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How to design a strong post-COVID package

Despite any hiccups regarding a looming second wave, overall, the world is thankfully on the right track to getting back in shape. While many are expecting a surge in bookings upon the announcement of a reopening for their specific territory, the competition will still be there, and you will nevertheless need ways to differentiate your hotel.

One thought to help spur more initial reservations is the creation of the welcome back package that is bespoke to what your property does best. This is one that is specific to your area and what experiences you can offer while also abiding to what guests are looking for in the new normal.

Top of mind will be heightened cleanliness, social distancing and facilitating more of a contactless environment – all of which require codifying new procedures, retraining staff and deploying new technologies to enable these changes with a lean team. Significantly, the upgrades that you make can be marketing tools to keep your loyalty base engaged during the lockdown and to reassure anxious travelers.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Next to consider is that domestic markets will be the predominant fuel for both transient and group revenues during the first part of the recovery, so this is where your attentions must be. As a ray of hope for positioning to nearby drive markets, gas prices are incredibly depressed at the moment, which will further incentivize travelers to take longer trips to rubber-tire-accessible accommodations in addition to the key motivator of avoiding airports.

Last but certainly not least of the essential factors for the post-pandemic consumer will be value. While the number of guests who want to travel after the restrictions are lifted is already enormous, having the means to do so is a whole other thing, especially considering how many of us have been laid off, furloughed or forced to take a pay cut. If this turns out to be a true depression as many have prognosticated, travelers of all demographics will be looking to get more with less.

With these motivations in mind, here are some features and messaging tips to consider for any promotion you run to draw that initial group of guests back to your hotel:

1.     Treat the reopening akin to a new product launch where you invite past guests to come experience your totally redesigned spaces and approach to hospitality.

2.     Value-filled bundles will strongly resonate, with complimentary inclusions being breakfasts in bed, snacks, drinks, evening meals, parking, vouchers or other onsite services.

3.     New guest room cleaning protocols where talking about the details matters to guests who are now hypersensitive about viral safety, including new chemicals used, PPE requirements, regular deep cleans or conforming to any new certifications.

4.     New food handling and catering sanitization procedures in the kitchen as well as how you may be encouraging social distancing by providing only private in-room dining for all meals – and certainly no buffets.

5.     New contactless technology solutions like mobile check-in, guest messaging platforms, digital payment gateways, online ordering or concierge systems or offsite hotel call centers to field requests and reservations without clustering more people into the front office.

6.     Hyping the seclusion factor by talking about your property as small, boutique, romantic, off the beaten path, having remote cabins available and having spaced-out bookings by not assigning guests to rooms next to each other or allowing for a few days to pass before reassigning a room.

7.     Talking about nearby activities that are open to the public, preferably those that take advantage of the warm summer weather as many have been cooped up inside for most of spring.

An example of a welcome back staycation package might therefore be a bed and breakfast package that is offered and promoted at the same price as BAR (and advertised as such) while also including one free snack per day from a limited selection delivered to the room, all while touting the improved cleanliness and sanitization practices undertaken by both housekeeping and foodservice. Those who know your organization intimately will be able to noodle something that’s specific to your brand while still keeping the messaging simple.

All together, these points encompass a wide range of activities for your operations and marketing teams to complete, so it really depends on what the demands are for your local market. Once you have resolved what your initial relaunch positioning will be and what initiatives you will take to support this relaunch, it will then come down to how you market your package in a simple, enticing way.

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