Times may be tough, but they've brought us all together in unexpected ways. As we forge ahead, let’s be mindful of the good deeds and helping hands that will get us through this downturn.
In this edition of our new weekly blog series, Good Works and Great Ideas, which we publish every Friday, we’ll address the importance of virtual tours in times of social distancing and take a look at why hotels must focus on leveraging video marketing now more than ever. We’ll also take a look at a collection of articles and inspiring examples from the hospitality industry that demonstrate how hotels are helping others and making the most of this uncertain time.
Great Ideas: Leverage video marketing and virtual tours during social distancing
Great ideas empower us to thrive and move toward a better day. We’ll cover a few pressing questions with ideas for how to address them and data points to help you prepare for the future.
With social distancing still in place and large gatherings on hold, now is the time to ramp up your video marketing to help planners as they source for future events. By providing virtual tours, virtual site walkthroughs, and as many photos of your event space as possible, you’ll be providing planners with the vital information they need as they look ahead to upcoming events. Video itself is a powerful tool for communicating with planners. It’s a quick and effective way of getting across your message and the essence of your brand in an easily consumable medium. Let’s take a look at the different ways you can leverage it.
It’s easier and more cost-effective than ever to create videos that connect with planners, promote trust in your brand, drive traffic and engagement, and convert leads into booked business. Videos, whether shared on social media, on your website, or in emails, give planners a quick and entertaining way to engage with your brand.
In fact, 54% of consumers prefer to see video content from brands and businesses they support, more than any other kind of content, according to HubSpot. In addition, using the word “video” in your email subject line increases open rates by 19% and click-through rates by 65%, according to a 2015 study done by Syndacast.
Regardless of the industry, video has become significantly more popular in recent years as attention spans shorten. Its increased prevalence is also a result of new technologies that make it easier to create videos. With digital cameras, smartphones, and user-friendly editing tools, anyone can produce a marketing video without a specialized team. In addition, platforms that allow livestreaming – like Facebook and Instagram – have made video into an even more engaging format, allowing users to have real-time experiences.
Augmented and virtual reality
More and more meeting planners will begin to expect augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) experiences to help them source venues. While the number of users who own or have access to VR is still relatively low, that is changing as headsets become more accessible and less expensive. These technologies allow event planners to tour the site without having to travel, saving them time and money. Working with the venue manager, they can go through all the room and layout options and design the event virtually.
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, more meeting planners were exploring the option of virtual tours to avoid scheduling issues and travel costs, says Sandy Hammer, cofounder and chief marketing officer at Allseated.
According to Google Trends data, searches for “virtual visits” are on the rise. To accommodate planners who are sourcing during times of social distancing, provide virtual tours of your venue on your website and on sourcing networks. Make sure you have updated photos of past events and link to any video footage of the event space. Help planners envision the possibilities your venue can provide for their event. These virtual tools save time and allow hoteliers to sell remotely.
“Virtual site inspections are going to be the new way to sell,” says Hammer. “This makes it much easier to consider a property, and for planners with a lot of programs, can help them file ideas away for later.”
When sourcing, planners are looking for venues that have virtual tours available on their website. “This also shows that a venue is forward-thinking, adaptable, and has the newest technology available,” says Hammer, so that planners can make a confident decision remotely.
Venues can offer visits and tours via Zoom or other similar platforms. It’s a good way to give the planner the look and feel of being in the space and provide them with a photorealistic, 360-degree model of the environment. Live videos serve as an interactive conversation between you and the planner and can also be used to host live Q&As with planners and your event team.
Cambria Hotels has carried out around 20 virtual tours to help stimulate group bookings. As of the end of April 2020, 150 clients had taken tours of the properties. These tours included live walk-throughs hosted by local sales staff and real-time Q&A sessions.
Virtual tours are taking root in Europe, too. The UK’s Belfry Hotel & Resort offers virtual tours that can also be viewed on virtual reality headsets. Belfry provides on-site FaceTime tours where spaces are set up by on-site staff so planners can view different layouts compliant with social distancing.
Immersive video is another channel for reaching meeting planners, building brand authenticity, and engaging with planners as they’re sourcing. It’s a great opportunity to give planners a look into your event space while still staying safe at home. And, they can view it at their own convenience rather than scheduling a live walkthrough.
