Throughout 2020, we’ve been in uncharted territory as Covid-19 has ravaged the travel and hospitality sectors. While the government and health officials may advise citizens on how to deal with the virus, there are still a huge number of unanswered questions facing hotels and B&B businesses as we move into the future.
What we can say for certain is that ‘business as usual’ is not an option for hotels and B&Bs anywhere in the UK, and around the world. According to Home Office statistics, in the second quarter of 2020 (April to June), there was a 97% decrease in passenger arrivals to the UK compared with the same period in 2019. People are cautiously adapting to restrictions on movement and travel, and the ripple effect of those restrictions affects hotels and B&Bs up and down the country.
(Latest statistics from Statista regarding trends in the UK hotel industry.)
But it’s not all gloom. While consumer trends towards travel and vacation are changing due to Covid-19, the hotel industry can still survive by adapting to these changes, and embracing out-of-the-box ideas to cater to a new generation of consumer mentality.
In this marketing guide, you’ll find a variety of ideas and inspiration. This includes everything from embracing online innovation to offering your customers discounts and flexible cancellation policies. Continue reading to explore ideas that will help your hotel or B&B transition successfully into a post Covid-19 world.
As of October 12th 2020, VisitBritain has forecast an overall 74% decline in international visits to the UK. UK residents are also reluctant to travel outside of the UK, with 24% of respondents to a survey not expecting to travel abroad until summer 2021, and another 24% not expecting to travel internationally at all.
While the early forecasts for international travel do not bode well, UK residents are still interested in the prospect of domestic travel. 43% of UK respondents felt that the pandemic had not affected their decision to vacation domestically. Indeed, Google trends shows an increase in search terms related to ‘holiday in the UK’, and ‘staycation UK’, with the search terms starting to rise after the lockdown period in March, and peaking over the summer months.
(Google trends graph showing the increase in search terms related to ‘staycation UK’.)
As a hotel or B&B owner, you should have a vested interest in realigning your marketing strategy to mainly target UK residents.
And don’t just stop there – think about your local community too. You not only want to promote to a UK-wide audience, but to potential customers within your own town, borough or county.
But why market to your local community?
The concept of taking a staycation close to, or within your own town, has been gaining popularity over the last five years. The definition of staycation can mean to travel within your own country, or as granular as staying home, but engaging in vacation-like activities within your own town or city to simulate the feeling of a vacation abroad.
Now, more than ever, there are many reasons why the idea of a staycation has become an attractive option for hopeful tourists in 2020.
With the threat of harsher local restrictions coming into place, comes the uncertainty of booking a holiday that either requires you to use transport, or to drive many hours in a car. No one wants to book a holiday halfway across the UK, only to realise on the eve of said holiday that you can no longer travel outside of your town because local restrictions have suddenly tightened.
Another factor to consider is the allure of simply spending a few nights away from your own house or apartment without having to worry about travelling too far. After already spending weeks during lockdown confined inside with little-to-no social interaction, it’s understandable for some people to feel stir-crazy, and want a change of scenery that breaks the monotony and gives a feeling of freedom and novelty, even if it means staying in a hotel or B&B not far from home.
(Taking a vacation closer to home is an appealing option for UK tourists in 2020.)
For the older generation and people having to shield, the comfort of staying close to what’s familiar and safe, and limiting travel time, can be an attractive option when deciding on a getaway. If you go above and beyond to cater to these people in your community, guaranteeing extra precautions and safety measures in your hotel or B&B, then you might be able to assuage their anxiety and fears about spending time away from home.
Don’t forget that one of the main advantages that small, family-run businesses have over huge hotel chains is intimacy with the local community. Marketing to your local community is also cost-effective, as there are a number of ways you can leverage your local knowledge and relationships to successfully promote your business.
How to market to your local community?
1. Launch local social media campaigns & recruit influencers
The social media boom has seen the rise of the so-called ‘social influencer’. These are people with a strong social media following and a loyal fan-base who are influenced by their behaviour.
While celebrity endorsements were traditionally limited to the rich and famous, platforms like Instagram and TikTok mean ordinary people can become influencers and can gather a strong local following.
Instead of forking out on expensive advertising campaigns, get yourself on social media and reach out to local influencers in your community who could endorse your brand. Invite them to enjoy a free night’s stay or perhaps an exclusive meal on the house. In return, you can ask them to post about their experience and use their social media channels to share your brand with their followers.
If you offer online bookings, you could also create discounted referral links. Influencers can share personalised links with their followers in exchange for a cash reward when they successfully refer a new customer.
@taramilktea is a social media influencer on Instagram that focuses on travel, promoting destinations and hotels. In this post she promotes a hotel on the outskirts of her hometown, Sydney.
You don’t have to simply rely on local influencers to promote your brand. Running geo-targeted campaigns on social media and PPC ads also puts the idea of a staycation at your hotel or B&B to the forefront of people’s minds, so your brand is constantly visible when potential customers browse the internet looking for holiday inspiration.
