In this Marketing Case Study, we focus on hotels, resorts and villas in Bali, who are affected by the COVID-19 economic crisis and how implementing adequate marketing strategies can help these businesses go through this challenging period.
Furthermore, we suggest a list of DO’s & DON’Ts, which will give you concrete digital and social media marketing tips & ideas on how to successfully communicate with your guests, and ultimately come out stronger in the end. Here are the main key takeaways:
1 - Marketing for hotels & resort branding has switched its purpose from promoting to informing. The focus today should be on providing added value to both your current and potential clients.
2 - Staying connected and engaged online with your guests during the Coronavirus pandemic should be the purpose of every hotel’s current marketing strategies.
3 - Extreme conditions require creative solutions. This is why now is the time to brainstorm & go out of the box by using effective social media and other online marketing strategy tools for hotels and resorts.
4 - Implementing a flexible cancellation policy will keep your good public image & clients’ satisfaction, and it’s also a way to recover quicker when the travel restrictions are finally lifted.
5 - “Small” details in your marketing and sales should be paid attention to, and all of the hotel’s online marketing channels need to be carefully accessed, and if needed modified in an adequate way.
This marketing study was conducted in order to provide hotels, resorts and villas in Bali with an insight into how the COVID-19 pandemic affects the industry and why digital marketing can help them go through this crisis.
Here we’ll be sharing some marketing tips and tools, as well as creative ideas, which are applicable to the hospitality sector in Bali.
However, every business has its unique features, and therefore, needs a personally developed marketing strategy, which is based on its current situation, needs and goals.
While reading BRUT’s case study, keep in mind that it is not a comprehensive marketing action plan tailored to your business, but rather a general direction in which you should be moving and drawing inspiration from.
Whilst the spreading of the COVID-19 virus is hitting the economy worldwide, businesses are experiencing a huge loss of revenue as many of them are forced to close down. More and more countries are imposing lockdowns and bans on travel leading to hospitality being one of the most affected industries in this pandemic. Indonesia has taken serious measures regarding the incoming foreign flights by removing the visa-on-arrival policy.
Since 80% of Bali’s GDP relies on tourism, the hospitality businesses are deeply affected, as hotels, resorts and villas are struggling to cope with the situation. For the sake of survival, staff members are laid off, many expenses have to be cut back, and some of these businesses will have to even shut down temporarily.
The Coronavirus brings an alarming amount of uncertainty and fear for the future, however, on the positive side, it also gives us time to seek new opportunities. While safety is everyone’s major priority at the moment, hotels, resorts and villas in Bali also should not forget to act adequately in this current crisis and anticipate the bounce-back in the near future.
Here is our take on how marketing can be the key to success during a pandemic and what you as a hotelier in Bali can do right now to ensure that your business survives the COVID-19 crisis and comes out a winner.
a. How it has changed & why it’s important to adapt your hotel’s marketing plan ASAP
Marketing hasn’t stopped. Even with a crisis like this one, getting your message across should remain a priority. Now that many of your customers are under quarantine, there is a chance for you to get their attention by reaching out to them in a thoughtful and sensitive way. With more people staying at home and checking social media frequently, now is the time to attract eyeballs on your content and brand design, increase mobile marketing, and this way grow your brand awareness. Marketing for resorts and hotels has changed - its goal has shifted from promoting to informing. Rather than trying to sell to customers by running desperate discounts and out-of-touch ads, businesses should focus on what’s actually valuable for their current and potential clients. Addressing the issue instead of sweeping it under the rug should be your top priority.
Although being tough and challenging, times like this Coronavirus crisis provide businesses with plenty of time to analyse and re-evaluate their current marketing strategies.
The ones who adapt to the situation, discover the opportunities and act upon them will come out of this crisis as winners. The “new normal” is here, and those who miss to respond to the changes as soon as possible are set for failure. Don’t be one of them!
b. Why you SHOULDN’T stop with your marketing communication
Yes, travelling and booking accommodation might not be on many’s agenda for the upcoming months. However, people are present online - and they’re watching you. Being stuck at home means spending more time on their laptops and phones, creating the perfect conditions to go out there and win their attention. In times of this Coronavirus crisis, there’s no doubt that we all need a little “escape” from the current gloomy reality.
