the 5 most important languages?
- Not Business as Usual
The coronavirus has already changed the world as we know it, but we must not lose sight of the big picture. For over 30 years, Tourism Intelligence International has predicted that mass tourism cannot continue unchecked. They published a report that argued for a brand of tourism that’s more considerate and caring of people and planet. Corona has shown us that we cannot continue to live, work, play and do business without concern for the environment and for each other.
- Be Responsible, for Real!
Responsible Tourism is the commitment of the hotels and destinations to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions on the environment, the economy and society. Responsible tourism is ownership-based and action-oriented where stakeholders see themselves as agents of change and are willing to act. After the Corona pandemic, hotels, resorts and destinations have to emerge more responsible and more committed to the health and development of their workers and the people, communities, services and businesses of the destination as a whole.