Smart Ways to Use Data to Generate Bookings During a Downturn
At TravelNet Solutions, we realize the seriousness of the current Coronavirus pandemic for the travel industry. There are practical ways you can prepare your business for what’s happening right now and in the near future. Here are five ways to be prepared and have a plan of action.
- Have a Plan and Clearly Define Your Cancellation Policies
- Have an Internal Plan of Action / HR Plan and Communicate with Staff
- Proactively Communicate with Your Customers/Guests
- Drive Your Marketing Efforts in Locations That Are Still Converting
- Don’t Stop Advertising
Have a Plan and Clearly Define Your Cancellation Policies
With a lot of uncertainty, it’s vital that you clearly define your cancelation policies. A significant barrier as to why someone might not book with you is that they’re worried that they’ll lose out on money if they cancel. By having a clear cancellation policy, you can give confidence to potential guests and increase your bookings. You may need to change your cancellation policies for the time being to ease concerns.
One of the first hard-hit industries during the pandemic was the cruise industry. With this example, you can clearly see they advertise their policy, and there is little room left for confusion. In this case, they don’t offer a refund but do offer a credit. The policy is clear and upfront to the traveler and gives the customer some much-needed flexibility.
Have an Internal Plan of Action and Communicate with Staff
By now, you more-than-likely have received numerous questions from your current staff members. They must know every detail of your plan of action and changes to the policy. Your staff are the ones on the front line and are the individuals communicating with customers directly. It’s also essential that you have an internal plan if someone on your staff does become sick. You should define the changes being made to the policy, how to prevent employees from getting sick, and what to do if they do get sick. Make sure your plan of action is clear to the staff members and allow them to ask questions.
Proactively Communicate with Customers and Guests
Make sure you proactively communicate with each of your guests when it’s necessary as much-needed updates will keep questions answered. Not only will this save you time over the long run, but there will be fewer questions to respond to overall. Many of you have received emails from businesses or sent out emails to your database. Make sure travelers know your policies and give them some clarity on your plan of action and policies.
Using your websites to communicate with guests is strongly advised. Here’s an example from the cruise industry on how to minimize your risk. You should always be using your website as a resource for your guests.
Here’s another example from Hilton on how to get the word out by using a pop-up.
Doug Kennedy recently published an article on how your front desk and reservation agents can respond to guest comments and questions. Luckily for you, if you’re using TRACK Pulse you can document these comments and questions when the travelers call. Read Doug Kennedy’s article here.
Drive Your Marketing Efforts in Locations That Are Still Converting
As you are aware, there have been a lot of cancelations and reduced bookings with the current uncertainty, along with many people feeling inclined to travel shorter distances. With our clients, we look at where the conversions and bookings are still happening. A lot of the markets that our clients are in are drive-to markets. With fewer people flying, we’re focusing on our campaigns to the nearby areas.
If you’re in that situation, and you have TRACK Pulse or Google Analytics, you can run a geo-marketing report and see where bookings are coming from. With that information, you can adjust your marketing to the areas that convert. This will allow you to feel comfortable slowing down your spending in other areas that may not require specific attention at this time.
Don’t Stop Advertising
To date, there’s a variety of data showing companies that advertise during a slowdown typically are better off when the downturn stops than those that don’t. This article from Forbes gives specific reasons why you should continue to advertise. Here’s a few takeaways from the article:
- Fewer companies are advertising, and you can get higher search value
- You can project the image of stability during a time of uncertainty
- The cost of advertising drops which will save you money overall
- You don’t lose share of mind during the slowdown
Overall, make sure you don’t completely stop advertising and make sure you do it thoughtfully. You’ll want to use data to make the most out of your advertising dollars, which will save you money in the end. Lastly, don’t panic, and make sure that you have a clear plan of action going forward.