Six Steps to Unlocking Guest Demand During COVID

U.S. hotels are suffering historically low occupancy rates, and have lost billions in room revenue while shedding millions of jobs since March. According to location data from Gravy Analytics, visitation to US hotels, motels, and resorts is off an average of 49 percent since the beginning of 2020. Some lodging categories are doing better than others (i.e., motels vs. destination resorts).

The question on everyone’s mind is: “When will vacations return?” Although there has been a modest uptick in air travel since late spring, the majority of would-be travelers are shying away. Only 33 percent of respondents to an October Morning Consult survey said that they feel comfortable going on vacation, and only 14 percent said they would feel comfortable traveling abroad.

It may be mid-2021 or later before large numbers of people resume significant air travel and major vacations. One bright spot among the otherwise gloomy data: There’s considerable evidence of pent-up demand for travel. That means when people feel confident in traveling again, there will be a spike in demand.

People want to get away but are hesitant. What can hotel property managers and marketers do in the short term to reassure them and encourage visits? Below are six steps to unlocking guest demand.

1. Who’s your customer now?

Sophisticated hotel marketers have guest personas or profiles. They understand who stays and who’s likely to return. Those profiles cannot necessarily be relied upon any longer—at least for the foreseeable future. Marketers need to reexamine their customer data and assumptions. There may be different categories of potential guests or sub-segments to target now.

Younger guests may be more inclined to stay than older ones. Data also suggests that registered Republicans are less concerned than Democrats and Independents about the safety of travel and vacations. These and other variables need to be thoughtfully examined in developing new “COVID personas” and promotional campaigns.

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