2. Offer exclusive discounts that only apply to locals
Consumers respond well to discounts and value for money, and implementing enticing discounts and/or loyalty schemes is a sure way to keep potential customers coming through your doors.
Especially at a time like now, where people might be facing job losses or a reduced income, offering reduced rates might be the difference between potential customers deciding to choose your hotel for their holiday rather than staying at home.
Launch exclusive discount offers that only apply to people in your town, borough or county - it will not only create a sense of community and gratitude, but convey the message that you stand by and support your local community no matter what.
These exclusive discounts also act as an incentive for customers to consider your accommodation, especially when the idea of taking a vacation closer to home wasn’t something they had previously considered or realised might be a good option.
3. Create value by partnering with local businesses
Like all hospitality businesses, many are feeling the strain of reduced footfall. With travel restrictions causing a drop in tourists, and workers now doing their jobs at home, town and city centres still remain quiet.
(Partner with local businesses to create discount packages for your guests.)
This is where you can leverage your local knowledge and relationships to create value for your customers. Partner with local businesses that you love, and create discount packages for guests to dine at certain restaurants or pubs in town. Why not also include packages for discounted tours or local attractions?
You can use these discounts at local businesses and attractions as an incentive for guest to choose your accommodation over a competitor’s.
4. Take to the streets
One of the most simple but effective local marketing tips for small businesses is taking to the streets with old-fashioned word of mouth advertisement.
While the Internet might seem like the be-all and end-all for marketing in today's tech-obsessed world, the old-school approach of mailing flyers or chatting to people passing by can be extremely successful.
Whether it’s something simple like using an A-board to promote special offers or investing in advertising space on a billboard, building brand awareness doesn’t need to involve sophisticated tech.
The important thing is to put yourself out there. Be bold, be brave and get people talking about your brand.
What’s the key takeaway here?
Of course, all of the above marketing ideas can be used to target a UK-wide audience, not just your local community – however, what we want to stress is there’s a wealth of opportunities involved in developing a marketing strategy for your local town, borough or county.
Building a strong rapport with locals and integrating with the community is a powerful way to boost customer loyalty and assert yourself as a household name. Whether it’s offering locals discounts or creating valuable experiences for guests by partnering with local businesses, building a sense of community around your business is a winning strategy.
Build Trust & Security
Why do I have to go to extra lengths to build consumer trust and security?
During this time of uncertainty, building trust and security with potential customers is paramount. 64% of UK respondents indicated that a brand's behaviour during Covid-19 would have a huge impact on their likelihood to buy their products or services.
The hotel industry has to go above and beyond to imbue trust and security – you’re asking potential guests to not only leave the safety of their homes in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, but to stay in an establishment where they have no personal control over the hygiene standards and safety measures in your hotel or B&B.
You also have to contend with the possibility of further lockdown measures and restrictions suddenly coming into force, which could ultimately disrupt your guest’s holiday plans.
To counter this, there are extra measures you need to implement to placate and reassure your potential guests. And you need to market these extra security measures to your customer base - it’s a factor that certainly influences whether they take a holiday at all. Below we’ve outlined some quick and easy ways you can gain your guest’s trust.
(Build trust and security in order to attract guests to your hotel or B&B.)
1. Flexible cancellation and rebooking policies
The easiest route to gain a customer’s trust is clearly communicating flexible cancellation and rebooking policies.
20% of UK consumers said they’d be persuaded to book a vacation during the pandemic if there was an insurance policy that covered the disruption caused by the virus. Consumers want to feel that there’s a safety net; so make sure your cancellation policy is not only flexible, but allows the guest to reclaim most of their money if they have to cancel because of the pandemic.
In conjunction to a pliant cancellation policy, also consider offering a flexible rebooking policy – that way, you don’t have to worry about cash flow and refunding purchases. Simply allow guests the opportunity to rebook at their convenience, subject to availability.
2. Release a statement on all channels that addresses covid-19 concerns
Updating your website to include a Covid-19 statement, and listing all security and hygiene methods you’re implementing, will convey that you’re treating the pandemic seriously, and that you care about the safety of your guests.
For example, Elder Grove B&B lists all the cleaning methods they have in place throughout the duration of their guest’s stay, addressing all touchpoints from how they handle breakfast dining, to guest rooms and all public areas in their establishment. Foyers Lodge takes a personable approach, addressing the pandemic in a short statement from the business owners.
Be sure to not only display your Covid-19 statement on your website, but post it across all your social media channels. Also send an email to your database of past guests, to acknowledge how you’re addressing the pandemic to alleviate any possible concerns they might have.
3. Promote discounts with no time limits
Offer discounts with no time limits, so potential guests can trust in the fact they will get their holiday, even if the threat of looming lockdowns and restrictions thwarts their plans – sometimes, just knowing that you can utilise a discount for a night or two out of town at any time (subject to availability of course) promotes increased purchases and trust in your brand; it reinforces the message that you take your guests’ safety and concerns to heart.
