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Local marketing for hotels’ COVID-19 recovery


Analysis of how hotels flourished after previous recessions consistently shows that marketing is an essential tactic to avoid slashing rates and boost occupancy quickly. Hotels need to balance cutting costs with marketing investments. But the next step is deciding where to invest in marketing. The specific segments, traveler types, and demographics will vary by hotel. But one trend is emerging: the first wave of travel will likely be local.

In a study conducted by Phocuswright, travelers associate air travel with an increased likelihood of getting COVID-19. In the April study, as many people were afraid of being exposed while in transit as they were afraid of being exposed at their destination. When it came to specific modes of travel, as many as 70% of American travelers said they were afraid to fly for this reason.

That said, according to Skift research, about a third of American travelers would travel again in the next three months if restrictions lift. The majority said their first trip would be a road trip, somewhere within 100 miles of their home.

Direct bookings: Use SEO to draw in local markets

Your website should be a hub of information for your future guests. Feature relevant content that reliably brings in organic traffic for keywords related to your area. To promote direct bookings, we recommend doing an overall content audit. Conducting a content audit will help you identify gaps or out-of-date information. Prioritize local content, with new recommendations and specific travel advice.

Insider knowledge that informs travelers’ trip planning is key to optimizing your website for local search. Travelers searching for “things to do” in your area want specific and helpful information about local events, attractions, and sights. However, you want to target guests travelling within 100 miles of home. That means you’re marketing to people who probably already know the basics.

Highlight your hotels’ specific knowledge. Consider making a “recommendations from the front desk” section on your things to do page. Showcase your hotels’ immediate area, including any features on the grounds that make your property stand out, which may be missing from your current website.

A strategic SEO plan should inform any changes you make to your website. Updates should target local keywords or keywords related to specific events that draw in travelers within 100 miles of your specific area.

Travel channels: Geo targeting is key

Conduct an audit of the travel channels that delivered the most revenue to your hotels. The goal is to keep public rates on par with pre-COVID 19 performance. According to industry analysis, slashing rates to increase occupancy ahead of your competitors is a game where everyone loses. Auditing your third-party channels should reveal the channels that have been historically most profitable for you.

It may be worth investing in marketing on those channels, as many channels allow you to refine targeting if you pay them a fee. Knowing that travelers are most likely to travel within 100 miles of home before taking any other trips, use a local geo-targeting strategy. Pay to promote your hotel to the travelers who are most likely to visit you in the next few months: travelers within your area.

Promote your restaurant to local travelers and road trippers

As people begin to return to travel, you have the opportunity to diversify your revenue streams. People are more likely to travel by car, and so may pass by your property without staying.

If you have on-site services, such food and beverage, market to road trippers by leveraging your local connections and making sure your restaurant is advertised on any local partners’ websites. Using those connections will help you promote your on-site food and beverage to a local audience who may not yet be familiar with your dining options.

If you have invested in paid advertising, consider a traditional, local campaign for your restaurant. Capture locals and road trippers looking for a place to eat on their way through your area, via media, print, or roadside advertising.

Local marketing tips and tricks for hotels

Your booking paths must be optimized for local markets by using geo-targeting and content that draws in local traffic. In addition, you can implement tried and true local marketing tips for any business. Some examples:

  • Reach out to local travel bloggers or influencers who may be looking for content given the current travel climate
  • Go traditional with radio or roadside advertising
  • Partner with local businesses that bring tourists to the area
  • Create a special “locals” package for nearby residents which packages services into the room night (such as a free breakfast or local attraction)

Capturing the local audience should be the first step in your larger recovery plan. Hotels looking to recover faster, with strong positive growth over the next months, will need to invest in marketing across channels.

There are glimmers of hope on the horizon, as travel searches begin to pick up for the later half of 2020. Capture some of that hope by using more of our COVID-19 hotel marketing tips and tricks.


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