What does a once-booming industry do during a catastrophic event that threatens its very existence as COVID-19 has done to the hotel industry? It pivots. Find out what some new hotels are doing to attract people during a global pandemic.
The hotel industry
The hotel industry has experienced historic damage due to the coronavirus. To stay viable, something had to change. The choice of one Ontario hotel, The June Motel, was to delay the opening rather than throw in the towel. It was able to do this because the hospitality industry received help in the form of grants from the Canadian government.
But what about U.S. hotels? Certain government programs have helped them out too: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP); the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act; and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. But a worldwide hotel construction binge in the commercial real estate industry, which includes 900 new U.S. hotels in 2020 and an estimated 960 new hotels this year necessitates some hotels to redefine the way they do business.
During a time when travel is down, people just aren't booking hotels. In order to open in the first place or stay in business, hotels, like many other industries, must follow strict guidelines regarding hygiene. They must have a system in place to disinfect the hotel and the rooms, and during the pandemic, they need to ensure guests social distance and wear masks. Some hotels have removed ice buckets and pens, sanitized and sealed the blow-dryers, and have stopped pouring that complimentary beverage guests typically get at sign in -- all efforts to have as sanitary a place as possible.
Many hotel restaurants and rooftop decks run at about 50% capacity. There may be increased waits, but once in, guests are preferring the extra elbow room.
People might not be flying as much, but they're still driving. So hotels are building new customer bases by hitting the local market hard. Called domestic tourism and staycations, people who are tired of staying at home but aren't ready to travel to far-away places, particularly internationally, are the perfect audience for hotels during COVID-19.
The June Motel figured out a way to sell out for Labor Day weekend within 30 minutes of advertising it on Instagram. How? By posting one Instagram-worthy image after another that appeals to a market of mainly older millennials who want a casual but cool beach wedding, a laid-back vacation spot, a girls' weekend getaway, or just a chic place to drink champs (champagne).
Other tactics hotels are using to stay in business by attracting locals include:
- Focusing on the off-season with special promotions: When it's off-season for the hotel, it's also off-season for the locals, who are probably bored out of their minds at home and would relish the thought of getting away for a safe, easy vacation.
- Offering package deals: Locals often don't take in all their area has to offer. Hotels can package a long-weekend adventure with planned activities, like backstage at the brewery or other creative endeavors.
- Showing off what they've got: Hotels are promoting the heck out of their amenities, which many locals don't have at their own homes. These include the pool and spa, of course, but another coveted amenity could even be a state-of-the-art work-from-home setup (with maybe a nice mountain, lake, or beach view).
The Millionacres bottom line
The coronavirus certainly created havoc for many industries. And the hotel and hospitality industry was hit as hard as any other. It's encouraging to see how many hotel operators stepped up, put guest and staff health in the forefront, and found a way to get back to business -- even if it's not exactly business as usual.