David Greenberg is the Chief Marketing Officer at Act-On Software with more than 20 years of marketing leadership experience.
The holiday season is upon us, and consumers and marketers alike are going full steam ahead in their planning as they prepare for the annual end-of-year frenzy. According to a survey from The Vacationer, 27% of respondents reported that they plan to travel for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa in 2021. Some of those travelers will likely be staying in hotels.
As hotels prepare for their guests this holiday season, they can communicate in new, exciting and informative ways throughout a guest’s stay. From check-in to checkout, hotels should communicate with guests to ensure they feel safe, optimize their experience and nurture relationships.
Before The Stay: Setting Expectations
As holiday travelers make their packing lists and check them twice, they’ll likely be wondering about the hotel’s Covid-19 policies and protocols. Will masks be required in public spaces? How does social distancing work at the front desk? Is the restaurant open? Of course, guests can probably find answers to these questions online, but as the CMO of a company that offers a growth marketing automation platform, I recommend that hotels save guests time and hassle by preemptively addressing these topics.
If guests opted in to email communications when they booked their reservations, marketers can add them to campaigns that share helpful information with guests in the days leading up to check-in. These emails might include messaging on Covid-19 protocols, check-in times, room upgrade availability or any other information that helps set expectations. What’s more, they should leverage behavioral data — the guest’s pattern of digital engagement with channels like emails and the hotel website — to ensure the content is hyper-relevant and personalized to each individual recipient. Nobody enjoys batch-and-blast emails that read like spam, so hotels should leverage the data they have on customers to engage them with customized communications.
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With all the uncertainty and jitters that come with traveling during the pandemic, hotels can give guests some much-needed assurance before they even check in. By proactively communicating their safety measures in their email campaigns, hotels can help ensure that guests feel confident and safe as they step into the lobby for the first time.
During The Stay: Adding Value With Proactive SMS Communication
Once guests are comfortably settled after check-in, hotels have a tremendous opportunity to add value to the experience and boost customer loyalty. They can continue to send relevant communications via email, but an even faster way to engage is through an SMS campaign.
If guests have opted in to SMS communications, hotels can send them lightning-fast, timely messages like personalized alerts or special offers. For instance, maybe the hotel bar is whipping up a limited-time holiday cocktail with seasonal ingredients and garnishes. The hotel can send a quick text message to alert guests about the special offer and showcase one of the hotel’s many amenities.
Because many people spend a lot of time on their phones, it’s easy to see why hotels should incorporate text messages in their marketing campaigns. They can send customers quick, informal alerts about anything from housekeeping schedules to unexpected snow storms — all of which can enhance the customer experience and deepen brand engagement. As hotels enthusiastically welcome the return of holiday travel, they should work to keep guests informed and add value to their stay.
At Checkout: Keeping Guests Coming Back For More
Wrapping up a vacation can be stressful, especially around the holidays. Travelers already have plenty to worry about between making bad-weather contingency plans and cramming all of their new holiday sweaters in their suitcases. Hotels should be doing everything they can to end guest stays smoothly and get them excited for their next trip.
As the end-of-vacation blues set in, hotels can send friendly reminder messages to guests with helpful information like checkout times, airport shuttle schedules and even flight departure information. These personalized reminders can be supremely useful to guests but don’t require a heavy lift from hotels.
Hotels can also get guests excited about their next vacation, perhaps by sending an email after checkout with recommendations on where to travel next, a list of other hotel locations or a limited-time discount if they book hotel rooms far in advance. These personalized touchpoints prolong the customer-brand engagement and signal to the guest that the hotel cares about their experience and appreciates their business. Guests may not need any help looking forward to their next vacation, but they could become repeat customers if their hotel delivers timely, personalized communications throughout their stay that enhance their overall experience.
Takeaway: There’s No Place Like Hotels For The Holidays
With the holidays fast approaching, hotels should herald their guests with helpful communications. Whether it’s by providing assurance around Covid-19 protocols, showcasing the hotel’s services and amenities, or building excitement for next year’s vacation, hotels can take customer service to the next level. This holiday season, hotels should give travelers the gift of resonant, personalized engagement.