Independent hotel owners, are you ready for post-lockdown travel?
Post-lockdown travel is a new era. Businesses in the hospitality industry are working its way up from zero occupancy, through the stages of recovering tourism in Africa, and these are all after the same pool of available clients. Independent hotel owners urgently need to get back into the market in a strategic way.
What is your plan to be seen and booked? Africa is getting travel-ready. Is your hotel or lodge?
Signs of getting travel-ready are appearing across the African continent, and major destinations have started lifting some travel restrictions.
According to a recent country lockdown report from the African Travel and Tourism Association, Tanzania and Zanzibar are leading the road to recovery with open air borders and zero travel restrictions. Some international carriers have resumed their routes, and the Serengeti routes reopened recently. Qatar Airlines will resume direct flights to Zanzibar this week, while KLM has reported it will fly direct to the Spice Island from the end of July.
Zambia is already allowing charter planes to tourist areas, and domestic airlines a will take off in August. Ethiopian Air is already travelling to major Zambian airports and Emirates has confirmed that it will resume its Zambian route from August 1. It is only a matter of time until tourist visas are issued again in Zambia.
South Africa’s travel industry is preparing to resume its corporate domestic travel, and there are a few significant routes to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban operational. Recent adjustments to level 3 regulations allow South Africans to self-drive to leisure tourism experiences within their province.
It is clear that African travel means business, and independent hotel owners need to get back into the market. If you are still open, you need to be visible and bookable, and communicate with potential guests with a clear and consistent message.
On June 23, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa announced that roughly 49 000 SMMEs are already negatively affected by lockdown, and many will close shop. Reopened independent hotels are now in a tight competition and need to market efficiently and cost-effectively with limited resources and staff.
Four tips and solutions for independent hotel and lodge owners
At the launch of the new Tourism, Travel & COVID-19 book, contributing author and revenue specialist Derek Martin had four points of advice for hotels:
1. It is reboot-time. Decide who you are and what you want to be.
The good news is that independent hotels have the freedom to take full advantage of the tourism industry being rebooted. It is time to understand better who you are and what you want to be. There is only one place to go from zero per cent occupancy, and that is up. How you do it counts for everything. Post-lockdown travellers are already looking for authentic, meaningful and unique experiences. The only way to achieve this for your guest is to become more authentic and transparent when you speak to them. Show what is unique about your property instead of trying to fit old moulds. Create meaningful touchpoints with your guests through genuine gestures and value-adds. Do you know who these post-lockdown travellers are, where they come from and why they choose to stay with you? A sound hospitality marketing strategy will answer all those questions.
2. Give everyone a fair chance to trade and be careful not to undercut anyone in the value chain.
Independent hotels need to be visible on online travel agent listings and also visible to the trade at large, as both these sources of business are very important and need to be managed appropriately. It is important to preserve relationships and build new ones.
Joanne Hutchinson, managing director of Proactive Hospitality Solutions, said this company has a full team of experts in online travel agents (OTA) management and trade relations. Proactive focuses on building relationships with key operators who are continually looking to enhance their product offering to remain ahead of their competition. Proactive also values the important role that OTA can play in a hotel’s revenue and develops strategies that are geared towards mapping the best possible funnel for these establishments.
3. Adapt to survive
Now that you know who you are and what you want to be, you need to share it with the rest of the world. Every channel you have at your disposal must be optimised for your business by levering its efficiencies and working through its limitations. Focus on strategic hospitality marketing:
• Strategic direction, implementation and measurement
• OTA optimisation
• Digital brand development
• Social media management
• Full-service reservations and accounts solutions.
4. Control the costs and organisational flow of your hotel.
The results of poor business practices are evident in the number of businesses that will not reopen after lockdown. This is an opportune time to downsize.
Spend your marketing budget where it will give you maximum returns. In-house marketing experts can come at a high cost, and no matter how experienced or talented they are, no single person can be an expert at every discipline within marketing. Think twice before hiring and look to cost-effective, full-service third parties. This will enable hotels to reach goals quicker and hire back up to a full staff complement sooner.
“Everything is important, but you cannot spend your entire budget on a single aspect of exposure in the market. Independent hotel owners also need to keep in mind that all the tactics for gaining exposure in the marketplace cannot work in isolation. Your overall strategy must be implemented correctly through OTAs, sales representation, digital content marketing, reservations and revenue management. Proactive Hospitality Solutions offers turnkey hospitality services that fit seamlessly into a hotel and look like in-house assets. We take care of the strategy and implementation of the strategy while hotel owners focus on their guests’ experience, safety and comfort,” Hutchinson said.