The coronavirus pandemic has done too much damage for the world to flip a switch and return to normal. When shelter-in-place orders finally lift, the hospitality industry will continue to face questions from hesitant travelers.
Rather than hold out hope for a fast recovery, B&Bs and other small hospitality organizations should use this opportunity to position their businesses for sustainable profits throughout an uncertain future.
Use these tips to keep your small hospitality operation in the black as the fallout from the pandemic unfolds:
1. Get into a long-term mindset.
Today’s struggles won’t blow over in a few months. Researchers estimate that a vaccine for COVID-19 remains at least a year away. In the meantime, evolving regulations and restrictions — coupled with an uncertain customer base — will keep hospitality businesses guessing. You could respond to every individual change as it comes, but your company will do better if you assume the difficulties will continue and plan accordingly.
2. Seek savings in areas outside customer experience.
Customers don’t care where you source your napkins or whether you recently changed toiletry suppliers. As long as you provide high-quality products on-site, no one will notice whether you’re saving money on the back end. Now is the perfect time to evaluate your supplier options and seek better deals. Consider joining a hospitality group purchasing organization (GPO) to save money on the items you purchase regularly.
3. Create new health-conscious processes.
Travelers who feel comfortable leave good reviews. Over the next few months, people making trips to small hospitality venues will be on high alert for safety. Develop low-contact processes to ensure guests feel safe from unnecessary exposure. Evaluate handoff processes involving documentation, payments, laundry, and food to identify opportunities to reduce person-to-person contact. Take cleaning and sanitation to the next level by creating more robust checklists and increasing the number of cleans per day.
4. Shift marketing to focus on safety.
Visitors who stay might appreciate safety precautions, but people outside the building won’t know how seriously you take their safety unless you tell them. Design marketing campaigns to highlight your organization’s preparedness. Send emails and post on social media about the next-level precautions your staff members take to ensure guest safety.
5. Invest more in specialty services.
Regular travel may not return to previous levels for years. In the meantime, keep your organization busy by identifying a niche and aggressively targeting business within that market. Cute B&Bs might push harder to attract small wedding parties, while boutique hotels could advertise their ability to host company retreats and business travelers. With supply for general travel accommodations high and demand low, the most successful hospitality organizations will be the ones that successfully own a specific niche.
6. Think domestically instead of internationally.
Small hospitality organizations in popular tourist and international business destinations may not see their global bookings pick up for a good while. Increased restrictions on international travel, combined with general traveler hesitance, create a recipe for disaster for businesses that rely on foreign money. If your company falls into this category, switch your marketing strategy to target local and domestic customers instead.
7. Build value instead of discounting existing options.
Some businesses may respond to the massive drop in revenue with steep discounts to keep people coming through the doors. These short-term cash infusions cause long-term problems, though. Pricing your bookings below their actual value only damages your brand and makes customers see you as a less desirable option. Add value through increased safety and more personalized service to justify your rates instead of cutting prices.
8. Create fun options for staycations.
Many people who would love to take a break from the new normal may not feel comfortable going through the full travel experience. Provide an alternative option to escape without boarding a plane by offering special packages and experiences for local staycations. Extend time frames with early check-in and late checkout. Put together fun ways for locals to see their city as if they were tourists. Become the expert on showing residents a good time in their own town. Depending on your knowledge and capabilities, you could even supplement your income by providing tours or experiences yourself.
This dark period for the hospitality industry will eventually pass, but small businesses don’t have the resources to weather the storm indefinitely. Act now to start your recovery, attract new guests, and position your operation for success — no matter how long the pandemic lasts.