As the covid-19 outbreak begins to subside and countries start to reopen, the big questions for hoteliers on island destinations are:
- How will my clients get to the destination? Which airlines will survive and continue to fly and under what conditions?
- News reports state that clients in major countries no longer trust travel agents/tour operators to book their holidays as many did not or would not repay deposits and payments made by consumers.
The answer to the first is simply to wait and see as many large airlines are in deep financial crisis.
However if I were an hotelier I would take a strategic approach and to the second try to get as many clients as possible to book directly with me when the airlines begin to fly. Below are some suggestions.
Ensure that your website is updated with large and beautiful pictures of my property and make sure that clients can book and pay online without problems. Moreover, in the first year I would offer a convenient and liberal approach to booking changes and/or cancellations. If your website is not modern, I would suggest getting a new one. Today you can get this done for not more than USD 500. Follow the trends and see to it that your site is picturesque, choose a server that is 99.9% reliable and please check constantly for any broken links.
Having designed many websites with over 280 pages per site I am knowledgeable of what is necessary and where one can find the best IT companies to produce them. In addition, sites must be created for easy Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as this is far cheaper than Pay per click (PPC) marketing.
Social media is the cheapest form of marketing today and should be used extensively. A great way to attract interest is short stories, videos, news of your hotel or destination, interesting recipes, competitions etc The more you post, the better it is for you.
Facebook: I would see to it that my Facebook page is relevant and also use data from my old hotel registration cards and set up a Facebook advertising account to target my potential clientele.
Instagram: The same policy as Facebook but also put out as many pictures of the hotel as possible interlaced with pictures of the destination and local tourism related hashtags to influence people to my pages.
Note that this is an excellent time for young entrepreneurs who are wizards with social media to create a business by selling their services to the hotel industry. All they need is a smart phone.
Clients who are researching travel and come across your hotel, want to contact the hotel in advance with any questions they may have. PLEASE! Do not only list a reservation email. See to it that you have another email for queries and ensure that you reply promptly to their mails. The best is to use Facetime, Skype, Zoom, Whatsapp or other video services. They are free and in this time of clients wanting answers immediately, you will win. A client sitting in their office or at home in Manhattan, Boston, London or Stuttgart and being able to contact you immediately online at no cost – is GOLD.
The most frustrating thing about many small hotels is that some of them never put prices on their site but want clients to book anyhow. If you would put yourself in a client’s shoes, you then would ask yourself if you would do this. If not you, why them?
When it comes to prices, forget your competition and do what is best for you. Put your prices out and make creative offers by adding consumer value to your prices. For example if clients book directly, you can offer them for example – return airport transfers or a 3 course dinner or an island tour or a round of golf. In the slow months offer more.
Create a niche
If you do a search for Barbados Hotels on Google, Tripadvisor and booking.com lists the 10 top hotels in Barbados or the best hotels in Barbados or all inclusive hotels in Barbados. If you are too small to rate in these categories why not create your own niche with a website title like “The best personal service – Barbados” or “On the best beach in Barbados” or “Best value in Barbados” or “Stay & play, sea & sun – Barbados” or “Best Barbados holiday” or “Best couples hotel – Barbados” or “More than just a family hotel – Barbados” or “Singles welcome – Barbados” or “Best honeymoon hotel – Barbados” .
Plant a flower for Barbados! Stay with us and bring seeds from your favourite flower and plant them. We will put your name on a plaque, nurture the plant and send you pictures as it grows. The island will love it and you can do a small part for the environment. When you return, we will add your picture with the flower to our Facebook page.
Clients from Europe who travel to the Caribbean usually awake early as they have not acclimatized as yet since as the Caribbean is 5 to 6 hours behind their home time. In most cases the hotel restaurants open from 7 am. A well appreciated gesture is to offer coffee/tea and freshly baked local pastries from 5 am in the lobby.
Finally, training! Take this opportunity to train your staff to ensure that they provide 110% service for clients. The next few months/years will be tough and it is important that guests not only feel welcome at your hotel but feel a bond to the hotel and staff.
Once a client books, keep in touch. Make them feel that they are important to you.
Be warned though. Ask before sending anything. One hotel learned the hard way after they sent a postcard to Mr & Mrs Smith thanking them for their stay that Mrs Smith knew nothing about the trip. It turned out that it was not the wife who travelled but the secretary!