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Open or closed, think local

Top tips to help you manage your employees, marketing and strategy during the coronavirus outbreak

Never before have we seen such a sense of community across the globe. This real sense of coming together and selflessness has been overwhelming. Mainly because, for the first time in living memory, we are all in the same situation. All trying to fight something so invisible yet so powerful.

We’ve come together (albeit virtually) more than ever before and it’s making these heartbreaking and challenging times somewhat more bearable and brighter.

The hospitality industry, like most other industries, has been catastrophically hit with many hotels shut for the first time in history, staff furloughed, and restaurants/bars closed. However, the resilience and sense of community within these businesses, regardless of this situation, has been astounding. And it’s this that will stay in our minds throughout this time and allow us to come out the other side, stronger than ever.

While you navigate this challenging path, we want you to know that you’re not alone and as we all figure out the best way to communicate and come together, we have a few ideas that we think will help you manage this day by day and stay in touch with your local community.

Utilize hotel rooms

  • Are you still open for business? Or are you closed to the public but have enough staff to operate a limited service? Either way, if you can, you could open your doors to those in need. They might be:
    • Remote workers who cannot get home and need shelter
    • Health workers or government officials who perhaps need accommodation on emergency business trips
    • Homeless people having to abide by quarantine sanctions
  • If you choose to go this way, be sure to abide by your local government and World Health Organization regulations for sanitation. Putting community and others first is lovely if you are able, but you must be able to ensure they are protected.
  • Sanitation kits in the rooms are a lovely touch if you can – and they show the guests you are putting their safety and wellbeing first.
  • Checklist guides for cleanliness and social distancing in every room can help guests understand what they should be doing to stay healthy and abide by WHO and government advice.
  • Put sanitation and social distancing reminders up in public bathrooms and other areas where people may congregate.
  • Some hotels in Europe and the US are making their rooms available to support overflowing hospitals. Not for all but local governments are trying to coordinate this where it’s needed.
  • Some hotels have been selling their rooms as offices to help ease the burden of all those working from home. This will be an interesting trend to watch to see if it takes off.

Look to other parts of the business

Do you have a restaurant on-site that’s closed its doors, but you have staff still healthy and willing to work? Start thinking about offering take-away! Locals in your community are stuck at home, some not able to cook or need a break from preparing for the family at every meal. Offer up contactless delivery of your tasty food to their doors.

Want to give back to your community for those in need? Some restaurants are providing cooked meals for health workers on the frontline. This is a great way to give back while keeping the staff busy and doing what they love.

Do you have a spa or wellness center at your hotel? If so, perhaps your staff are keen to share mediation, yoga, exercise classes online via YouTube or Video Chat sessions – make this available to your audience through social channels or other mediums (SMS or Facebook Messenger if you use that for example). If that is not applicable you could create online guides or tips for people struggling to stay active at home. The World Health Organization have even shared a guide to keeping fit and well at home.

Here’s an example from The Standard as they share horoscopes from their in-house astrologer:

The-Standard

The Opal Collection are sharing inspirational images from their Magazine, a great way to take yourself away from the moment.

King George Hotel, part of Greystone Hotels, has been using their newsletter as a means to communicate about local activities (all virtual) that readers can take part in – including San Diego Zoo’s Panda cam or SF MOMA Virtual Tour.

Manage cancellations

They are probably coming in via the truckload at the moment, which is hard to swallow, but remember; there are ways to ensure that this revenue is not lost for good. Offer guests the opportunity to convert their booking to a voucher, so they re-book when they feel comfortable or able to travel again.

Vouchers are also great gifts! 

 

Especially for those not able to give hand-given presents for birthdays/anniversaries in person right now. And in the midst of all this madness, people are still having birthdays and anniversaries so keep those top of mind on your website so people browsing can access easily.

Vouchers could also be used for locals coming to your restaurant, spa or golf course. People are looking forward to when they are able to enjoy these things again so vouchers are a great way to drive spend while consumers are cautious right now.

Highlight your employees

The lifeblood of your business must always come first. Their safety and wellbeing are paramount, so we suggest that your hotel only maintains operations if you believe it is safe to do so. Not just for the guests but for your employees too. Maintain strict protocols of sanitation (more than usual) throughout the property as per local government and World Health Organization advice:

  • Keep a safe distance (see local guidance).Wash hands regularly with soap (for 20 seconds).
  • Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer available across the property for all to use (60% or higher alcohol).
  • Keep surfaces clean as much as possible, and encourage staff to avoid touching their faces to prevent any transmission.
  • Follow any other local government advice as this may vary depending on your location.
  • Operate more stringent and frequent cleaning regimes across the property.
  • If an employee is unwell or showing minor symptoms, they must be sent home to recover.
  • Provide safety equipment for hotel staff at the front desk, for example – a hotel in Europe decided to put up plexiglass at the front desk to protect guests and employees. This is easy to clean on a regular basis as well.

If your employees are still working but now confined to their homes, keep them top of mind too. Ensure you are providing means for them to communicate regularly with employees via Video Chat or Conference Calls and share guidance of how to work from home such as:

  • Create a work space – keep it clean and tidy to encourage productivity
  • Encourage collaboration as much as possible – use video chat if possible
  • Create schedules for the day
  • Manage priorities with lists
  • Take a breaks where possible – make sure they’re away from their desk and involve moving around or getting some fresh air (where local government guidance allows)

If your employees are volunteering or working on initiatives to support the local community ask them if they are happy to share photos or details of their experience – sharing this with your wider audience is a great way to recognize the great work your employees are doing in this difficult time. It also shows the human side to your brand.

Shift your marketing approach

This is often the first thing to be cut back but can be one of the most visible losses. As a department that relies heavily on external costs, it can feel like an easy decision to make to cut your Google Ads spend, media spend, or any other digital and print, but don’t let that be the end of your marketing activity. We suggest that you shift the focus of your strategy.

Data is showing that social media platforms and chat apps are up significantly in usage. People are also watching more videos, engaging in video chats like Zoom (their usage is up over 300%) and hosting live YouTube events. This is an opportunity for you to leverage your marketing and brand awareness skills to keep in touch with your guests while they are stuck at home, so start communicating what you’re doing! Here are some examples:

  • Share videos of restaurant staff cooking to provide for local communities – this is a great way to show compassion and share that you are providing this service. Try Instagram’s Live Stream or record a video and post it later. Either way, you’re bringing the initiative to people’s screens.
  • Are you offering food or shelter for those in need? Again, with compassion, share what you are doing and if there’s an opportunity for others to get involved.
  • If you’re still open for business and welcoming guests, share information on how you are keeping your property clean and safe. You can do this with video, photos, or checklists. Transparency with this will reassure your guests.
  • CN Traveler has listed a number of different ways businesses in the travel industry are helping local communities – not possible for all but if you are doing something – be sure to share it.

As lockdowns and quarantine continue, people are dreaming of travel and getting back to doing what they love. Use this as an opportunity to stay front of mind during this time – but be mindful of everyone’s situation. Now is not the time to flaunt things people can’t buy, but it is the time to encourage people to keep doing as much of what they love in these challenging times. Be a source of positivity and inspiration – something people are holding dear right now.

As we’ve mentioned a few times, everyone’s situation is different (albeit fighting the same battle), so please keep this in mind when communicating externally to your audiences. People’s safety and wellbeing are paramount, and as long as that is felt by those reading/viewing your messaging, you are doing the right thing. Remember – we’re all in this together – so let’s come out of it stronger and more united than before.

Stay safe and well.

Nicki Graham

Nicki is the Director of Marketing, International at Cendyn.

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