The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and so too do group cancellations – which means hotels and venues are adapting their approaches and refocusing their efforts. Hotel sales and marketing teams are shifting to rebooking and rescheduling for later in the year and seeking out whatever revenue there is to be had in the meantime.
As part of their dedicated content hub, Hotel News Now provides industry updates on the current health crisis and strategies looking into the future. Leaders at hotel chains across the United States were interviewed for a recent article and gave insight into how they’re adapting during COVID-19, planning for market resurgence, and strengthening relationships with their group business.
Discover 4 ways hotels are adapting during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. They're optimising their revenue
In an interview with HNN, Allison Handy, SVP of sales, marketing and revenue optimisation at Prism Hotels & Resorts said: “The message I’m hoping to emphasise with my team is that every little bit of money you get coming in — whether it’s a cancellation fee or a few rooms for that government agency that needs a block of rooms, or that corporate team that has to be within arm’s reach of the office — whatever small piece of business you can get is potentially one more employee that gets hours to work to put food on the table for their family.
“When we think of it in those terms, it’s a new source of motivation to hunt for revenue,” she continued. “We’re being creative. We know that right now companies can’t hold conferences, but they want to live-stream. Maybe they don’t want to live-stream from their bedroom desk with their dog barking in the background. If we can provide a place for them to live-stream a conference or message to their teams, that’s a small source of revenue.”
RAR Hospitality has suspended sales calls to traditional groups and is instead focussing on new markets, like office space replacement for people who work remotely, those in need of self-quarantine space, and project managers who still continue to work despite the pandemic.
Red Roof has launched several initiatives to help students, displaced workers, and medical providers. Their Student Support Program provides students displaced as a result of college campus closures rooms at a discounted rate and an Amazon gift card to help offset expenses for a stay of seven days or more. In response to the interruption of work environments, they’ve launched the Work Under Our Roof program. This is designed to provide rooms for people to rent as workspaces from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a reduced rate. Their Room in Your Heart program will provide first responders, nurses, doctors, firefighters, police, and emergency medical providers with free rooms on a limited basis through May 31.
2. They're rescheduling, or offering an alternative to cancellation
For groups that can reschedule to later in the year, Lovell Casiero, SVP of sales and marketing at PM Hotel Group, says that their teams are trying to strategically rebook them for days that may typically be a need date. This will help to mitigate the inevitable balancing act of accommodating business that they expected to have with this rebooked business once everything gets back to a sense of normalcy.
However, not every group can be rebooked. In those cases, the focus shifts to maintaining the relationship while still holding the client to obligations. Being proactive and flexible can help with these sometimes difficult conversations. And sometimes, it requires creative solutions.
For example, one group at Prism had to cancel, but couldn’t afford the cancellation fees. Instead of putting the financial burden on the client, the hotel agreed to an alternative – if the event was rescheduled or another event came to their area, that hotel would get first right to their business. It resulted in a win on both sides, and it preserved the relationship.
Updating the supplier profile need dates and other key dates on Cvent Supplier Network is also an important step for hoteliers and venues, as the event planner will be looking to see what’s available online first. This way, they have up-to-date information when they call to talk about rescheduling.
3. They're focussing on empathy and flexibility
In some cases, Prism has allowed groups to put portions of their cancellation fees toward a deposit for a future event as advanced deposits locking in that business. While this approach may not work in every case, the flexibility shows a level of commitment to the client and the importance of retaining a relationship. “If you are showing empathy for their situation,” says Handy, “they are far more likely to show empathy for ours.”
Although now likely outdated because of the fast-moving nature of the situation, a survey by J.D. Power conducted March 12-13, 2020 aimed to gauge how consumers felt about messaging from hoteliers and travel suppliers during the early days of the pandemic. The majority of respondents reacted positively to communications from providers concerning sanitation, cancellation policies, and concern for their health, but a lack of information was a source of frustration and concern.
Even though the survey was conducted before the expansion of restrictions, it still highlights the importance of hoteliers maintaining consistency of messaging, establishing trust, and exhibiting empathy during this unprecedented health crisis. It can go a long way with current clients and building a relationship that will reap benefits in the future when society regains a sense of normalcy.
4. They're prepared to respond to RFPs
Hotels are responding to RFPs, but not as well as they typically do. In March, rates dropped from 95% to 85%, reflecting furloughs and layoffs that have cut hotel sales staff. But the opportunities are there: With about $2 billion in sourcing value in Q2, hotels need to focus on the opportunities they're getting in order to revive their businesses when their hotels open up. At Cvent, we’re doing anything we can to help hotels cope with resource shortages, including providing assistance where needed with responding to RFPs.
One of the best ways to be prepared and keep event planners informed about what’s going on at your hotel is via your website and on sourcing platforms. Especially if you’re offering special promotions or flexible policies, make sure to include that information on your profile so planners know about it.
Planners are still planning: According to Cvent Supplier Network data, planners are sending thousands of RFPs each week – with a clear shift toward late-year event timing. Cvent’s Supplier Network makes it easy to keep hotel profile pages up-to-date. It’s critical information that planners are looking for as they continue to submit RFPs for future events and check-in to see if your hotel is active. You can fill in need dates to indicate when you’re looking for business, update the status of your property, and attach documents or links that point directly to messaging you have on your website.