By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, HSMAI has served as a resource to connect peer groups to discuss the changing landscape. HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for brand Chief Digital Officers on June 23, giving participants a chance to catch up and share new insights since the last brand CDO roundtable in April (read takeaways from that roundtable here and here).
Participants chose what topics the program focused on; participating companies included Accor, Club Quarters, PHG Consulting, Red Roof, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and Aqua Aston. Here are key takeaways from their discussion:
NEW DIGITAL MARKETING TACTICS
As marketing budgets have been slashed, participants said they have stopped using display ads and pay-for-click advertising, focusing instead on methods like social media and email campaigns for which the cost is lower. Social media has been a vital tool for digital marketers to get their messaging across and has become a more prominent part of marketing plans during the pandemic. “Social media has become so important as a connection point to engage with guests,” one participant said.
But social media’s merits go beyond just engagement another participant pointed out. It’s the quickest way to communicate policy changes with guests, market the hotel in an affordable way, and share messaging on cleaning protocols. “For us, marketing our cleanliness and safety protocols has taken center stage,” one participant said.
Participants also said they have shifted away from top-funnel marketing and are focusing on low-funnel marketing methods such as meta and brand SEM.
It is vital that hotels focus on attracting the increasingly important drive market. “Other business is just not coming in right now,” one participant said. “There are a lot of people shopping, but nobody is booking, so we need to change our parameters to retarget the local market.”
Although the drive market typically refers to guests who live within a few hours of the hotel, several participants mentioned that the parameters of that definition are expanding, as people are still looking to travel by car but are willing to drive for longer periods of time. One participant has seen the drive market expand to anyone who is less than two full days’ drive away.
“The drive markets are surprisingly larger than anticipated,” one participant said. “There are a lot of nuances in how we define drive market, which vary by city. Right now, we’re tweaking our messaging to retarget long-distance drivers.”
CHANGING AND ELIMINATING ROLES
Many of the participants at the roundtable have seen a reduction in their teams, and several said they don’t anticipate being able to rehire anytime soon. One participant has heard estimates that as many as one third of industry workers who were laid off or furloughed will not be replaced. “You’re going to have to be creative,” the participant said. “You’re going to have to find new ways, whether it’s hiring people on your team who are flexible or educating yourself to be a jack of all trades in order to get everything done.”
Another participant said that they see senior leadership roles consolidated. “I can see a shift to having just one senior leader and several junior leaders, instead of multiple senior leaders,” the participant said. “Some have already started to make that change and others are already there.”
Another participant said that a lot of money and effort has been put into bolstering housekeeping staff and systems in order to make guests feel safe and comfortable, but that level of effort won’t be exerted to bring back any other teams. “It’s not needed, and the customers don’t want it,” the participant said. “We’re at a point now where the cost savings has been tremendous, and it is what it is.”
Another change that participants see coming is an increase in remote positions across the board. “You used to have people who oversaw one or two hotels, but now are going to be overseeing multiple hotels,” another participant added. “GMs aren’t going to be able to demand that specific people be onsite anymore. In order to get the top talent, you’re going to have to be flexible with locations.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.