Connecting With Travelers in a Post-COVID Marketplace

By Kathleen A. Cullen, Senior Vice President, PHG Consulting

In the short to medium term, most demand likely will come from domestic travel, which means that hotels will be going after a smaller piece of the pie or finding new regional demographics to target. Creativity and connections with the local community and smaller businesses will help create improved value propositions and programming that is unique but also locally inspired. Hotels in secondary or tertiary locations actually might see more activity and interest because they are farther out from primary markets and offer larger spaces.

The following highlights some marketing tactics your hotels should consider preparing in advance. The key to all messaging will be to highlight health, safety, and sanitation:


  • Be ready with drive-market and staycation messaging, including:
    • Geotarget investments to focus on the drive market.
    • Consider including free parking or offering gas gift cards or credits.
    • Social media is a great way to reach a targeted (and potentially local) audience for your hotel.
    • Work with your digital agency to align paid search to target the drive market and keywords related to your specific locations and activities.
  • Travelers may research for a longer time before they are comfortable booking travel. Consider expanding retargeting criteria to allow a broader timeframe.
    • Make the most of loyalty programs and your guest profile database. Prepare specific messaging and unique offers to these guests. Communicating private offers directly to them avoids disruption of publicly available retail offers, including:
    • Think creatively about how to engage with past guests or loyal guests. Those who are part of a loyalty program or who have stayed multiple times are people who already have shown they like staying at the hotel. They are typically resilient travelers who want recognition more than they want a deal. Offer an incentive to join your loyalty program — for example, consider waiving resort or urban fees.
    • Reach out to those guests who had to cancel and invite them back.
    • Reach out to those who may have called for information but did not book; a recommended best practice is to track this information if you are not doing this already.
    • Those who missed milestone celebrations will be eager to celebrate with friends and family. Think about packages geared toward various celebrations.
  • Think creatively about the use of physical space. Can you use it in a transformative way? Meeting space likely will not be occupied as it was previously, so what are some other opportunities that may be of interest to your local market and guests? A popup farmers market? A collection of boutiques?
  • Consider the various methods of transportation to get to your hotel and identify strategies to work with them. Can you partner with a train company? Likewise, airlift for destination markets will be key. Work with local airport authorities to get air routes back.

Excerpted from New Rules to Be Market Ready, by Kathleen A. Cullen, a new white paper available from HSMAI and PHG Consulting. For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles