Travel activity is down for many hotels and travel-related businesses today due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A study from Tourism Economics found that 2020 travel spending was down 42% compared to 2019. When business slows down, there is an opportunity to take action to grow your business in the future by setting up or improving your listing on a booking website with better photos, descriptions and reviews.
Adjusting your hotel marketing plan for 2021-2022.
As the pandemic continues to impact travel patterns, hotels may need to change their approach to marketing. For example, consider marketing to people in your local area interested in a staycation (i.e., a vacation spent at home or nearby, according to Merriam-Webster).
The Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto offers a staycation package, DAYcation package, and weekend packages of pizza and wine. The DAYcation package is a bit different—it offers guests the opportunity to stay at the hotel between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., rather than an overnight stay. Such packages may appeal to professionals who want a break from working at home. According to a survey of 1,105 Americans, 31 percent decided to take a summer staycation in 2020. These examples suggest there is an opportunity for hotels to attract more interest by marketing staycation options.
A slow down in bookings doesn’t mean your employees can’t help to grow the business for the future. For example, ask employees to focus on creating or updating your hotel listing on popular websites by adding additional high-quality photos of the property. As the pandemic situation develops, look for ways to regularly update your hotel’s offerings to align with public health guidance for your area.
Creating your listing in five steps.
To increase the chance of a hotel selling more hotel rooms with booking websites, use these tips to create an effective hotel listing.
Choose one listing or booking website to focus on at a time.
There are many different hotel booking websites on the market, including Expedia, TripAdvisor, Booking.com and others. Consider focusing your effort on one listing website at a time. In addition to travel-focused listing websites, keep in mind that guests may find your hotel through search engines and websites like Google Maps.
Use our guide “How to use Google My Business listings to increase customer leads” to improve your Google listing.
Take your time to create a comprehensive listing.
Take your time in adding information for your hotel listing. Some potential guests might search for a hotel based on amenities (e.g., Wi-Fi, cleaning, pool, etc.), while others may search for different information.
Typical information needed to create your listing includes:
- Location and contact information: Address, phone number and other contact details
- Hotel room prices: Provide prices for the various rooms offered.
- Amenities: Describe all of the amenities you offer, such as air conditioning, Wi-Fi internet, a pool, and so forth.
- Food options (e.g., is breakfast included? Is there a restaurant in the hotel?)
- Nearby points of interest: If your hotel is located nearby a major tourist attraction (e.g., “our hotel is half a mile from the Empire State Building”), include that information in your listing.
- Typical hotel guests: Describe the most common types of guests you serve. For example, there is a difference between a hotel that focuses on nightlife activities vs. business travelers.
Tip: Not sure what to write in a given section? Consider searching for well-reviewed hotels or those that have won awards. For example, TripAdvisor offers a Traveler’s Choice Award. Studying hotel listings that have won awards may help you create an effective listing.
Describe your hotel’s public health measures.
As of January 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge in the United States and other countries. Therefore, consider public health recommendations and guidelines in creating your hotel listing. For instance, describe the cleaning procedures you use to keep guests safe. The specific public health measures and restrictions vary, so check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance.
Provide high-quality photos of the hotel.
TripAdvisor research has found that more photos are associated with more bookings. Specifically, “For listings with 10 photos, this number jumps to 81%. The trend continues as more photos are added, and listings with 16 photos receive an impressive 125% more interest from travelers.” The company’s research also found that the photos matter’s quality, so consider having professional photos taken for your listing.
Contact recent hotel guests to leave reviews on booking sites.
In addition to photos, reviews play a significant role in the success of a hotel listing. TripAdvisor has the data to back this up: “Listings with just one review receive more than double the interest of those with zero reviews. Listings with nine reviews receive nearly six times as much interest from travelers.”
To reassure potential guests, consider focusing on recent guests who would be able to comment on a hotel’s public health measures, such as increased cleaning measures. Guests who stayed at the property before the pandemic would not be in a position to comment on COVID-related precautions taken.
For example, a hotel might choose to follow a cleaning recommendation from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which recommends that “Surfaces frequently touched by multiple people should be cleaned and disinfected at least daily. More frequent cleaning and disinfection may be required based on the level of use.” If this measure is used throughout a property, hotel guests may comment on it in their reviews, which may help to reassure other guests concerned about cleanliness.
Rather than sit back and wait for guests to provide reviews, taking a proactive approach is worth considering. Based on the TripAdvisor data mentioned above, a hotel manager might decide to set a goal of obtaining 10 reviews in the next 90 days.
With a 10-review goal in mind, the hotel manager can develop a business calling campaign.
- Make a list of 50 hotel guests who have stayed at the hotel more than once. If a person has stayed at the hotel more than once, there is a reasonable chance that they had a positive experience and would be willing to write a review.
- Call five to 10 past hotel guests per day and ask them to write a review.
- Continue calling more hotel guests until the desired number of positive reviews is achieved.
Tip: Some people may not know how to write a review on the listing website. Therefore, be prepared to spend some time on the phone to guide people through all of the steps.
Optimizing your hotel listing over time to get more bookings.
Listing your hotel on a booking website is an essential first step. However, ongoing efforts to optimize listings may help you to improve results over time.
Monitor social media for comments about your hotel.
Your hotel might have a large, active following on a social media site like Facebook or Twitter. Consider spending some time monitoring social media for mentions or discussions of your hotel each week. For example, if hotel guests compliment your employee’s language skills, you may want to update your hotel listing accordingly (e.g., “Our employees speak English and Spanish.”).
In addition, look for comments that are related to COVID concerns, such as problems with social distancing and cleanliness. If COVID-related problems occur on social media (e.g., a customer complains about a hotel being crowded and not following social distancing guidelines), there may be a need to discuss service changes with hotel staff.
Respond thoughtfully to guest reviews within 24 hours.
At some point, a hotel guest may feel disappointed with their experience and write a negative review. Resist the urge to respond immediately but do respond within 24 hours. Instead, take some time to reflect on the review as a piece of feedback. After reflecting on the review and discussing it with others in hotel management, consider writing a short reply to the review.
In your response, keep in mind the specific guidelines and policies of the booking website. Expedia provides suggestions on how to respond to reviews, including “Address the guest by name, be personable and always thank the guest. Avoid giving a stock answer. For a bad review, acknowledge any issues and show a sincere desire to put things right. Be empathetic, apologize, and don’t get defensive.