Hotelier India|August 2020
With digital mediums emerging as dominant marketing platforms, hotels put out a plethora of content that leverages storytelling to entice guests

Once, hotel marketing teams saw the promotion of key talking points and new offerings as the selling point, which were evenly distributed among an array of platforms including events, print and social media.

The COVID pandemic has further skewed the use of social media to promote a hotel’s marketing strategies. The travel and hospitality industries are highly visual-driven. Most travellers now use online and social media content to find inspiration about destinations they want to travel to and plan every aspect of their travel.

Recently, STR and Tourism Economics made a special forecast, which predicted a significant decline across demand, occupancy, ADR, and revenue per available room (RevPAR in 2020. However, the market is expected to recover in the latter part of the year or early next year.

Given the forecast, hoteliers across the globe are implementing short-term cost-saving measures to keep their businesses afloat. They have also begun to reevaluate and refocus their marketing communication and strategies to garner guest confidence and recover business.

We spoke to some of the leading lights from the industry to better understand how COVID has influenced their marketing communication and what strategies they are adopting to navigate through these tough times.

Digital marketing takes centre-stage

The past couple of months of the lockdown period have seen people increase the time spent on their mobile phones in a bid to consume digital content.

Datareportal recently released a report studying the key changes in the social media usage pattern during the COVID-19 lockdown phase. As per the report, being cooped up at home resulted in a monumental increase in online and digital activities.

GlobalWebIndex’s research also pointed to a similar trend. People are considerably spending more time using connected tech than they did in the first two months of 2020. Social media users are spending an average of two hours and 24 minutes per day, multi-networking across an average of eight social networks and messaging apps.

According to tech solution company Akamai’s research, the global internet traffic has reported a growth of as much as 30% this year. The above statistics are enough to justify the findings that digital, social and online content appeal to a large set of audiences.

“According to data provided by Expedia,” says Apurva Chamaria, the chief revenue officer of travel and hotel software company, RateGain, “in Asia, 55% millennials were basing their booking decisions on social media.” He believes this number will go up further as guests look at social media for details on property openings and understand safety measures.

As per BCV, a RateGain Company’s data quoted in Skift Research, 40% of social media users are already asking about property openings and 20% are interested to know about mask restrictions, clearly indicating that social media would be the first place a prospective guest would go to, to understand how their experience is likely to be.

Passion-oriented online activities

Given that travel businesses were shut owing to the imposition of a lockdown, most hotels have started rolling out passion-oriented content to keep the communication going. “With more time on their hands, people have been exploring avenues to keep themselves active, pick up new interests or pursue old forgotten ones. And this is where brands like us have stepped in,” says Anand Ramadurai, Vice President – Marketing, Indian Hotels Company (IHCL).

All hotels under IHCL have shared several experiences through their social media channels. “We have shared exclusive recipes from our chefs that people can cook easily at home, wellness and yoga techniques from experts at Jiva Spa, and more. Such innovative initiatives have helped us keep our audience engaged and drive brand recall, despite guests being unable to travel and stay at our hotels,” he adds.

“In the initial lockdown phase,” says Hannaford, VP - Commercial, Accor India and South Asia, “we initiated the ALL@HOME campaign through which we wanted our guests to continue living their passions in the comfort of their own homes. The unique digital experiences and content were brought together by Accor Live Limitless [ALL]. Our economy brand, ibis, curated online ibis Music gigs, taking ahead last year’s offline campaign to an online space. Some of our hotels conducted online classes around food, yoga and wellness. Our hotels forayed into food deliveries, takeaways, and some hotels launched innovative DIY kits. All of these were being showcased through online videos or live on our social media platforms.”

Roseate Hotels & Resorts’ social media pages showcased severalengaging online sessions. “Our social media had many live sessions with chefs demonstrating easy-tomake recipes as well as some guests’ favourites from the menu, apart from rewarding contests to keep users engaged,” avers CEO Kush Kapoor.

In April 2020, Ascott launched its social media campaign #Stay- HomeWithAscott to rally the global community to curb the spread of COVID-19 by staying home. Ascott encouraged its online community to share photos or videos of their culinary adventures or creations in their home kitchens through Instagram while tagging them using the hashtag #StayHomeWithAscott.

“For each pledge, CHF promised to donate US$10. By 15 May 2020, we had crossed our target of 10,000 pledges on Instagram. CHF donated a total of US$200,000 to Save the Children campaign,” claims Vincent Miccolis, Regional General Manager – Middle East, Africa, Turkey & India, The Ascott Limited.

Marketing strategies to navigate through the crisis

While it is not ‘business as usual’, hotels are devising new strategies to set themselves up for speedy recovery. They are carving their business and marketing campaigns around the theme to convey new measures and initiatives, right from the lockdown to the Unlock-phase. From venturing into the food delivery space to offering workcation and staycation packages and announcing concessional offers to hosting virtual events, among others, hotels are ensuring they strike the right chord with audiences through their marketing pitch and campaigns.


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August 2020