4. Follow government announcements closely
Always stay up-to-date. Customers want to feel that they can trust you to follow and implement the latest government guidelines. Also be hyper vigilant of any cities or counties that have entered stricter lockdowns that prevent traveling – no one wants to receive marketing communications about your hotel or B&B when they are stuck indoors and cannot travel outside of their city; it’d only cause frustration and lost trust in your brand if you’re ignorant about which cities are in tighter lockdowns.
Stay informed about the latest UK travel corridors. Countries, territories and regions on the travel corridor list means visitors from those countries don’t have to self-isolate for 14 days when arriving in the UK. Take special note that each devolved government has its own travel corridor list:
- Travellers exempt from Welsh border rules
- International travel and quarantine rules for Scotland
- Countries and territories exemption rules for Northern Ireland
For businesses that are still marketing to an international audience, pay attention to the travel corridor list; you don’t want to waste your marketing budget on countries that suddenly get pulled from the list.
Embrace Online Opportunities
According to studies produced from Ofcom, the average internet usage reached record highs throughout the lockdown period. As a result of lockdown and government social distancing regulations, the average UK adult spent a record 4 hours a day online. The impact of Covid-19 has, and continues, to change our relationship with the internet and means of communication.
(Social interactions over the internet has increased in 2020.)
The same Ofcom study found that the pandemic accelerated the adoption of online services (like Zoom and Google Hangouts) so that friends and family could keep in touch. Around 70% of adults in the UK are now making video calls at least weekly, which is a huge increase from 35% pre-lockdown.
But what does an increase in time spent online mean for hotels and B&Bs up and down the country?
One of the key routes to success in business is to go where your customers are. With a clear trend that consumers now spend more time online, hotels and B&Bs have an opportunity to think outside-the-box in how they can connect and engage with their customers in this era of the ‘new normal’.
So, how can your business make the most of the internet to keep customers interested?
1. List your business on Google My Business
The first rule of thumb for any local business is to list all the essential details on Google. Google My Business is a free tool which helps to put your hotel or B&B on the map. Whether it’s publishing your opening hours, helping customers find you on Google Maps or adding direct links to your website, Google My Business is the most important gateway to your business. Make sure you take the time to understand how to use Google My Business. Leave no stone unturned to maximise the chances of converting curious internet browsers into paying customers.
2. Capture and collect customer data
Consider incentivising people who walk through your door or stumble across your website or social media channels to sign-up to your mailing list. In exchange for data capture, offer a discounted night’s stay at your hotel or B&B, or a free drink or meal on arrival. This data can then be used to target specific customers via email marketing or targeted social media campaigns, encouraging further purchases through exclusive weekly or monthly deals.
3. Social media campaigns
On average, adults spend around 144 minutes a day on social media, and establishing a strong brand identity involves communication regularly with your past and potential customers. To capitalise on this, you might consider promoting regular social media competitions where customers can win a stay at your hotel or B&B; partnering with local influencers to promote your business; creating customer polls; or sharing positive reviews and customer experiences to encourage other customers.
4. Give a virtual tour of your hotel or the local attractions on Facebook or Instagram
According to Statista, there are almost 45 million people in the UK who use Facebook, and 26.5 million who use Instagram. Both of these platforms offer interactive features to help you visually keep your customers engaged while at home through live streams and video posts.
5. Embrace the power of video
Did you know that 87% of marketing professionals say video can increase traffic to your website? The rise of video marketing is a powerful way for your hotel or B&B to create engaging and shareable content. If you don’t have the budget for professional videography, get creative with DIY videos that make people laugh. Video is a great way to capture the core essence of your brand before customers even step through your door.
How We Can Help You
To implement these marketing ideas into your business, it takes time, money and resources. 365 Business Finance is a direct financial provider, offering a merchant cash advance service to small and medium-sized businesses across the UK. A merchant cash advance is designed as a quick way for any business that accepts credit and/or debit cards to raise capital without the need for a bank loan or hefty overdraft.
365 Business Finance offers £5,000 to £200,000 in unsecured business funding for UK hotels and B&Bs with no APRs, hidden costs or fixed monthly payments, letting you focus on running your business.
How our hotel and B&B funding works
Instead of offering a traditional bank loan, where you are obligated to pay back a specific amount every month, our funding allows you to use a small percentage of your future credit and debit card sales, meaning you only repay when customers pay you.
(Example of how repayments follow your cash flow.)
At every step of the way, you will have support from a dedicated funding advisor. They will help you throughout the entire process, from applying for financing to receiving your funding.
On top of that, you’ll never have to worry about things like APRs or fixed monthly repayments. Instead, you can focus on using your funding effectively to support your business.
Get a free quote today - we approve 90% of businesses that apply, and funds can be with you in as little as 48 hours. In no time, you will be able to advertise your business to bring in more customers, strengthen your brand, and boost your sales revenue.