Coronavirus is something that can no longer be ignored by marketers, as much as they might want to. Industries around the globe are starting to feel the effects, but none are getting hit as hard as one in particular: the travel and hospitality industry.
With coronavirus recently reaching a pandemic status, travel and hospitality brands have no ability to control or avoid the situation. But they do have the ability to control how they respond, which can strongly impact their losses and how well they recover after the crisis is over.
Here are 5 marketing tips for travel and hospitality brands during the coronavirus.
Moderately Adjust Ad Budgets
The crisis is forcing companies to reevaluate many aspects of their financial plans, especially those operating in B2C spaces. After all, does it make sense to buy traffic if consumers aren’t going to travel? Actually, Craig Paddock, director of search and travel at MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm, says data indicates that consumers are still buying travel. He says their clients are only moderately reducing paid search budgets, with the exception of international paid search efforts for United States-based clients. With the recent European travel ban, it only makes sense to pause international ad campaigns all together. In terms of national travel Paddock says, “If you were to read the front page of the newspaper today you would think absolutely nobody is booking hotel rooms. We are not seeing that yet.”
It’s also important to continue to keep brand safety in mind. While marketers don’t need to pause ads completely, they should monitor ad placement. You don’t want to be spending money on ads placed on sites dealing with the outbreak.
Implement “Staycation” Promotions
One audience that could continue to be business opportunities for hotel marketers are those within driving distance. Flying may no longer be appealing to those looking to take a vacation, but a trip in driving range may be. Consider creating appealing offers targeting those searching for travel opportunities locally. Paddock at MMGY Global says they have been creating “staycation” landing pages for clients that didn’t already have them.
That being said, you don’t want to go overboard with promotional marketing. Brands must be careful that they don’t push their fantastic deals too aggressively to consumers who are not interested in traveling at the current time.
Be Proactive and Communicate Clearly About Efforts
As we said, it has become impossible to travel without being aware of the coronavirus. Companies should communicate proactively about the situation and precautions they’re taking to protect customers and employees. Brands obviously cannot market peoples’ concerns away, but they can market on a foundation that they’re taking meaningful action. Examples include:
- Creating and publishing policies related to coronavirus.
- Implementing new cleaning and hygienic protocol.
- Supplying customers with supplies and information that can help them protect themselves.
- Suspending any flights, services, activities, etc. that may increase customer and employee health risks.
Be Flexible and Generous
All companies want to minimize losses, but with this being a crisis that threatens the health of customers, brands should put people before profit. This is a factor that can strongly impact how well you recover following the outbreak. If a customer had a bad experience during this time of crisis and felt that the company only cared about maintaining revenue, the likelihood of them returning is slim. On the other hand, if they had a good experience, and felt that the company genuinely cared about their wellbeing, they could become a long-term loyal customer.
Even if not legally required, it’s in a company’s long-term best interest to be flexible and generous. Airlines, hotels, and tour operators, when reasonable, should consider allowing customers to cancel bookings and receive full refunds, even if originally they were not refundable. If issuing a full refund isn’t possible or appropriate, customers should be given the opportunity to cancel for a full service credit when the crisis is over.
Actively Monitor the Situation and Manage Campaigns
The status of coronavirus and the world is constantly changing, which means campaigns need to be managed accordingly. For example, if a city or country emerges as an epicenter of an outbreak or becomes subject of new travel restrictions, brands have to react immediately. If there are paid search efforts being targeted there, marketers have to appropriately modify or deactivate them. Because ultimately, there is nothing to be gained from marketing travel to areas that aren’t safe, or to audiences that no longer have the opportunity to travel. These efforts can help travel and hospitality brands minimize waste, while protecting customers and employees.
What’s best for your brand is ultimately up to you and your company. We have no way of controlling what happens globally, only how we respond. Not everyone sees budget-cutting as the answer, but it’s in any companies’ best interest to reconsider marketing strategies, especially those in the travel and hospitality industry.