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To download the HD Infographic, click here

Dear hotel owners and managers,

Recently, we sent a survey to thousands of your colleagues, with two goals: to ask them about the major changes the sector experienced in 2020 and to find out what key actions they are taking as we start a new year.

The responses have been pouring in! A total of 5,863 responses have been analyzed and classified.

Some of them are what we expected, but others have really surprised me! I studied them carefully and isolated some excellent ideas that you may find very useful.

Gain a better understanding of the challenges that lie ahead in 2021 based on what the hoteliers who have fared best since the start of the pandemic have agreed to share.

Happy reading!

About this survey

This survey was conducted among the 170,000 hotel owners and managers who read our blog. Of these French and international hotels, 61% are currently open for business, while 39% have been closed for several months.

Our aim was to highlight the decisive behaviors that led these hoteliers to retain their customers and keep their business open during this very unusual period.

How have all these hoteliers managed to generate reservations during the pandemic?

Here are the questions we asked:

  • What major digital action did you take in 2020?
  • What was the most helpful piece of advice you received from all the webinars/conferences you attended during the pandemic?
  • Since the start of the pandemic, have you significantly increased the amount of communications you send to your customers?
  • What is the most profitable action you’ve taken since the start of the pandemic to recover some of your bookings?
  • What major digital action will you prioritize in 2021?
  • In your opinion, when should you invest in new technological tools for your hotel?
  • What will be the main difference between your business strategy in 2020 and 2021?
  • In your opinion, will you need to focus on yield/revenue management in 2021?

To download the HD Infographic, click here

Back to 2020

What major digital action did you take in 2020?

To answer this first question, 60% of the hotel owners surveyed said they had prioritized active marketing of their hotel and had invested in tools to generate reservations in the short term. Here’s a list of the most commonly mentioned tools:

  • Social media: 56%
  • Paid advertising: 22%
  • The CRM tool and email campaigns: 15%
  • The use of a chatbot: 3%
  • Other: 4%

34% took the opportunity to update their digital ecosystem, which involves:

  • Redesign of their website: 61%
  • A different channel manager: 23%
  • A different PMS: 16%

One change is very interesting to note.

Many managers are already familiar with and have mastered social media. In fact, social media became the primary source of real-time information during the Covid-19 pandemic and helped maintain the link between hotels and their customers.

However, the use of paid advertising and CRMs is revealing. We found that hoteliers largely considered it wise to invest in such tools, even during the pandemic. Money wasn’t an obstacle in view of the simple strategy at play.

Let me be clear about this. In times of crisis, it is vital to invest in the right tools, not only to survive, but also to avoid being totally overtaken by the competition. Believe me, as long as you have a good mastery of these solutions, it will never be a waste of money.

What was the most helpful piece of advice you received from all the webinars/conferences you attended during the pandemic?

1. Use a CRM solution to communicate with customers

2. Focus on new Covid-19 guidelines

3. Adapt to the new needs of customers by being super flexible about prices

There have been lots of webinars that have covered the key issues, including business recovery, short-term and medium-term actions, team training, and much more. We ourselves have hosted several of them, and we received very good feedback from hotel owners and managers determined to save their business.

These same hoteliers report that communication—and especially keeping connected with customers through a CRM tool—was the most valuable advice.

Why?

Many hoteliers chose to stop their marketing campaigns at the start of the pandemic. However, this decision goes against maintaining the hotel’s visibility. Multiple industry experts have talked about this, and many of you have chosen to listen to them. Need more proof? Keep reading!

Since the start of the pandemic, have you significantly increased the amount of communications you send to your customers?

Finding: 65.25% of hoteliers communicated much more with their customers during the pandemic. Here are the most common topics of communication:

51% of emails were non-commercial

  • 55% highlighted the human side (sharing news)
  • 45% were about the new Covid-19 guidelines

45% of the emails had a commercial purpose

  • 58% of hoteliers focused on their newly flexible rates
  • 42% focused on marketing their new special offers

Email campaigns have become one of the most cost-effective strategy for keeping up a certain level of activity and addressing the pandemic. But what is most interesting is that, contrary to what you might think, it was not the promotional offers that turned the situation around for most people. Although they are relevant and highly appreciated by customers, they are not essential!

Keep in touch with your customers. Let them know how you’re doing and tell them about the health measures you’ve put in place! These “comforting” communications have most often been beneficial to hotels.

Conclusion: Don’t approach your customers just to share your latest deals.  Communicate positively and be human.

What is the most profitable action you’ve taken since the start of the pandemic to recover some of your bookings?

1. Created special deals/packages and lowered rates

2. Carried out email campaigns

3. Offered super flexible cancellation terms

4. Created F&B offers (room service, in-room breakfast, deals with local restaurants)

5. Remained open to win back customers from the competition

It has certainly been more difficult to attract new customers since the beginning of 2020. So how have hotel owners and managers retained existing customers?

According to the results of this survey, some trends clearly stand out.

People want to travel, that’s a fact. This is why lower fares and flexible cancellation terms have won the hearts of travelers. Many of you have promoted such options through email campaigns. It’s a winning strategy!

And that’s always true at the beginning of the year. Secure your customers and tell them about your cancellation terms to reassure them about their upcoming reservation. Setting up new rates is also proving to be a good idea.

