Just over a month ago, the hospitality industry halted globally and future hotel business was disappearing at a rapid rate. Hoteliers had to jump into complete crisis mode due to the spread of COVID-19. There were mass cancellations, layoffs and shutdowns. The financial damage to the industry was worse than 9/11 and the financial crisis of 2008 combined. Hotels weren’t sure if they’d ever recover and business savvy owners were trying to creatively repurpose their business models to respond to the current climate.
Simply put, the hospitality industry was in shambles.
It’s amazing the difference a month can make. According to the The Blavatnik School of Government, government regulations are starting to loosen up. We’re starting to see leisure travel cautiously ramp up with some markets seeing an increase in occupancy by 15-50% at their properties. Experts are predicting that hotels will start to see the market bounce back in 6-12 months with properties dependent on international travel, group bookings or large meetings and conventions being the last to recover.
Now is not the time to sit back and fiddle your thumbs waiting for business to come to you. It’s time to be proactive and start prospecting which begs the question…
What can you do NOW to win future hotel business during COVID-19?
In this article we explore strategies that hotels can implement today to help increase their earnings in Q3 and beyond.
1. Reach out to your COVID Cancellations and Past Opportunities
The United States saw a 95% cancellation rate for meetings and events due to the impact of COVID-19. Every single hotel experienced cancellations. It’s a best practice to start rebuilding your sales pipeline by connecting with your cancellations. These contacts and accounts are the warmest leads you have. They were already committed to staying with you or hosting an event at your property. Don’t jump straight into sales mode. The virus outbreak has negatively impacted almost every single industry, not to mention, the personal effect it may have had on your clients. Check in to see how they are doing and rebuild your rapport by listening to their story and their thoughts on the future.
You should also share with them your plans for recovery and any changes you’ve made to your operations in response to the crisis. You can use this dialogue as an opportunity to ask for feedback with your business’ ideas or what they want to see from you to rebook. By having honest, open conversations with your clients, you will start to garner their trust and open up the door for them to rebook in the future.
2. Prospect for New Opportunities
Based on past data from global events that disrupted the travel industry, the CRBE “expect[s] a recovery first for drive-to leisure destinations and then corporate transient demand”. We most likely won’t see group travel and large events until further down the road.
This means that there will be less leads and more competition for those leads. It typically takes 4-12 sales touches to find prospects and close their new business. You don’t want to start reaching out once business picks up, you want to start finding and warming those leads now.
Our CEO, Bob Graham, recently presented a 4 step sales strategy in a webinar on How to Position your Hotel to Win in the New Normal that can be implemented today at your property.
Identify the key market segments that you want to target. Make a list of the business accounts and job titles that you should reach out to. Next, head over to LinkedIn to search for contacts that match those accounts and job titles.
Build A List
Now that you have all this information about your contact, you need to find their email address. Tools like Hunter.io, zoominfo, or LeadIQ are great resources for list building. Use a spreadsheet or a CRM to store this information and start reaching out to these contacts.
Reach out to your prospects with personalized emails. Your outreach message should be similar to your communication with your cancelled bookings. Introduce yourself, see how they’re doing during this time, and explain why you’re reaching out.
It’s important to note that during your outreach, you may receive a message that your contact has been laid off or is the wrong person to reach out to. Don’t let that stop you. Try and find out who has taken over that person’s responsibilities or who is the right person to reach out to. At the end of the day, a reply is a reply and you want to use it as an opportunity to gather as much information about the organization as possible.
Once you’ve established communication with the right person, keep the dialogue open. Share with them any changes you’re making to your property to ensure the safety of the guests. As you grow the relationship, you can start selling. Based on expert forecasting with transient corporate travel coming back before group travel, you should start by offering a Local Negotiated Rate for the business when they start to travel. As things slowly start to go back to normal and travel picks up, you already have that relationship and will be top of mind when they start booking for corporate travel.
3. Reach out to your local Convention and Visitor Bureau or Destination Marketing Organization
Your CVB or DMO will have the inside scoop on your region’s policies for reopening. Schedule a call or meeting with a representative from your CVB or DMO and find out what their plans are for recovery and how you can support them with those initiatives. Share with them the changes that you’re making to your property to ensure the safety of the public and ask for feedback on your ideas.
If there were any major events cancelled in your city, for example the olympics, find out if they’ve rescheduled or if you can help them in their rescheduling efforts by offering up room blocks or meeting space. Work together to get these bids back in the future when it’s safe. By supporting your CVB or DMO, they’re more likely to reach out to you for feedback on initiatives or support with future large-scale city projects.
COVID-19 has turned the hospitality industry upside down. In 2020, hotel occupancy is expected to drop by 35.6% and ADR is expected to drop by 16.2%. Now is the time to focus on building your pipeline so that you are ready to sell when it is safe to do so. The key is to identify opportunities (either past or new), reach out and connect with those opportunities, and build and nurture those connections to create authentic relationships. By following this simple process, you will see your future hotel business and sales grow which will have a direct impact on your profits.