Part of the new normal after the Coronavirus has died off will be a great reshuffling of customer behaviors, including the reasons why people choose one property or form of accommodation over another. While this might mean that more guests are naturally attracted to your hotel brand, it might also result in a destructive erosion as more travelers come to prefer home sharing providers.
Importantly for hoteliers, there are three main reasons behind this conversion worth describing so that you can do your best to prevent them from happening.
Before getting into those three reasons, understand that this is still very much a question mark. Back in March, I had predicted that the temporarily travel shutdowns would result in many super hosts–those people leveraging multiple properties and operating them akin to a traditional hotel–being forced to throw units back into the long-term rental market in order to pay the bills. We’ve seen this to some extent, but there are still many core reasons for customers, primarily younger ones, to prefer home sharing accommodations over traditional properties.
First is physical distancing and any lingering anxieties over public spaces. While hotels all over the world should be commended for rapidly setting up new cleaning SOPs to help prevent the transmission of viruses within their walls, this still cannot fully alleviate the fears that people now have of being amongst so many other strangers.
Home sharing platforms have the advantage in that their listings inherently suggest less human-to-human contact. Hoteliers must fight this perception by becoming staunch impresarios for all the new and improved sanitization protocols that have been implemented. Hotels should also adopt an attitude of cleanliness theater whereby it’s not just about these advanced cleaning SOPs, but also making a show of it to give guests peace of mind.
Second is costs. Sharing economy accommodations are largely seen as cheaper than traditional hotels in an apples-to-apples comparison. In a post-pandemic world where the biggest casualty (besides those who have tragically fallen to the disease) is the amount of disposable income for the average person, travelers will be looking to penny-pinch wherever possible.
Knowing that money is going to be tight for potentially years to come, the role of revenue manager becomes all the more insurmountable for success. You need someone to accurately assess what your rates must be in order to keep in step with market demands. To accomplish this, you must enable these executives by giving them the latest marketplace intelligence software so that they have the data to know exactly what rates will get eyeballs. Similarly, revenue managers will be instrumental for devising good packages with alluring price tags.
Third, and lastly, is branding with companies like Airbnb presenting themselves to the public with a clean and simple message about where they stand during this ever-evolving crisis. Your hotel must also adopt a similar mentality. Present yourselves empathetically to your guests during this time when no travel is taking place, but then once the restrictions are lifted you must pick your battles. You cannot be everything to everyone. Instead, focus your efforts on the demographics and psychographics for which your brand is most meaningful.
Understanding the three causes – social distancing, personal finances and clear messaging – will help your hotel to prosper in the months ahead. But knowing is not even anywhere close to half the battle, and my final recommendation is that you spend this downtime working diligently to align your sales and marketing efforts so that you can be ready to capitalize upon all the post-pandemic travel opportunities as well as prevent any attrition of guests choosing other forms of accommodations because they no longer feel confident in your product.