Take advantage of holiday or vacation periods to offer more competitive prices. Be creative with the packages you offer. Establish a quality room service menu. All of this, of course, provided you stay open.

This is the gamble taken by some hoteliers, who have reaped the rewards of the low level of competition.

To download the HD Infographic, click here

What do hotel owners and managers think about 2021?

What major digital action will you prioritize in 2021?

67% of hoteliers will focus on marketing their hotel(s) via:

  • Social media: 56%
  • Paid advertising: 27%
  • The CRM and email campaigns: 15%
  • The chatbot: 6%
  • Other: 2%

25% of hoteliers will take on larger projects:

  • Redesign of their website: 71%
  • A different PMS: 15%
  • A different channel manager: 14%

Their behavior has remained more or less the same, except for the amount of paid advertising, which has increased sharply. A rather useful investment, in my opinion! Ads help boost visibility with new customers, local customers who don’t regularly stay in your hotel, and travelers charmed by the services you offer.

Larger projects are no longer a priority, but most of the managers who are still planning big, an overwhelming majority plan to redesign their website.

Faced with the possibility of reopening for business, it would be more important to immediately go back to marketing your hotel and taking bold actions to simply recover bookings.

In your opinion, when should you invest in new technological tools for your hotel?

62% of hoteliers have decided to take major actions digitally in the near future:

  • Immediately: 43%
  • During this quarter: 23%
  • Next quarter: 34%

This is an extremely interesting question, from my point of view, because it clearly shows the state of mind of the people surveyed.

38% of hoteliers seem to genuinely be “paralyzed” by the situation, to the point of not considering any investments in the medium to long term. They have been closed for several months now, and their sole objective is to reopen safely.

62% of hoteliers report a radically different feeling. Yes, the situation is difficult, and yes, we have lost a large part of our revenues. But to fix the problem, we are going to invest. And many are considering it in the near future.

To sum up the answers to the previous questions, the digital actions that hoteliers are investing in mostly involve community management and installing a CRM and email campaign solution.

What will be the main difference between your business strategy in 2020 and 2021?

Finding: Three-quarters of the hoteliers we surveyed are choosing to prioritize their hotel’s occupation rate, while one-quarter of them prefer to focus on the average price. Of those who are focusing on their occupancy rate, one-third are mainly concentrating on developing their corporate clientele.

This is a subject that you (almost) all seem to agree on! Faced with the pandemic and the current situation, your hotel’s average price is no longer a priority, provided that your occupancy rate remains decent. 

And that is also what I would have done, in this particular situation. These are uncertain times, so stack the odds in your favor by filling your hotel and continuing to generate income during this period.

A few tips:

Consider packages – If you’re looking to increase your hotel’s revenue, take some time to design attractive packages that will make a difference to your guests.

Control your e-reputation– Your e-reputation has a big effect on the traveler’s decision to book a stay at your hotel. By improving customer satisfaction, working on your online reputation, and encouraging your customers to share feedback, you can easily increase your bookings.

Keep an eye on your competitors – Low levels of competition in some cities have allows lots of hoteliers to get out of this situation by attracting new clientele. To keep up your momentum, position your brand as a first-rate establishment and offer good value for money.

Personalize your services – Improving the customer experience should be your priority. You’ll get there faster with personalization. Learn how to identify people’s preferences, fulfill their requests in advance, and make the most of the information you have available to personalize their stay.

Offer discounts for extended stays – Your guests feel especially comfortable at your hotel and see themselves staying longer to enjoy the city or even to work remotely. Offer them a discount for one or more extra nights!

In your opinion, will you need to focus on yield/revenue management in 2021?

83.75% of hoteliers still think that yield will be an important issue for the recovery period.

Rightly so! Focusing on your hotel’s occupancy rate at all costs will not be a winning long-term strategy. But revenue management is crucial for your business recovery and for implementing a well-defined strategy to achieve better profits.

Conclusion

Finally, this survey highlights several trends. It also reveals some key recommendations for getting through this new year with success:

  1. Think social media! Even if your current situation doesn’t allow you to communicate much, remember that social media is essential and showcases you on a global scale.
  2. Don’t forget to communicate with your customers. Reassure them about your situation, check up on them, and tell them about your promotions and pricing times. In short: Carry out email campaigns!
  3. Invest in the necessary solutions. Go easy with your spending, but focusing your money on marketing. This may seem obvious, but the responses we received show that such is not always the case.
  4. Offer attractive deals for stays. We have known for some time that you’ve adapted to the new health guidelines. Now it’s up to you to tempt your customers with attractive packages so that they can get away for a few days.

To download the HD Infographic, click here

Thank you for reading.

Tony LOEB
Author

Tony Loeb started his career in Hotel marketing in 2001 as a webmaster, then quickly became the Technical Director of a web agency specialized in the hotel industry. Passionate about the tourism sector and attracted by the idea of taking on new challenges, Tony took over the management of a team of hotel consultants until 2014, when he decided to make hotel marketing his core business. In 2014, he co-founded the company Experience Hotel and is now responsible for its international development and deployment, improving tools for automating and optimizing customer relations, from booking to customer loyalty.

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