Businesses who take the initiative and come forward with valuable content and engaging entertainment today will surely be remembered by people when everything returns back to normal. This is why staying connected to both existing and potential guests is what will build a strong brand relationship. In turn, this will help you recover better and ensure that when it’s time for the bounce-back your audience will choose you instead of the competition!
Do you care about your guests? Then show it! Tell them about what measures are being taken at your property to ensure safety and how you’re helping your staff members to cope, and don’t forget to demonstrate solidarity by updating your cancellation policies. Empathy is key, especially amidst a crisis, when actions speak loud and mean a lot to people. Failing to acknowledge the situation will be damaging to your business, but clear and comprehensive communication will get your name noticed.
Judged or praised - which one will it be?
c. Setting Anti-crisis Objectives: Step-by-step
Surviving the Coronavirus crisis wouldn’t be possible without a solid action plan and dedication until the end. We are not going to lie - this won’t be easy, but with the right mindset and guidance, your business will be able to withstand the storm and prepare for the new day. It should be already clear that there won’t be a typical high season in Bali this year. However, this is not the time to lose hope. We have gathered some essential objectives which hotels, resorts and villas and Bali need to pay attention to:
1.) Minimize your loss as much as possible
Some of the properties that are still open will be welcoming a few tourists who have decided to quarantine in Bali, as well as expats living here. Although this is likely far from your usual capacity, there is yet a chance at boosting the overall revenue. How?
By maximizing your existing guests’ expenditure. There are a few ways to do it. For a start, you can try to encourage them to stay for longer than planned by making a good discount offer if they book more days. Offering extra services that add value to their time with you is a great way to keep them satisfied while not being able to go outside. Regardless if you’re a small, boutique or luxury hotel - the main idea here is to use the current situation of social distancing to your advantage. Your guests will likely be staying inside the property all the time - so why not make it beneficial for both sides?
On the other hand, you will have to deal with a huge amount of cancellations. Try to convince your clients to postpone their stay dates rather than cancelling completely. Provide flexible terms and extend the period of re-booking options if you can do so from a financial side, while also explaining why their decision matters so much in such difficult times for the industry. This will definitely ensure that when travel is back to normal again, you will have guests to welcome to your hotel, villa or resort!
2.) Lower your business costs
Cutting unnecessary expenses is absolutely essential in this situation! For this matter you definitely know better where to cut from and what essentials to support, since you have an overview of your business’s performance. In general you can start with closing down parts of your property which are currently unpopulated, such as F&B outlets, gyms, etc., in order to reduce both energy and salary costs. Or you can try to re-purpose these spaces instead and turn your focus on your local area. For example, you can turn your traditional restaurant into a takeout service while keeping the social distancing requirements, just like St Regis, Hyatt Regency and others.
Although it’s a painful situation for your staff, you’ll most likely be pressured to cut down on salaries since there is barely any income at this moment. However, instead of completely laying employees off, a better approach might be to simply switch to hourly wages and a part-time contract. This way you will efficiently reduce your labour costs, while at the same time take care of your staff members by saving their job.
You might’ve tightened the belt when it comes to your major costs, but you may be forgetting all the extra smaller ones. A lot of subscription-based services and products are probably still being subtracted from your bank account as we speak. Especially if you’ve closed your property temporarily, it makes no sense to keep paying for these services - simply unsubscribe for a while.
3.) Have clear communication
Are you taking the necessary safety measures and trying your best to ensure the wellbeing of your guests?
Then communicate it clearly!
How else would current and potential guests know that you’re sterilising the property surfaces and rooms, keeping a sparkling hygiene in the restaurant, and measuring all your team members' temperature every morning? It’s essential to personally assure guests about all the effort you’re dedicating to keeping your hotel, villa or resort safe for them.
NOTE: only mention what you’re actually doing! Never spread false information - the COVID-19 is a serious issue, and if you’re not able to provide guests with a risk-free environment, do not pretend that you are taking the safety measures. Honesty is key, and it’s a main principle of a serious business. Given the possibility, consulting a marketing agency for hotels would be beneficial when it comes to finding the right voice and communication approach.
