How two hotels in Greece managed to increase their profitability in the midst of a pandemic and the steps that led to this success.8 mins read
The 2020s started with a major blow to the tourism and hospitality industry worldwide, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing a widespread social and economic upheaval. Many hoteliers found themselves “shocked” by the sudden turn of events and unable to decide what the right steps would be to start their businesses again and make a profit. This situation, however, did not seem to apply to all hotels, as some managed not only to “fool the chaos” but also to make a profit out of it despite the difficulty of the period. These are the cases of Atrium Ambiance Hotel and Nostos Beach Boutique Hotel that we are going to expand on below.
Atrium Ambiance Hotel and Nostos Beach Boutique Hotel are two luxury hotels in Crete, a popular island destination in Greece, attracting thousands of visitors from around the world every year. The first resort is located in Rethymnon city, while the second is at a popular seaside village called Bali. Both are large hotels, equipped with modern facilities, targeting a wide range of travelers, while their peak period is during the summer months.
The sales strategy for both properties is managed by Loguers Hospitality, hotel management and consulting company which helps hotels to increase their revenues and target direct bookings. As odd as it may sound, a few marketing tricks and a customer-centric sales approach were enough to boost sales even higher than in previous years.
In collaboration with Loguers Hospitality, we will explore in-depth the sales strategy of these two hotels and the steps that Loguers Hospitality had to follow in order to ensure profitability during the COVID-109 pandemic9.
# 1 – Flexible and customer-centric-booking-cancellation policy
In unpredictable times like a pandemic, and when new measures are announced daily to tackle the spread of the virus, countries shut their borders to protect themselves and sudden outbreaks can occur literally anywhere.
Thus, it is normal for travelers to be hesitant before making a reservation. To address this, several steps were taken in order to give to the travelers more flexibility in changing their booking dates, and even in some emergencies, the option of free cancellation.
With this approach, travelers booked in advance without having to worry about any sudden cancellations, which created a relationship of trust with the hotel.
# 2 – Appropriate price adjustment for easy management of possible cancellations
All non-refundable prices had been adjusted to make them refundable. Therefore, all travelers could cancel their booking even a few days before their arrival. The recently adjusted prices were also included in the flexible price lists (flex).
Of course, the most effective way to counter travelers’ doubts is to offer them the flexibility to cancel and refund. This flexibility highlights a customer-centric accommodation policy and eliminates any ‘second thoughts’ that potential guests may have when booking.
# 3 – Elimination of the requirement of full prepayment and flexibility in changing the total days of stay
The requirement to prepay the full amount of the reservation was removed, which further enabled more flexibility to the entire stay of a traveler in the accommodation. More specifically, travelers could stay as long as they desired, in consultation with the hotel, because the minimum number of days was removed.
Elimination of booking requirements makes it easier for more travelers to book and further improves the hotel’s flexibility and customer-centric policy. More specifically, the down payment and the minimum stay, which are applied by many hotels, are vital requirements that must be set aside so as to become more profitable.
# 4 – Implementation of a discount policy for early bookings and early next year’s availability
Adjusting prices and applying a discount policy are just as important as all the actions that a property can take. Knowing the difficulties that most travelers had to face, the discount for early booking was extended and this contributed to the gradual increase of direct bookings. While travelers had at their disposal the price list for next year (prices and contracts had already been completed), they could re-plan their trip for 2021 with greater ease.
There is no doubt that a pandemic causes a lot of difficulties to everyone, not only in terms of psychology but also because of the many economic issues that arise. Many companies are experiencing financial difficulties, people are not working for months, and many have to live on half the salary they were used to. Considering these, it makes sense for the discounts to become hoteliers’ “best friend” and also become highly appreciated by the upcoming guests of each hotel.
Of course, these discounts must be applied carefully, so that the property is not lost or reduces its quality so as to keep up with reality.
# 5 – Properly inform customers about all measures taken against the spread of the virus and upkeep constant communication with visitors
The fifth and final step was to update all available channels with all precautions taken against the pandemic, so that the hygiene of the hotel remains unquestionable, as travelers would be fully aware of the cleaning procedures. Of course, the hotel team was always ready to answer any additional questions about their hygiene and to inform travelers about the latest restrictions that the government may have on regional or national levels.
The pandemic has led many people to pay close attention to the cleanliness of hotels. Especially after the results of a survey conducted last year, which showed the inadequacy of many hotels in this regard, travelers became even more suspicious and observant. Thus, informing them about the cleaning procedures of the hotel became a matter of great importance, which led many hotels to create a special section through their website, in which they detailed all the measures taken to deal with the spread of COVID-19.
Additional marketing campaigns increase hotel exposure online, attracting more targeted audiences
Having ensured that all potential customers’ concerns had already been “resolved” by following the above steps, the next phase of the marketing plan was to further invest in the hotels’ digital presence, promoting customized offers on previously unexploited channels.
Of course, all actions were decided after thorough research conducted by Loguers Hospitality on the target audience of the two hotels and their booking habits. Thus, every action was adapted for these resorts, however, after relevant research and study, it can be readjusted to be applied to other properties as well.
Mobile offers and country-specific targeting attracted more travelers to complete a booking
According to a Loguers Hospitality survey, most bookings at both hotels were last minute and completed through mobile devices. Therefore, mobile offers had priority and they were given the attention they required.
At the same time, knowing that many countries had restrictions on flights, specific countries were targeted with personalized offers to increase hotel traffic through third-party channels and online media.
Flash Sale campaigns which were created for the hotels’ target countries, such as Germany and France, contributed significantly to all direct bookings
After researching the countries with the most hotel visits, such as Germany and France, which were at the top, special Flash Sale campaigns were launched for a short period of time for these countries. In this way, the reservations became more attractive to travelers coming from the countries that were targeted.
CPC campaigns running on both Google and Social Media significantly increased the visibility of travelers with high travel interest
Although CPC campaigns are not popular within the hospitality industry, they have proven to be very beneficial and cost-effective for accommodation services. Google-defined CPC campaigns are highly recommended and are automatically adjusted over time to generate more traffic with less money. Of course, to get the most out of a CPC campaign, you will either need to hire a Digital Marketing Specialist or outsource this task to a third-party company.
The results and the next steps to maintain the success of this strategy
Finally, we would like to present the results of all the above actions. As mentioned in the introduction of the article, both hotels enjoyed an increase in their total sales throughout the previous year. But how big was this increase?
Atrium Ambiance Hotel received a 150% increase in its bookings compared to 2019, with 115% more revenue than the previous year respectively, and only 14% lower prices. For Nostos Beach Boutique Hotel, there was a 108% increase in bookings, as well as a 99% increase in total income, and the average price per room decreased by only 4%.
Of course, in order to ensure that this strategy will be effective in 2021, and given the fact that the world will continue to recover from the pandemic, Loguers Hospitality has decided to pursue this strategy by including the flexible cancellation policy, the continuous reporting of measures taken against the pandemic, and selective marketing of target audiences.
These were the steps taken by Loguers Hospitality so as to ensure a successful sales strategy, even during a difficult period such as a pandemic. Of course, every hotel is a completely different case, so before deciding on the steps you want to take to improve your own business strategy, you need to do thorough research to see if it fits your hotel and your target audience.