4 Steps to Plan for a Second Wave of COVID-19 (Or Any Other Crisis)
- Posted by Mandy Muszynski
- On April 30, 2020
Updated June 29, 2020
The first wave of COVID-19 has yet to subside, but here at Screen Pilot, we already have our minds on a possible second wave of the virus. As state and local governments plan to loosen stay-at-home restrictions, it’s possible that the virus will get another wind in the states that do re-open, if not across the entire country. Experts are also predicting a possible resurgence of the virus in fall and winter.
Government reports and even domestic aviation prediction models forecast the possibility of a second wave, which would only exacerbate the growing recession and waning consumer confidence brought on by the first wave of the pandemic.
Hotels and resorts will need to financially prepare for a second wave. But they’ll also need to rebuild their brands to sustain a second hit better than they withstood the first. COVID-19 was blindsiding in March. But as the adage goes, fool me once, shame on you. But fool me twice…let’s not let that happen.
Prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19 with the following four brand-building recommendations.
Prioritize Guest Loyalty
Once travel restrictions ease, it will be tempting to shout your offers from the rooftops. Take care to do so strategically.
Bain & Company analyzed the power of customer loyalty following the Great Recession of 2008 and found:
“New customers attracted only by lower prices often fail to buy more when prices recover,” whereas “loyal customers cost less to serve. They typically concentrate more spending with companies they trust. Their referrals to friends can lay the foundation for growth when the economy rebounds.”
That’s why, second to revenue, loyalty should be the overarching goal of your business if not now, then certainly after the first wave of COVID-19 comes to a close. Should a second phase arise, your most loyal customers are those that will help you weather that wave and rebound once it passes.
Avoid chasing revenues, wrote Bain & Company. Instead, they (and we agree!) recommend that you understand how your customers’ needs have changed, how you can serve these new needs, and adjust your positioning to keep your prospective guests front and center.
Go above and beyond to serve them better than any other resort or hotel can. If you mobilize your guests in this way, you’ll have their support through this crisis and any others. This is exactly what you’ll need as you work to recover revenues.
Housekeeping has always been on the long list of guest expectations. But coronavirus catapulted it to the top of the list for guests around the world. Hotels and resorts must take responsibility for not only guest health and safety, but also for restoring consumer confidence in travel. This is no easy task.
Walk through every facet of the guest experience so that you know which surfaces must be sanitized, which spaces must be adapted to social distancing, and how best to apply those CDC/WHO recommendations to your hotel or resort. Make note of how your new policies and procedures will affect the guest experience. Determine how the guest experience must evolve and document that for prospective guests so there will be no surprises once they step foot on your property.
Once your new policies are in place? Maintain and even evolve them as you learn more post re-opening. Continuing to practice what you preach will speak volumes to guests, especially if coronavirus does have a resurgence. Consistency and integrity are key in winning and keeping guest trust.
Analyze Your Audiences
Before you can build loyalty, you first need to understand which audience groups to focus on. Resist painting in broad strokes as the needs of every audience are different—travelers who miss their families have very different needs than stir crazy couples planning a road trip.
Not to mention your target audiences are likely one of many things that COVID-19 has changed, at least in the short term. Domestic aviation is in trouble and road trips are on the rise, which means your most valuable—and attainable—markets might shift.
Start by analyzing your shopping windows, especially as state and local governments make pandemic announcements. Our data shows that travel intent corresponds with COVID-19 breaking news. Your shopping windows will likely follow suit.
Consider also breaking down your shopping windows by state. You can determine which states are shopping for travel during which periods of time. These are valuable charts when it comes to planning both targeting and messaging for paid media. Consider developing landing pages per audience segment so you can utilize those insights at every touch point.
Set-in-stone bookings are a thing of the past. Consumer confidence has hit a nine-year low and it may not pick back up in the near future. You may not be able to fix this confidence crisis in its entirety through flexible and human-forward policies. But you will reassure guests that in the midst of turmoil, you are looking out for their best interest.
Implement flexible cancellation and rescheduling policies in the short term, if not for the long haul. Widely publicize these policies so any guest considering a stay at your hotel or resort will come across your updated terms. Don’t promote cancellations, per se, but make sure guests know that their booking can evolve should circumstances change again.
Health and safety will also continue to be a huge part of bolstering consumer confidence. Revamp not only your housekeeping procedures but also your policies for cleaning common spaces, and ensure that this new information is easily accessible. Travelers will feel safer if they know you’re going above and beyond to protect their health.
It’s not enough to plan ahead. If the first wave taught the hospitality industry anything, it’s that having very little cash on-hand is debilitating should you have to cease operations. Ad Age reported that brands who keep spending during a downturn fare better in the long run. Earmark some ad spend now should COVID-19 strike again.
Track ad costs before and during this first wave of COVID-19 to estimate what is reasonable for you to spend should a second wave arise. Our CPC charts show that ad costs are at historic lows, and this pattern would likely repeat if COVID-19 does flair up again. While you won’t need to spend at full budgets, you will want to keep your ads in the game so that you can continue to control your own share of voice as well as make use of valuable auction insights.
Reserving funds will also help you get ahead on social media platforms. SocialMediaToday reported that all social media sites have seen an increase in usage and engagement following social distancing restrictions and people are spending 20% more time in apps. Set aside some media budget so you can continue to get in front of these consumers as many are probably travel junkies looking for inspiration.
Once the Second Wave Hits
When we recover from the first wave of COVID-19, many analysts expect the cost of social and search to skyrocket. When the second wave hits, if OTAs lower budgets, this may be your hotel’s last chance to take advantage of lower CPCs and CPMs before they increase again. If possible, keep your campaigns live during the second wave knowing that users are still searching and the costs are as low as they’ll likely be for a long time. Continue to message about cleanliness and be transparent with your guests.
The overall goal is to be prepared—take your learnings from this first wave and apply them to the second wave, if/when it happens. We don’t know what a second wave will look like, and we of course hope there isn’t one, but being prepared now will hopefully alleviate some of the trouble later.
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