Hotel Marketing Podcast: Episode 183 – Three Easy Steps To Build Your Disaster Communications Plan

Thankfully we are seeing travel coming back in an incredible way.  In fact we’re seeing many examples of hoteliers even breaking their 2019 numbers.  This is great news for everyone who has struggled up to this point.  However, now is not the time to sit back and relax.  Now is the time to look back on COVID and understand what worked and what didn’t work in your communications strategies.  

I recently presented our recommended strategies for building a Pandemic/Disaster communications plan to members of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, which you can watch here:  Today, we’re going to discuss these strategies and how they specifically apply to your hotel or resort.  This three-step process will help you identify when we’re entering a disaster, what to communicate, and how to best reach your guests.

STEP 1: Understand something is changing

Overnight disasters, such as COVID, rarely actually happen overnight.  There is a lead up to the “big event” and the sooner you are able to identify you’re in the midst of something, the sooner you can begin to put your plan in place and adapt.

A perfect example of realizing something was changing during Covid is how Hilton was able to almost immediately revamp their cancellation policy to serve guests, while some completely missed the mark.

Your disaster communications plan is only effective if you know when to put it into place, therefore the 1st step of any pandemic or disaster is to realize you’re actually in one. 

STEP 2: Defining the “what” of your messaging

Step two of your plan should be to ensure you’re passing the right information on to your current and potential guests.  To do this you need to be aware of your audience, accurately and authentically communicate, be proactive, and most importantly be present.

  • Be Aware of Your Audience: 
    • What do your guests need to know?
    • How can you alleviate their concerns?
    • Is your messaging matching the environment?
  • Communicate Authentically and Set Expectations:
    • Communicate clearly and to the point
    • Address any deviations between expectations and reality
  • Be Proactive:
    • Reach out to each of your segments with a personalized message as early as possible.  These include your current customers, past customers, and leads.
    • Communicate frequently, even if it is just to share information.
  • Always Be Present:
    • When customers ask for help… answer and answer FAST
    • Engage on your customers platforms of choice
    • Ensure your entire organization is on board and trained
    • Engage through customer reviews (80% of your guests won’t book without reading reviews)

STEP 3: Defining the “where” and “how” to communicate in times of disaster

Once you know you’re heading into rough waters, and you know what your guests need to know, now it is time to execute your plan and put it into action.  Each hotel’s plan is going to be unique, however they should all contain some of the following:

  • On-Property Messaging:
    • Visible signage
    • Social distancing cues
    • Visible cleaning procedures
    • Proper staff training
  • Website Messaging:
    • Create prominent promotions front and center
    • Dedicate content and sections of your website to address key customer concerns
    • Educate and inform your guests about the area 
  • Email Communications:
    • Proactively reach out to customers throughout your purchase journey
  • Social Communications:
    • Create authentic extensions of your in-person experiences
    • Engage your customers beyond your profile
    •  Be a trusted, authentic, source of information
  • Advertising Adjustments:
    • Evaluate your current spends and adjust accordingly
    • Use all the assets your platforms offer
    • Make smart geographic targets
    • Minimize campaigns that are not delivering
  • PR, Outreach, & Assets:
    • Assign a spokesperson
    • Proactively reach out to media, chambers, DMOs, etc
    • Create content and assets that are truly helpful
  • Being Aware of Shifts In Your Guests:
    • The changing world may change your typical guest, watch for shifts

Past Episodes To Help You Plan For Uncertainty:



In The Newsaroos:     

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