How to adapt your hotel sales strategy to COVID-19

Some points to keep in mind to adapt your business to these uncertain times
Cesar Alvarez
Cesar Alvarez


Surf nomad

Roaming the globe with a surfboard and a laptop, crafting digital stories that ride the wave of surfing culture.

Hello Hoteliers,

We are all observing the daily evolution of the coronavirus which took us by surprise, and which is having a huge impact on our lives, the economy in general, and especially our hotel industry. I believe that as the days go by, we are all imagining the possible different scenarios, and speculating on how we (the hotel industry), will adapt to this new market situation, and what travelling will be like once COVID-19 has passed through. 

It is certain that this situation will come to an end, sooner rather than later we hope, and that travellers will start to move again. In fact, we have information on how the sector will start to recover in countries that are starting to come out of quarantine, such as is the case in China, you can see that the stream of travellers is starting to get back to normal, and that hotels start functioning slowly, working mainly with national tourism due to the travel restrictions in the majority of countries in the world at this time.

Along with us, our potential clients are conscious that this crisis will have an expiry date, and that soon we can start to travel safely again with increased enthusiasm. According to various studies, 50% of travellers confirm that they have no desire to change the destinations that they had in mind for their next trip, which means that our potential clients are still thinking about us and our destinations. For this reason, it is essential and very important to keep this “flame burning”, developing a good marketing campaign so that they keep thinking about us and their next holiday, just like I outlined in my other article on the subject: Hospitality Marketing during COVID-19

I am writing this post to you in order to share some ideas with you all, which may help you to develop your sales strategy given the circumstances. I will start by highlighting some recommendations which we all know about, in order to put into context what, as a rule, the majority of hotel professionals are putting into practice at this time.

  1. Diversify segmentation of the demand, in order to reach a greater number of potential clients.
  2. Start working with new channels to gain visibility, and in this way increase sales options and possibilities.
  3. Make reservation policies more flexible, getting rid of non-refundable rates and making it easier to cancel.
  4. Redefine rates for what is left of 2020, observing the evolution of the market and your competitors.
  5. Encourage clients who had bookings and couldn’t use them to postpone their trip rather than cancelling.
  6. Prepare promotions for domestic travel, which has all the signs for being the first to get going again (“Staycation” packages).
  7. Reinvent services or lines of business to keep income coming in, such as is the case in hotels which have converted their restaurants into home delivery services (ghost restaurants).

Incidentally, the “Staycation” formula is of great interest to me and I think it deserves to be explained with more depth in order to get the most out of this concept. As many international experts would confirm, it is logical to think that domestic tourism will be the first to start functioning for two main reasons: prohibitions on travel to other countries, and fear of the majority of the population of travelling to other destinations where the virus has been more widespread, as the traveller is still very sensitive after what they have experienced during their confinement.

I would like to emphasise that the “Staycation” concept encompasses many lines of action to generate sales, and is not only focused on clients from other cities in our country, but also helps to maximise activities for inhabitants from our own city and surroundings. We mustn’t forget that after having been “shut-in” home, we will all have a great need to get outside, rediscover and enjoy our surroundings again, definitely through new eyes.

I will outline various options for you applicable for the development of a “Staycation”:

  1. Promote our extra hotel services to attract “non-guests”: F&B, Events, Spa, Coworking, …
  2. Launch proposals to local businesses to organise their meetings in our hotel conference rooms.
  3. Organise experience packages to rediscover the surroundings, using an attractive hook: lower volume of foreign tourists = less overcrowding.
  4. Offer accommodation only, or with extra activities, initially concentrating on domestic tourism in our country, starting with the closest cities.

And yes we all agree, you need to do all this, but what can we do now to generate inexistent sales due to the uncertainty about events? We all urgently need revenue to fill the coffers in our properties.

Here is my proposal for the holiday sector:

Prepare a powerful and irresistible offer, that surpasses anything you have ever done, an exclusive, unique offer, temporary and circumstantial, and sufficiently attractive so that our potential clients won’t want to miss out on the opportunity and buy it now. Of course, the proposal/offer will carry some conditions that will also make it interesting for us, that’s to say it will be an action which will benefit both parties: us hoteliers will get bookings/income during these difficult times when our sales have fallen, ensuring a percentage of the total payment of a non-refundable booking, and clients will get more than they expected (and were used to), during a period of time with dates so widespread and flexible, that they will be 100% guaranteed to use it (expiry at the end of 2021 for example).

To successfully develop this strategy this is fundamental: 

  • Although it is obvious and we just mentioned it above, create an irresistible promotion.  My proposal is not to create discounts, so as not to cannibalize the market in your area, rather it is much better to add elements with greater impact, for the value that they have and their contribution to the experience they will have when enjoying them, instead of any excessive discount in price. 
  • Correctly choose communication channels so as not to lose economic resources in actions which will not have the expected results, and to guarantee yourself that your clients and potential clients are going to see your promotion. The following seems the best solution for me:
  1. Email marketing campaign to your database, a good newsletter is probably the best option. Those who have already been your customers, who know you, and repeat customers especially, are the best candidates to buy from you again.
  2. Social media campaign, currently the entire world is spending more time than ever on social networks, therefore this is one of the best modern day showcases.
  • Choose very carefully your target audience: your target. This is the most complicated part as it requires a constant (daily) following of the evolution of the virus in each country. It can be assumed that once the curve of contagions starts to drop, the curve of intention to buy will go up, as people will see that total recovery is close.
  • Analyse the countries where the impact of COVID-19 is less and they haven’t lost the buying mentality, due to their perception of the situation being much less serious than the others. In short, keep an eye on the emotional wellbeing levels of your potential clients during this time. 
  • Handle timings very well, this is vital, following on from everything mentioned in the previous point, you must be super reactive to be able to launch the campaigns as quickly as possible according to the target, being very dynamic in order to constantly adapt to the circumstances.
  • Launch the message, adapted to each channel, with a good copy and/or storytelling in the messages; they should be messages which go straight to the heart of potential clients. Get them to fall in love with both the promotion and the sensitivity transmitted in the messages. You will get them to participate in some way, in helping you and your business.

Ok, I hope that these thoughts are interesting and inspiring for you to develop your sales strategy in these troubled times in which we are living. I am at your disposal to expand information on the matter and happy to discuss ideas, strategies, thoughts and concerns with whoever is interested.

Best wishes and stay strong, in no time at all we will be back to normal.

Bruno Muchada. Swell Consulting | Surf & Hospitality Lab