4.) Develop new products, expand into a new market
Change is good! Why? Because it gets businesses thinking and makes them more creative. Yes, the COVID-19 crisis has taken a toll on hotels and villas all across Bali. However, these extreme conditions make for a creative environment. What type of a service or product do you have the capacity to develop right now that can be of use to people, obviously, in the future or get you into a new market? It’s time for some brainstorming, thinking out of the box, and getting inspired, instead of discouraged! If there’s a will - there’s a way.
5.) Become more sustainable
Given the possibility, a good practice would be to carry out a utility audit. What we mean by that is to have a look at your energy consumption at the property, such as HVAC, lighting, sensors, etc. There’s a good chance that you might discover malfunctions which require repair and are likely to be using up too much electricity. Now that your rooms are empty, getting these problems fixed is a good idea. Not only will you be doing your part in helping the environment, but you’ll also save some costs at a time when you need to be as efficient as possible. It’s a win-win situation.
Now the question is:
Are you currently setting concrete objectives and staying on track with them?
If not, now is the moment to start!
The current situation requires businesses to be more sensitive, highly involved and also creative when it comes to their communication strategies. Doing it all by yourself can be challenging, and many times overwhelming, especially in a time of crisis. Turn to those who have the professional capacity and are experts at branding for hotels: our digital marketing agency for hotels is here to give you a hand, create your personal digital strategy and prepare you for the bounce back. No empty promises, only concrete and fast results!
We completely understand the current economic situation in Bali, and we see the hospitality sector struggling. No matter what your marketing budget is (if it exists), you still wish to do your best at communicating with your guests. We at BRUT have developed a barter-based model of cooperation for hotels, villas and resorts, called ”Together Forward” . We are willing to help you today, so that we can all succeed tomorrow!
You can learn more by clicking here.
We understand that in their attempt to respond well to the current situation, businesses sometimes either overdo it or cannot find the right way to get their message across. This is rather common, and usually the hotel or resort is not to blame, since they are forced to adapt their marketing strategy to the conditions as fast as possible, meaning that they have limited time and resources for it. This is why mistakes like this one can happen. This is a pop-up from a hotel website that, given the current conditions, is quite out of place. Trying to get people to sign up for their membership at this moment iis rather irrelevant, for some people even insensitive, and it appears that the hotel didn’t update their website’s design.Not to mention that it most likely won’t produce any results.
What we suggest is to change the pop-up promo altogether, making it worth clicking for the people looking for their next vacation stay during these uncertain times. Simply changing the text and aim of the pop up can grab potential clients’ attention and encourage them to make that reservation. Here is how BRUT would do it:
Remember - although simple, details like this pop-up design can either make it or break it for you. Using the right visuals, words and tone to reach your audience online can be the difference between a new booking and a lost opportunity. This is why consulting a marketing agency to improve your hotel branding, such as BRUT is advisable. Now more than ever, people are sensitive to marketing and sales messages, and it’s important to keep that in mind when your hotel or resort is preparing its digital marketing strategy. Your business might as well need a rebranding strategy in order to face these challenges consistently & adequately.
Now that we’ve established that communication is not only important, but a MUST during a crisis, it’s time to determine what you should and shouldn’t do as a hotel, resort or villa manager in Bali. With adequate digital marketing for hotels, you can greatly contribute to the recovery of your business, and even push it further once travel restrictions are lifted and tourists start flying to the island again. However, in their attempt to do something about the Coronavirus situation, some make the common mistake of throwing insensitive messages around, which usually will lead to a negative reaction from your current and future clients. Since you’re already reading this article, you clearly don’t want to be on the losing side. For all of you who are not ready to give up, we’ve created a list of DO’s and DON’Ts in marketing during a pandemic. Here are our marketing ideas for hotels, resorts and villa branding:
1.) DO address the issue
First things first, let’s not pretend that this is not affecting you. At this point, people not only understand the severity of the situation, but they also appreciate the businesses’ honesty. Address the current situation across all of your social media channels, send out emails and don’t forget to also mention it on your website. When sharing the message, make sure to sound authentic and true to your intentions. Assure your guests that in case of any doubts, they can always contact you. If you are somehow helping the community out, don’t hesitate to add that as well. It’s fine to admit that you are struggling to cope at the moment - everyone is! This will win people’s sympathy and hopefully encourage them to re-book their stay with you. End your message on a positive note, and remind your guests that even if they had to cancel their vacation plans this year, you will make sure to provide them with a great experience soon!
