Travel might not be quite back to pre-pandemic levels yet, but it’s getting there – especially for leisure travel.
Key metrics in the hotel industry are expected to return to 2019 levels either later this year or in 2023, according to the latest data from Lodging Analytics Research & Consulting.
The firm expects one important metric – revenue per available room, or RevPAR, to increase more than 18% during 2022.
For hotel marketers, this is obviously welcome news. It’s also an impetus to make sure your brand is doing everything it can to capture its share of the return-to-travel market. Email campaigns will undoubtedly play a vital role in your strategy.
But even if we’re approaching pre-pandemic travel levels, you’re not communicating with time travelers from 2019. Travel has changed, at least in the short term if not permanently, and so should your messaging.
Here are three ideas about how to reconnect with people to ensure your hotels are part of their revitalized plans in the new era of travel.
1. Cater to travel nostalgia
Experienced online marketers are familiar with retention and reactivation campaigns, and past work can inform today’s campaigns.
But these aren’t your typical lapsed customers who were wooed away by a competitor. Many people simply haven’t traveled at all during the past two years, or they have done so without staying in traditional hotels.
Your emails should not only remind them that you’re still here, but why they loved staying with you – and why they loved travel in general – in the first place. Your goal is to make them remember what they’ve been missing.
This isn’t the time for a generic “Our brand is great” message, per se. Intead, tap into the emotional reasons why people liked staying with you in the first place: great beds with luxury pillows and linens, room service, majestic views, a shower big enough to live in – you get the idea.
The details are up to you based on your brands and data, but the idea here is to be human: fun, romantic, experiential. Something as simple as turndown service or an in-room spa treatment could be just the thing to pique someone’s pent-up travel interest.
2. Pump up the staycation experience
Here’s one advantage hotel brands have over other travel providers: Your loyal customers don’t necessarily need to go far to reconnect with you. Many people may be ready to spend a weekend in a nice hotel – but not as enthusiastic about air or cruise travel quite yet, for example.
Staycations are a wonderful middle ground for people ready to get back to leisure travel, but who don’t want to go too far from home to do so.
Create offers and campaigns geared toward people staying in (or near) their home city or state. Words like “recharge” and “refresh” can be key: whether someone’s looking for a romantic couple’s weekend without the kids, or a change of scenery from their home office, or a night out (and late checkout) with old friends, the staycation experience is an enormous opportunity for hotel marketers.
Emphasize the features of your properties that locals might find compelling, whether you’re showcasing great spaces for people working remotely, on-site amenities like a spa or pool, or tie-ins to area events.
Your emails can land with even more impact when paired with enticing offers, such as bonus loyalty points for local stays or a credit for a future stay in a different city.
3. Show customers you haven’t forgotten them as individuals
Finally, hotel marketers need to remember: you still have troves of valuable data to help you make things personal for returning customers. Email is a great way to remind them that you remember them – and their preferences.
Whether that’s a high floor, a preferred amenity, a special request, or just a particular cocktail at the hotel bar – you can remind them it’s all still here and you still get the details exactly right.
It’s a powerful way of reconnecting with people after such a massive disruption to normal travel habits: I haven’t been there in two or three years and they still remember me.
Don’t forget that your competitors have the same fundamental goal here: capturing the renewed surge in travel. Personalization will absolutely be one of the differentiators. If your competitors are doing it, you need to be doing it, too. And if they’re not doing it, making things personal for people will mean you stand out from the other options.
The best part about each of these ideas is their attainability. Technology is great, but you don’t necessarily need a bleeding-edge martech stack to do this now. You need the data and you need the content, including images. You also need to be able to access and pull from that data and relevant content. And that’s really it.
People are beyond ready to get back out there, and hotels are uniquely positioned to capture that interest. Make sure you can say the same about your emails.
About the author...
Jeff Haws is a senior manager at MessageGears