The advent of the Coronavirus pandemic threw a giant monkey wrench into the clockwork of the travel and tourism industry from the moment it first reared its COVIDy head 7 months ago.
Hotels and all the tourist attractions that help support them were suddenly closed for business, and travel plans around the world were moved from the front of the shelf back to that dusty corner with all the cobwebs that you’re never quite able to get rid of.
Now, as many countries have been able to successfully begin the process of reopening, thoughts of travel will once more creep into the frontal lobes of would-be tourists who are tired of sitting on their couches and watching the Netflix catalogue in its entirety. Twice.
But welcoming them back into your hotel will not be as easy as just opening your doors and turning on the vacancy sign. Travelers are going to be wary, and rightfully so. Their priorities and concerns while choosing a place to stay are not going to be the same as they were prior to the pandemic, and it will be important to recognize that shift.
Let’s talk about some steps you can take to put returning tourists at ease and prepare for them in the age of COVID and post-COVID travel.
It goes without saying that the first on your list of things to do is to focus on the health and safety of both your guests and employees. Familiarize yourself with both CDC and local safety guidelines. Generally speaking, here are some basic things to keep in mind:
- Keep and maintain a sufficient supply of special cleaning equipment, sanitizers, masks, and gloves
- Arrange for the ability to temperature check all incoming team members and/or guests
- Arrange for a variety of maintenance tasks, including more frequent air conditioning service to help prevent infection spread
- Arrange for proper social distancing and establish reminders throughout your facility
Research from Longwoods International shows that “Travelers are more likely to support tourism businesses which demonstrate a clear, thorough cleaning and hygiene plan (43%), which test staff and require the use of PPE by staff (34%), and those that have controls on social distancing at the business (34%).”
And do check in on the specific government guidelines in your region. Different locations and different business categories may be operating under significantly different directives as the stages of reopening progress.
Another way to effectively ease guest concerns is to make their experience as contact-free as possible. For example, when it comes to dining facilities, solutions like those from OneDine can help you efficiently and quickly serve customers with a leaner workforce and in a way that keeps everyone safer.
Relevant page: Contactless Payment System
At your restaurants, bars, or for room service, patrons can use their mobile device to order whenever they’re ready. They can easily pay the full bill, split the check, or pay per item. They can do all this on their schedule and from the convenience of their room, lobby table or pool chair.
The OneDine platform can even use customer-entered profiles and purchasing histories to provide personalized offerings and menu suggestions tailored to each individual patron.
Of course none of this due diligence means anything if you don’t tell your guests about the measures you’re taking to keep them safe.
Prominently post guidelines for staff so that there can be no confusion as to proper procedures. Get the word out to prospective guests about the procedures you put in place, and post that information where they can see it in guest rooms and throughout your facility.
When it comes to the safety of your guests and their families, they’re going to hope for the best, but assume the worst. If you don’t tell them what you’re doing to keep them safe, they’ll find someone else who’ll give them the reassurance they need.
Pricing and Value
With demand at lower-than-usual levels, it’s a good time to get creative with value-added packages. Offerings such asbook two nights and get the third night free, or add-ons like free breakfast can help give customers the greater value they’re in search of.
Remember, for the time being, most people will be traveling because they simply can’t avoid it. Their decision about where to stay isn’t going to be driven by price alone.
As we’ve all come to realize, now is not the time to be inflexible when it comes to cancellation policies.
The country’s reopening is a fluid process. As infection levels fluctuate, so will the public’s willingness to travel. In such times, prospective guests will want to easily be able to modify and cancel their plans, which means you need to ensure that your policies are both flexible and transparent.
Be prepared. Communicate. And be flexible. Those are the best ways to calm skittish travelers and keep your head above water throughout the COVID crisis.