2.) DO get creative
Desperate times require… creative measures! Even if you can’t provide past and future guests with an amazing stay at the Island of Gods due to the current circumstances, that doesn’t mean that your hotel or villa cannot share some entertaining content with them and lighten their mood. It’s time to let your staff members shine and show off your team’s talents, whether it’d be through food recipes or interesting blog posts. Your goal should be to provide people who are stuck at home with a fun hospitality experience, while at the same time demonstrate your brand’s character and values. Here are just some of the editorial content ideas that you can use for your hotel branding or resort’s online marketing:
Try to also get creative when it comes to your hotel’s mobile marketing, both in content and design, since people are now spending much more time on their phones.
3.) DO show compassion
Showing empathy by giving back is a great initiative which shows people that you truly care about the community. You might not have the means to donate during this crisis, however you have the power to start initiatives. Sending a simple message to guests who had to cancel their stay with you can have a big impact, such as “Help us to take care of those in need in Bali: for you it can be only 2 coffees - for them it’s their meals for a week”.
4.) DO demonstrate a flexible cancellation policy
You are losing profit, and that sucks, but try to put yourself in your guests’ shoes for a moment. They are also losing their vacation, and even worse - possibly their savings. Rather than charging your guests a fee, show solidarity by adjusting your cancellation policy for both current and future bookings preferably until the end of 2021. Provide them with an extended time frame to postpone their trip dates if necessary, and try to encourage new bookings by removing the payment in advance policy.
This will not only keep your good public image, but will also be praised by your guests, who will most likely share their experience on review websites, social media, and with their friends. Treat your clients with respect and generosity, and they will be the ones who will return to you after this crisis is over!
5.) DO create a long-term offer that will both benefit your customers and support your employees
As we progress into 2020, it is clear that the challenges aren’t over for the hospitality industry yet. This is why thinking long-term should be a priority. Coming up with mutually beneficial & flexible offers, such as “pay now, stay later” with the possibility for guests to flexibly choose their stay and reschedule as much as they need until 2022, or “pay for 2 nights, stay 3” by offering an extra free night to guests, are what will give you the opportunity to generate some income today and support your staff members during these financially hard times.
6.) DO stay connected to your guests via email marketing
Starting one of the creative initiatives that we’ve already suggested above? Don’t let your past and loyalty guests miss out on it! Crafting an engaging email is the way to go if you want to increase your build awareness and popularise your fun content. For those who want to go the extra mile, and have the capacity to do so, you can encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, which will provide them with valuable content. With your hotel’s email marketing you will be building brand loyalty and inspiring people to re-book with you one day.
However, beware that emails that aim to take advantage of the situation by trying to just sell rather than add value will be met with irritation and possibly even anger. Be mindful about the tone of voice and choice of words, since this is a sensitive topic still. A marketing agency can guide your hotel through the process of finding the right communication tools.
7.) DO re-evaluate your marketing strategy
You were too busy before to sit down and assess your digital strategy? Well, no more excuses! If anything, now you have plenty of time to analyse your so-far efforts and initiatives, as well as focus on what are your goals for the near future. Maybe there’s a cool idea that you wanted to implement, but never had the chance to; or you saw the need to improve your social media presence, but wasn’t sure where to start from. While travel is on pause, It’s needed to update the marketing strategy for villas and hotels as marketing will change and you have to adopt and prepare your resort, villa or hotel branding strategy for future success. Now is the perfect moment to bring your brand’s digital marketing to the next level, as well as review your website functionality and improve your designs!
8.) DO focus on Inbound Marketing
This innovative marketing approach, where instead of fighting for potential customers’ attention you are providing people with useful solutions, should definitely be considered! Developing a new effective inbound marketing strategy will help your hotel receive qualified leads and increase conversion rates. The key is to switch to being buyer-centric by adjusting your marketing and sales efforts to what they really need and want.
Attract, engage, delight: 3 stages leading to strong brand trust and credibility.
9.) DO listen to your Brand Heart
Last, but not least - listen to your brand’s heart for some guidance. This can be your compass for navigating through times like these, when you need to remind people what you stand for, and how that reflects in your attitude towards the COVID-19 crisis. Use your brand voice to share your values, tell human stories, and express sympathy. The businesses who are recognized as authentic will be the ones to capture people’s attention and gain their trust, which is of essential value in the long-run.
