April 6, 2020 · Stuart Butler

Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 143 – Smart Hoteliers Have Updated Their Policies For COVID-19, Here’s How You Can Too

In times of disaster and social upheaval, such as the COVID-19 struggles today, hoteliers must be both adaptable and transparent with their guests.  When we’re in a time of uncertainty, providing customers with a little clarity can go a long way to building a great relationship as well as being a servant to your guest.

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SHOW NOTES:
 
Original blog post:

The Definitive Guide To COVID19 Policy Updates & Communication


One of the best ways to put your current and potential guests at ease is through updated policies to help address objections to bookings. Objections such as deposits, cancellation policies, modifications, and price fluctuations.
 
Who is doing this right?
Hilton gets the award as one of the first flags to come out with a very well-crafted set of emergency policies to address their guest concerns.  They updated their site, communicated to guests and ensured that if you were going through a booking process you had a clear understanding that there was nothing to worry about… if you had to cancel or modify your plans.
 
Who is doing this wrong?
We decided to redact this one example of a hotelier who took an entirely 180 approach to their policies in light of a disaster.  This vacation rental business basically said, “the rules are the rules” and if you didn’t purchase vacation insurance you’re out of luck.
Even if you did purchase insurance you could only reschedule your visit in the same unit within 6 months.
 
Now Let’s Play Good Hotelier Bad Hotelier.
To start, you will want to update your policies for stays and cancellations.  This is both a good time to make any needed updates that should be made regardless of an event, but also to highlight the specific short term alterations you are making to ease your guest’s minds.
The Right Way

  • Update your existing reservation policies to make them as flexible as possible
  • Update your new reservation policies to allow for generous cancellation rules
  • Provide links from your policy pages to your disaster response pages
  • Update your booking engine disclaimers to match your temporary policies
  • Make your contact information very easily accessible on your policy page, people will still have questions
  • Consider adding a FAQ box to your policy page for disaster related questions and answers

The Wrong Way

  • Remain inflexible because “the rules are the rules“
  • Bury your policy updates in a sea of text where they are not easy to see
  • Cut and paste a policy from another site, you may be getting more (or less) than you bargained for
  • Only update your policy and not your package and booking disclaimers
  • Make it hard to contact you via phone, email, or chat

 
We’ve Chosen To Be The Good Hotelier, Now Let’s Promote Our Policy.
Creating a compassionate policy update to handle large scale disruptions show that you’re a great hotelier and good neighbor in your community.  However if you don’t let your potential and current guests know, it’s not doing you much good. Below is a short checklist of how you can make sure everyone who wants to know is in the loop.  Your goal here is to let customers know they don’t have to worry about the financial side of their stay decision. You also want to let everyone know that, “hey, we’re nice guys and we are here for you in good times and bad.”
On Site Promotions:

  • Clearly highlight your policy updates on your policy page by positioning key updates at the top and differentiating in a different text treatment
  • Create a home page alert to drive visitors to your updated policy page
  • Do a search for “your property“ Cancellation and see what pages appear. Update those pages with the proper links and content
  • Ensure your booking engine policies match your new policies you posted
  • Ensure the policies on your email confirmations match your new policies
  • Browse your entire site and highlight or link to your policies where it will help your conversion process

Off Site Promotions:

  • Create a helpful email to your guests
  • Include your policy updates such as “free cancellations“ on your PPC callout extensions
  • Create a response plan for responding to social inquiries
  • Share your temporary policies with local DMOs and portal sites

Most importantly, remember that your guests are humans, with real human problems and worries.  Be compassionate with your guests, work with them one-on-one, and step outside of your written policies to surprise and delight your guests.
 
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In The Newsaroos:     

  • Google giving Google Ads credit.

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Submit your questions and topic ideas on Twitter to @_travelboom or [email protected]
 
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