Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 182 – Top 3 Lessons Learned During The Pandemic

by Stuart Butler

It’s been a crazy year here at Fuel and we’ve learned a thing or two. In this episode of the Fuel Hotel Marketing Podcast, the Fueligans discuss their top 3 lessons learned during the pandemic and give hotels advice on how to move forward with recovery

1. Understanding your customers is more important than ever
Given that everything is changing, we need to make sure we are talking to our guests. It’s the only way for us to know how to drive business moving forward. What are their fears, what do they care about, what will motivate them, why are they traveling, why aren’t they traveling? By engaging your guests, you can reveal the answers to these questions and they can become the core of your ongoing marketing strategy.
In addition, by listening to your guests, you can identify the gaps between the expectations you are setting and the experience the guests are having. If you don’t monitor this brand perception gap and it gets too big, you will suffer severe long-term consequences.
2. Don’t lose sight of the long-term because you’re so focused on the short-term
There are so many examples where people have created their own shipwrecks by kicking the can down the road or by not thinking through the consequences of their actions. We’re seeing this manifest now with the labor shortage. If you kicked your employees out to save money early in the pandemic, you’re going to struggle to find employees now that demand is picking up. There’s going to be a long-term hangover effect from you tipping your hand and declaring to the world that your people really aren’t as important to you as you always said they were.
Likewise, the properties that are now jacking up their rates due to the unprecedented demand are setting themselves up for a rude awakening down the road. Consumer expectations are at an all-time high and for the first time ever, price is not a primary motivator. People are not flinching at record-level rates, but they sure will be suffering from buyer’s remorse when your property doesn’t live up to expectations. When you’re understaffed and it’s taking longer for people to get into their rooms, or they can’t get those clean towels they need, or the restaurant is slow to serve them, there’s going to be a backlash. It will start with review scores beginning to slide, then the negative word-of-mouth, and the loss of repeat business, culminating in a significant lack of demand or many years to come while you try to rebuild your reputation.
3. You’re only as strong as your community
As a business, Fuel wouldn’t have been able to navigate the pandemic so well if it weren’t for the relationships we have. From the amazing staff who busted their butts throughout the past 12 months with a smile on their face and a can-do attitude, the the vendors who offered flexibility and compassion when we needed them most, our local businesses and CVB who came together to help our destination get back on its feet,  to the network of people we consider our friends, who were always there to offer support, advice, and words of encouragement during the dark times, we could not have done it without any of them.
On a personal level, the support from fellow hospitality professionals, to those I consider friends and family, I owe my sanity to you all. The guidance I have received throughout the pandemic literally kept me from cracking and spiraling into chaos. Without the pep talks, the therapy sessions, the laughter, and the love, I don’t think I could have survived this. I don’t think I can express to you how much you all mean to me. Thank you!
1. Change is inevitable.
Whether it is a global pandemic, the fallout from a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or an economic recession, change happens. It always has. It always will. Those who are able to adapt to change will survive. Those who embrace change will thrive. Those who can’t, or won’t adapt, will die.
2. Some things never change.
We are in the hospitality industry. Our top priority is ALWAYS to serve our guests in the best way possible. This means understanding that each person is unique, and has unique needs. It means providing timely, and useful information in the most effective way possible for each person. It means setting expectations so that your guests come away from your property with a positive experience, and want to share their experience with their network of friends and family.
3. People will remember how you treated them.
Did you do the right thing by your guests, making it simple and affordable to change plans, as travel restrictions changed? Did you do the right thing by your employees, giving them a reason to stay with you through the rough times, or come back to you when you reopened? Did you work with your community, giving support to other local businesses, or sharing information with your local competitors? Did you build stronger relationships with your friends and family?
1. Have A Plan For Change & Implement It Quickly
When COVID went from “something overseas” to “something here” and on to “something massive” the people who realized the shift quickly were the ones who were able to weather the storm better (at least early on).  Having a contingency plan for even far-fetched scenarios will help hoteliers make smarter decisions and react more quickly if ever needed.

  • Cost-saving plans including government assistance
  • Operations plans
  • Communications plan

2. Be Nimble & Adaptable
Even if you’re the smart hotelier who has a plan, you are going to have to be very nimble and ready to adapt to both market changes and marketing strategy changes.  A perfect example of this is how properties, such as Hilton leading the way, adapted their cancellation policy very early in the pandemic.
In addition to how the business of hotels have changed, so have the marketing strategies.  Consider all the new marketing tools that have been developed just since COVID hit. New paid search tools, changes to GHA and Meta, TripAdvisor Plus, targeting changes and so on have all shifted how we find and engage guests.  Smart hoteliers should have learned to keep their eye on emerging trends so they can jump before their competitors.
3. Be A Servant
Now, more than ever… The company, or people, who step up to help their community and customers will be rewarded with more loyalty and business once things return to normal. Being a servant can have many meanings from helping your community, your staff, and obviously your customers.  It can also have different meanings.  A great example of this is properties that continued to communicate with their guests with virtual tours, recipes from the chef, stories and more.  Find your way to be a servant both now and in times of trouble.

In The Newsaroos:     

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