1.) DON’T cancel all your marketing expenses
You still have some marketing budget left? Don’t freeze it just yet! Instead, invest smart. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, CPCs rates for most destinations are quite low, meaning that it’s a good time to spread general brand awareness by sending people to your website’s content. Keep in mind, however, that aggressive call-to-action and insensitive promotions are frowned upon, so make sure to spend money on metasearch platforms only if you have some added value to offer. Remarketing campaigns for specific visitors is an option too.
2.) DON’T neglect social media
If there’s a perfect time to use social media as a marketing weapon - it’s now! Even though you probably are already aware of the importance of social media for hotels and resorts, we will remind you once again how valuable it is for your business to connect with followers online, whether it’s via Instagram, Facebook or others. It’s no surprise that the time spent by people on their Facebook, Instagram, etc. accounts has been growing over the social distancing period. This is why now is your chance to “meet” past and future clients where they’re mostly spending their time today - on their phones. Remarketing campaigns should work here too.
For a start, begin to engage with your past guests who follow you on social media by asking them to share their favourite pictures of their previous stay with you, for example, and create a contest where you can feature the best photos on your profile. Then, take it one step further and create a series of fun workshops, destination info, tips and tutorials, such as the ones we already mentioned earlier. You should get super creative and come up with numerous ideas which will both add value to others, and bring attention to your business in Bali.
3.) DON’T forget to be price-sensitive
We are sure that you know best which direction to choose for your business. However, If you aim to win the “price game”, go for it, but beware - you need to decide on what your goal is at the moment. You also need to determine what price strategy is the most suitable, given your current resources. For some hotels and resorts, added value for their guests would be a better option, such as extra nights for free, or a complimentary breakfast and dinner. Get creative and be generous!
4.) DON’T forget to update your website and social media profiles
This is something that you might not even think of when it comes to your communication, nonetheless it is easy to fix and would definitely get noticed. We’re talking about your website’s imagery.
When people open your website right now, what do they see?
Is it a picture of a bustling restaurant and crowded lobby, or a busy gym and pool area? Also, are people in these pictures in close proximity and inside of closed spaces? Change the current buzzing imagery with more open spaces and quiet surroundings. If you are located in one of Bali’s more isolated areas, make sure to point that out on your opening page. Pay attention to your hotel’s Instagram and Facebook current marketing and how you need to change it. The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic will be felt even after the crisis is over, and it is expected that in the next year-two people will be rather cautious when it comes to travelling. This is why it’s important to demonstrate why your hotel, resort or villa is a place that they would choose for their vacation and yet feel safe there, and redesigning helps greatly with this.
5.) DON’T give up on the guests who cancelled so easily
Many people are going to cancel their reservations, regardless of your amazing cancellation policy, and that has everything to do with the current uncertainty. However, don’t give up on them just yet! If you already use CRM and its developed and setup properly, in the future you can easily send personalised promos, depending on their category, once borders are open.
If you haven't used it yet (OMG), create an email addresses list and put every single cancelled booking in a category, such as couples, business travellers, etc. This will help you to craft personalized promo messages later on. When the situation begins to recuperate, you can begin with encouraging the same people to re-book, by offering them extra perks and complimentary services. Let them know that you are still keeping them in mind, and that you would love to have them this time. A tempting offer such as a -10/20% discount on their next stay won’t go unnoticed, that’s for sure!
Expectantly our marketing ideas in this case study will help your hotel, resort or villa navigate through the crisis. From all that we’ve discussed so far, it is clear that adequate and smart marketing in times of the COVID-19 virus will earn you a great competitive advantage and help you recover in the long-term. It is also a part of the crisis management measures you should be implementing, along with reducing your costs and having clear communication. What we’ve covered in this Case Study is only the tip of the iceberg: digital marketing for hotels allows you to reach your audience worldwide, connect and engage with them in various ways. Now is not the time to rest, but on the contrary, you should be increasing your brand awareness, communicating well with guests and most importantly - leaving a memorable impression on them.
Digital experts at our marketing agency will make sure to kick it off with a carefully prepared marketing action plan, and get you through the implementation strategy step-by-step. Let’s turn this global crisis into a business opportunity - together!