Photo panoramas or 3D tours posted on your website are viable options for putting planners in your space from the comfort of their own homes. Even for planners who don’t have access to VR headsets yet, 360-degree and 3D videos offer immersive experiences on any computer or mobile device. Users can move the video in any direction to explore your venue more thoroughly and navigate at their leisure.
3D virtual tours are often used in real estate, but hotels are also using them to showcase their properties. Hotel nhow Rotterdam in the Netherlands offers 3D walkthroughs of the entire property, including all of the available meeting space. Planners can navigate through the space and get complete 360-degree views with just a few clicks.
Cambria Hotels is also leveraging another type of virtual technology — Matterport, a 3D data platform that allows hotels to turn their space into an “immersive digital twin.” It even allows users to measure distances with a virtual tape measure.
Good Works: Official cleanliness policies take center stage
As great ideas help to restart group business, good works help us survive and stay positive during times of struggle. This week, our good works focus on how hotels are ramping up their cleaning protocols and upgrading their policies to assure guests a safe and sanitized stay.
Marriott approaches cleanliness in a new way
Cleanliness and sanitization at hotels are at the forefront of the minds of travelers and event planners. In response, Marriott International has formed a global cleanliness council to increase transparency and communicate all safety measures they're undertaking at their properties. The council includes senior leaders from the housekeeping, engineering, food safety, occupational health and employee well-being divisions, along with scientists and infectious disease experts.
Marriott will be implementing new sanitization technology at its hotel properties, like electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to clean guest rooms, lobbies, gym equipment, and other public areas. Marriott is also in the process of testing ultraviolet light technology for sanitizing keys and devices shared by hotel employees. The company requires all surfaces to be cleaned more frequently and treated with hospital-grade disinfectants recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Hyatt to include a trained hygiene manager in every hotel by September
Hyatt on April 29 announced its Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment to further enhance its guidance and resources for employee and guest safety. The new policies include an accreditation process by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council at all hotels around the world, employee training and support resources, hotel-level sanitization specialists, and a group of medical experts and industry professionals that will contribute to the hotel experience.
As part of Hyatt’s new policy, every Hyatt hotel will, by September 2020, have at least one person on property trained as hygiene manager who will be responsible for their hotel adhering to these new sanitization standards.
Hilton partners with RB and Mayo Clinic to enhance cleaning processes
On April 27, Hilton launched a program to deliver a new standard of cleanliness and disinfection in its properties around the world. The collaboration with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol, and consultation with Mayo Clinic, will develop new processes and employee training. The program, called Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection, will incorporate RB’s approach to cleaning practices and products.
With the aid of Mayo Clinic medical and technical experts, Hilton is rewriting its cleaning protocols to translate the best practices in hospital hygiene standards to hotel guestrooms. Medical experts from the Mayo Clinic COVID-19 Response Team will also advise on new technologies and approaches, assist in training development, and create a rigorous quality assurance program.
Hilton properties worldwide have upgraded cleaning protocols and use hospital-grade cleaning products. Hilton CleanStay will build upon these already-existing standards. The initiative will create a focus on cleanliness that will be visible to guests throughout their entire stay — in rooms, restaurants, fitness rooms, and other public spaces.
CSN Insights: Large urban areas vs. smaller metros
One interesting dynamic to keep an eye as the market evolves is the differences between market sizes and types. To date, have larger, more urban metros been more or less affected for future sourcing demand than smaller metros? And will those trends continue as metros begin to “open” back up over the next few months?
Through March and April, we have seen the largest urban markets more impacted than smaller metros in terms of sourcing volume. Larger metros are down around 55% in volume, while the smaller metros are down approximately 40%. There could be several factors at play here – perceived (or real) differences in pricing cost, perceived differences in safety due to density, less need for airlift, etc. We’ll continue to monitor this and look for deeper insights.
The Cvent Source: Group Business Insights
On Friday, April 17, we hosted the first of a monthly series of webinars dedicated to providing insights – just like the ones above – on the group business landscape as you plan for a rebound to your meetings and events business. On Friday, May 15, we'll be hosting the next webinar in the series. Highlights of what will be covered include:
- A deeper dive into differences by market size and location.
- How proposed rates from hotels have changed over the past 60 days.
- Updates in sourcing trends over the past 30 days.
Reserve your spot and register today!
For more good works and great ideas, check out last week’s post, Hotel Sales During COVID-19: How to Win Future Business. And be sure to check back next Friday for the latest edition of this series.