All over the world, people have been doing their part to be safe and stay healthy in these unprecedented times. From China to the United States, Italy to Australia, individuals and families are remaining in place in their homes, looking forward to the time when their lives and our planet return to a new sense of normal.
When that time comes, people will experience—and gladly welcome—a newfound sense of freedom. They will greet with renewed enthusiasm the ability to get out and experience the natural beauty and rich cultures our world has to offer. After all, people have always been inspired to explore and crave the joy of travel. And never more than after eight weeks of lockdown.
Already we see the signs. In Asia, where travel restrictions have been relaxed, domestic travel is recovering. Weekend getaways and trips to visit family and friends are being booked with increased frequency.
Now is the time. Be booking ready.
We anticipate that as soon as it’s safe, people around the globe will begin rebooking their holidays, dream trips, business trips, cruises and more. They’ll reconnect with friends and family, and plan adventures to explore new places.
However, early in the recovery there will be more rooms than demand. Guests will be spoiled with choices and properties will need to be thoughtfully positioned to capture their business.
What does that mean?
For one, it means communicating the steps you’ve taken to enhance your cleaning protocols and guest safety as the world recovers from COVID-19. It also means adjusting your inventory and updating your listing to showcase your property in the very best light.
To help, we’ve put together some COVID-19 tips and suggestions that will put your property in the best position to capture bookings.
1. Build confidence that travel is safe
After weeks of consistently wearing masks, washing hands and staying at safe social distances, travelers want to know that you’ve taken the precautions to keep your property clean and your guests safe. The World Health Organization (WHO) and local agencies have published recommendations for cleaning frequency, disinfectants and staff training that will help you update your policies and procedures. For more guidance, read the article about how to disinfect hotel rooms and guest safety.
Take advantage of opportunities to share your commitment to enhanced health and safety standards with travelers. Highlight them on your websites, feature them in communications with guests and include them in your online travel agency (OTA) listing. If you’re an Expedia Group partner, take a minute to log in to Partner Central to add your cleanliness policies to your listing on Expedia Group sites now.
2. Offer the right inventory and rates
Engaging those traveling first will require flexibility, availability and compelling offers. Understanding how your market and nearby competitors are recovering will help you get this mix right.
- Start with flexible policies
At the beginning of this year, as travel came to a screeching halt, millions of people spent hours cancelling their plans and requesting refunds. Now, as they consider booking their first post-lockdown trips, flexibility will be top of mind. Be sure you’re offering refundable rates and easy-to-understand cancellation policies. We suggest the standard, free cancellation up to 24-hours prior to check-in, as a good policy for recovery strategy. For even the most adventurous, the ability to easily change their plans is a must for people to commit to travel.
- Open inventory into 2021
Once travel restrictions are lifted, it’s unlikely typical booking patterns will hold true. Some people will be comfortable making plans right away. Others will take a more cautious approach. To capture the pent-up-demand to get away, you’ll want to adapt your distribution strategy to ensure you’re selling at least 365 days of inventory via your indirect channels. To truly tempt travelers, make sure your listing includes a good selection of room types. This may be the moment when only your best suite will do.
- Understand what a good deal looks like in your market.
Recovery will likely be fueled by travelers tempted by rates too good to miss. For some, the aftermath of the pandemic may prove the perfect opportunity to take the entire family on a tropical holiday, a once-in-a-lifetime safari or embark on a much dreamed of grand tour. But even if their first trip is a weekend visit two-hours from home, travelers will want to feel they’re making a sound financial decision.
To easily understand what compelling rates are in your market and what your nearby competitors are offering, take time to update your competitive set.
And remember, price isn’t your only means of attracting travelers. Value added promotions—such as free breakfast or parking—and weekend or extended-stay offers are great ways to entice people to book your property.
Our guide to hotel revenue management, especially the section on hotel performance metrics, will help you think about your overall pricing strategy during COVID-19 recovery.
3. Help travelers choose you
With time on their hands, people around the world are daydreaming about travel and researching the first holiday they’ll take. Finding the perfect place to stay has never been easier. Refreshing your OTA listing now, will help you stand out from the crowd. We recommend you focus on detailing your amenities, updating your photos, managing your reviews and highlighting nearby points of interest.
Taking time to detail the special features travelers can expect—a pool, free breakfast, air conditioning, views and more—will help you attract guests, who will love their stay and leave you positive reviews. Be detailed. This is the time to showcase all you offer.
On Expedia Group sites, travelers use amenities filters to narrow their search to properties offering exactly what matches their criteria. When you list more amenities, it helps us match your property with their desires. Log in to Partner Central now to update your amenities.
Help travelers envision staying with you by providing at least ten photos that show your rooms and property in their very best light. Include unique images of each room type, the bathrooms and significant features, such as a balcony, patio or view. Share photos of the lobby, pool, restaurant or the surrounding location if you have them.
Why go to all this trouble? On the emotional side, you want travelers to connect with your property and preview the value you offer. On the rational side, properties with unique photos for each room type average 11 percent higher conversion rates.
Expedia Group partners can log in to review their photo score and get specific recommendations on how to improve.
We all know guest reviews matter. In February 2020, global research reinforced this truth, revealing 70% of travelers read reviews before deciding to book a property. Eighty-three percent of those agreed they assume a negative review is true if the property doesn’t respond. The feedback travelers take most seriously are comments reflecting the cleanliness and overall condition of the property.
If you haven’t been actively managing your online reputation, the lull in travel is the perfect time to catch up. Our article on leveraging guest reviews can help. When appropriate, use your response as an opportunity to share the steps you’ve taken to your cleaning protocol.
- Points of interest
After price, location is often the top criteria for travelers looking for a place to stay. Be sure to highlight the advantages of your setting—convenience to major sites or, conversely, how quiet and peaceful your location is. Let travelers know what’s nearby and what there is to do. If guests don’t need to take a taxi or rental car for excursions, they may use their savings to stay an extra night or two.
Be patient, but be ready
Recovery may begin slowly. Be patient. The desire to travel is universal and our industry is resilient. At the same time, don’t be caught unprepared when travel kicks into high gear. By taking the steps now to create a recovery plan, you’ll be in the best possible position appeal to the greatest number of guests.