The year 2020 has had immense adverse effects for the hospitality sector worldwide. This market slump is primarily due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has wreaked havoc in travel, hospitality, and social domains. In an effort by governments, legislative bodies, and health sectors to curb its transmission and spread, travel and social gatherings have been severely limited. However, as social-gathering and travel restrictions are gradually lifted and economies open back up, there is an opportunity for hotels and other stakeholders in the hospitality sector to capitalize on the resurgence. This review, therefore, outlines several hotel concepts that can be applied to attract guests and tourists in the wake of a global pandemic recovery.
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A Social Media Marketing Campaign
With a significant proportion of the world’s population being on social media, it would be highly imprudent for a hotel to fail to capitalize on marketing on this particular platform. The prevalence of social media is good for hotel owners. However, the inexpensive nature of engagement and the very nature of the platform as wholly digital level the marketing playing field. A small boutique niche hotel may have the same social media presence as a multinational chain of hotels and resorts (Lin et al. 2680). This is an opportunity or a compromise, depending on the perspective. Still, it is inarguable that the platform is inherently superior in the scope of reach and ease of publishing marketing content to potential clients.
There are several approaches available to reach out to potential patrons on social media. Currently, Instagram is highly popular among the young working subset of the market. As such, hotel managers should seek to capitalize on opportunities to take ‘instagrammable’ food pictures, selfies, and videos. Creating an account on the platform allows users to tag the hotel in their photographs, which is an effective, yet inexpensive marketing ploy. Therefore, regardless of the serenity or popularity of the venue, the marketing agenda would not be pushed without user engagement with the profile and tagging the hotel in pictures and videos.
Creating a business Facebook account is also quite essential in generating accountability and interaction with the online social media presence and potential client base. For instance, a Facebook business page allows the hotel to accept reviews and for users to post on the page. Finally, Twitter hashtags that are unique to the hotel can be implemented by the marketing team, staff, and guests to increase awareness of the experience on social media. In the contemporary marketplace, customer support can either be integrated with social media or wholly conducted via WhatsApp, Twitter, and Messenger.
Much like other users on social media, hotel managers should ensure that their hotels’ social media pages are routinely active to maintain engagement and interaction. These engagements include following pages, liking, and commenting on posts, which makes the company a bona fide member of the online community. This fosters inclusion, and individuals with whom the hotel engages can become online ambassadors.
Provide Virtual Tours and Video Marketing
Virtual reality and Augmented reality are at the forefront of the information technology and artificial intelligence development curve. These technologies also provide unprecedented opportunities to stakeholders in the hospitality sector, with immense benefits for early adopters. Virtual and Augmented reality provides the user and potential client with the unique opportunity to try the experience without really buying it by taking a virtual tour of the hotel grounds and amenities.
For instance, a hotel can develop and upload a 360-degree video tour of its property, the grounds, the amenities, and nearby attractions, local businesses, and areas. This would allow users to download the videos and experience them in virtual reality for an incredibly immersive experience. Finally, the utilization of surrounding areas of interest would make the video an invaluable addition to online travel blogs and guides.
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Develop Strategic Content Marketing
Content marketing provides hotel owners the opportunity to inform their potential patrons of their offerings while using a more credible and less sales-focused approach than conventional advertisement materials. This is because people will inadvertently tend to believe content that sounds overall authoritative and aims to educate them. This is the inherent strength of digital content marketing in that it comes across as educative and tells the reader something that they did not know before (Leite and António 92). Ultimately, this helps the patron to decide which places they would want to visit to fulfill their leisure and travel objectives.
There are, however, several core stipulations that should be met to maximize content marketing strategies effectively. Therefore, hotel managers should ensure that the content marketing materials are optimized for search engines and relevant to current issues on the ground, including in this particular case, the COVID-19 crisis. It is highly important to include information on how the SARS-Cov-2 virus transmission within the premises is prevented, how it has helped local communities with protection efforts, and how it offers to keep current and future patrons safe. Ignoring current changes in the world may make the hotel seem tone-deaf or indifferent while confronting issues suggests to any possible patrons that the hotel is on top of things. However, the content marketing strategy could also be implemented in more conventional methods. Specific events and session recommendations can be made for events such as Valentine, or promotions for the summer.
Foster Good Public Relations
A good public relations strategy is essential in the development and recovery of any player in the hospitality industry. The generation and maintenance of publicity is a powerful facet of an excellent public relations campaign and does not happen without the diligence and input from other people who intimately understand the process (Tatar and Irem 255). For hoteliers to leverage this platform and achieve good public relations, they ought to pitch their stories and their ideas to the media often. Whenever a journalist does take a report and later publish it in a reputable publication, that action is much more useful than any paid promotion.
To make this work effectively, hoteliers need to develop the appropriate contacts within their local media or enlist someone who already has these embedded contacts. Further, they can then brainstorm relevant topics that fit each publication’s style, overall message, and target audience while being newsworthy (Leite and António 96). Finally, hoteliers should leverage this platform by holding press releases and media functions, and giving live interviews regarding these topics to the local media radio or TV station. This approach can be further bolstered by the promotion of this participation in social media.
Implement Social Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing, especially in the contemporary age of social media, is an invaluable marketing tool and opportunity for hoteliers. For instance, to put it into perspective, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has about 199 million followers on Instagram. Therefore, if he recommends staying at a hotel, there is the likelihood that that message has been shared with almost 200 million individuals and potential patrons. The influencer approach works in a fairly similar way, but where an individual, perhaps a travel-related blogger, promotes a hotelier’s properties by posting user-generated content, photos, and videos about their experience at the venue (Gustavo 318). Often, these influencers have an affiliate link from which they earn a commission for any purchases made.
The appeal of this approach is that small boutique hotels can adopt this avenue as well. It would involve figuring out the local celebrities and thought leaders in the local population, then inviting them to be influencers. This deal can be made by offering special incentives, packages, or simply allowing local events to be hosted. The cost of marketing and influencer management can be written off by offering free accommodation and other benefits.
Several strategies and concepts are available for the generation of traction to attract patrons for hoteliers post-COVID-19. Some of the ideas reviewed can be summarily initiated while most of the lockdowns and social distancing measures are still in place. Such implementation may be the opening of a social media account, developing virtual reality and augmented reality tours, and so forth. Therefore, hoteliers can lay the groundwork for the concepts outlined during the current COVID-induced market slump in preparation for the potential business surge following the lifting or alleviation of restrictions.
Gustavo, Nuno. “Trends in Hospitality Marketing and Management: Facing the 21st century challenges.” Handbook of Research on Entrepreneurship and Marketing for Global Reach in the Digital Economy, vol. 2, no.1, 2019, pp.311-337.
Leite, Rita Abreu, and António Azevedo. “The Role of Digital Marketing: A perspective from Porto Hotels’ Managers.” International Journal of Marketing, Communication and New Media, vol. 2, no. 1, 2017, pp. 88-105. Web.
Lin, Hsien-Cheng, et al. “Task-technology fit analysis of social media use for marketing in the tourism and hospitality industry: a systematic literature review.” International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, vol. 32, no. 8, 2020, pp.2677-2715.
Tatar, Şahika Burçin, and İrem Eren-Erdoğmuş. “The effect of social media marketing on brand trust and brand loyalty for hotels.” Information Technology & Tourism, vol. 16, no. 3, 2016, pp.249-263.