Why Hotels Need to Keep in Touch with Guests During the COVID-19 Crisis—and How to Do It Well

By Callum Short 

Even while hotels remain closed to guests during COVID-19 shutdowns, it’s still essential that they keep communicating with their previous—and potential—guests throughout this crisis. As well as maintaining brand awareness, it’s also a vital way for hotels to ensure their guests feel appreciated and reassured, giving them the confidence to rebook when the recovery happens.

Keeping the essential hotel-guest conversation going

For any hotel wanting to respond successfully to COVID-19, now is not the time to go dark when it comes to keeping in touch with guests. Instead, hotels need to keep guest communication consistent, building the foundations of vital reassurance. Demonstrating how they’re pivoting their business, responding to the new climate and carrying on engaging communication is essential to securing a great reopening position.

Email is key to keeping this conversation going. Now is the time for every hotel to utilize the power of their WiFi marketing email list as well as their guest database—to update past and potential guests with booking changes, as well as responding to customer feedback and issues highlighted in recent customer Tripadvisor reviews. Crafting compelling emails that genuinely converse with guests is vital—and email enables that extra personalized touch with targeted segmentation.

Hotels still need to share their brand story for engagement

Strong storytelling is at the heart of every hotel’s branding, showcasing what sets them apart from competitors. It’s also a key way to build lasting—and profitable—loyalty. Enticing storytelling shouldn’t stop just because hotels are currently closed. Hotels can continue to share their story, mixing up their usual content in response to COVID-19. Not only will this keep their brand in the spotlight, it will also amplify their core values—and that’s what guests connect with.

Right now, social media has never been more important for hotels. By creating engaging content on Instagram and Facebook, hotels can continue to connect with their customer base even when closed. Storytelling magic such as behind the scenes video clips, interviews with staff, reposting customer content and creating strong visuals highlighting core values during this time will keep essential brand momentum going for every hotel.

Loyal guests need added value from hotels now more than ever

Every hotel wants to provide guests with great value, and this is still the case even when closed (for now). While everyone is staying at home, evolving offerings that add value are important to reward guests interacting with the hotel brand—albeit from a distance. Loyal hotel guests are created with time and hard work—and lost much more quickly. Hotels must be ready for the recovery, so continuing to reward loyal guests is paramount.

Adding value keeps guests feeling appreciated which is a vital loyalty driver. During this time, hotels can use a channel mix of email, social media and their website to carry on serving guests with quality, virtual experiences instead. These can include the following:

  • Sharing a recipe and video for a hotel’s most popular in-house restaurant dish
  • Putting together an entertaining—and data collecting—social media quiz for guests to take part in at home
  • Converting the best hotel experiences into virtual ones. Think using the gym manager to put together a virtual at-home workout, or share some at-home spa treatment ideas

Hotels must update guests on their COVID-19 response

One essential part of communicating with guests during shutdowns is about how every hotel is responding appropriately to COVID-19, including new, in-depth cleaning and hygiene measures, relevant social-distancing policies and detailing the steps each hotel is taking to become COVID-secure.

This helps build valuable authority. It also serves to reassure every guest that a hotel is managing COVID-19 issues well with a new normal, giving them the confidence to return. Carrying on consistent communications is key—it won’t then feel forced or rushed or an afterthought.

Using their email database, hotels can continue to update and communicate with their guests about their COVID-19 response. A clearly defined website update section as well as informative social media posts are imperative—demonstrating to guests the steps taken to create COVID-secure environments. Ideally, a mix of all channels will be most effective, targeting the best customer data with each approach.

Guests still want targeted, personalized messaging

Now is the time for hotels to be thinking about targeted sales strategies for specific segments based on what’s worked—and what hasn’t. Great data underpins this, and hotels must review guest data, guest history and guest demographics to ensure their strategies are as effective as possible.

Guests who have been forced to cancel due to COVID-19 can be added into a new targeting stream, ready to target when appropriate with tempting offer emails or subscriber-only time-limited booking offers.

Previous loyal guests will also be essential to every hotel’s recovery, so it’s vital hotels keep engaging these guests. Hotels must reward loyalty, pitching finely targeted offers that will maximize response and future sales. Loyal guests may not be driven solely by discounts—extra value in terms of loyalty club access, room upgrades and priority booking access might be more effective to drive response.

To wrap up

The COVID-19 crisis has turned hospitality upside down—and that’s an understatement. But instead of shutting down communications, hotels must use this time more than ever to update guests with great content, boost reassurance and keep the brand values of every hotel front of mind. The recovery will come, and the hotels that have kept engaging with guests will be the ones best placed to respond.

Callum Short is the founder of Beambox, a guest WiFi supplier.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.