We would be hard-pressed to think of a situation that impacts the travel and hospitality industry as much as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As we all face these uncertain times—with news updates changing by the minute—it’s imperative to create a safe, calm environment for employees and customers. Here are some things to think about…right now.
- Reach out to your customer base. Many travel companies and hoteliers have already sent out communications regarding COVID-19. It’s best to be proactive and address concerns your customers have about future bookings. Your sales team is your first defense against pandemonium and can do much to prevent a run on cancellations by assuring clients that you are monitoring the situation carefully. Take the initiative on rebooking dates, honoring pricing and offering suggestions on accommodating smaller meetings and events (less than 50 people). This is especially fruitful when touching base with group business, a segment that books in advance. Encourage your sales team to communicate with your group clients, assuring them that you are there for them with ideas and future dates. For social events, promote a sense of calm and concern as emotions will run high—especially for bridal parties who are faced with postponing that big day.
- Don’t stop marketing but be sensitive to the current mood. As you send out promotions, offers and the like, be future-oriented but also acknowledge the present. Once restrictions are lifted, there will be a pent-up demand for getaways, group business and events. Be ahead of that curve. Include a short message of gratitude for their past business, as you invite them to plan future bookings.
- Evaluate operating procedures from top to bottom. For the business you still have, examine current operating practices and adapt accordingly, especially as you may be working with a skeletal team. Modify brand touchpoints to accommodate social distancing. Review check-in, food service, housekeeping and conference services…and communicate every change to instill confidence in your customers.
- Be prepared, be prudent and plan, plan, plan. Everyone will be weighing in on the impact of COVID-19 on travel. Assign someone on your team the specific task of staying on top of what the industry (and your competition) is doing and monitor CDC recommendations on travel. Here’s a recent headline (March 13, 2020) that we found reassuring: COVID-19 Isn’t All Doom and Gloom for the Travel & Hospitality Industry. Most of all, use this time to plan for summer and fall business—and be ready to race out of the gate with timely promotions and offers for group, IBT and leisure segments.
Remember, we’re all in this together. We will experience the profound joy and satisfaction from traveling, meeting and celebrating again soon. If you need help with messaging and planning, please contact Lynn Kaniper at 609.466.9187 ext. 117 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and let’s talk.