While times remain uncertain, this extraordinary period of time has caused many of us to realise the true joy of travelling, which we may have taken for granted. Travel is good for the soul and many, many people are craving the simple pleasure of a vacation.
However, the factors and priorities that influence travellers' decision-making process are undoubtedly going to be different than usual when we emerge on the other side of the Corona crisis.
Health and safety will almost certainly be the first priority for many tentative travellers in the months to come. Many will feel that destinations that are close by are the most secure and sensible - which will, in most cases, be within their country of residency.
For most travellers, the country they have explored the least is their home country. We are always drawn by the exotic, and destinations that we cannot easily visit. But after experiencing this pandemic, many will choose to keep their travels within the borders of their own country.
At the time of writing, some countries are still badly affected and people advised not to leave their home where possible. At the same time, the countries that are slowly recovering from the pandemic are encouraging domestic travel. So it is sensible to use this time to shift the focus on offering staycations for this year and to prepare your hotel to react to this shift.
In order to genuinely attract people to your offer, it’s essential that you first understand the main reasons why people will make the switch to domestic travel.
In addition, you are now probably targeting people that haven’t been your target market before, so really understanding their motives and reasons why will make it easier for you to effectively promote your offer.
It’s a safe place
In the old ‘normal’, a dream destination for many of us meant soft sand beach, crystal clear water and palm trees.
But this year, a dream destination will be any place where we feel safe. Somewhere to finally relax without having to worry about the pandemic and the world’s problems.
For many people, that will be within their country of residency. That’s their safe place simply because they know how the health system works, and they understand the procedures and regulations.
There are no language barriers, which gives a certain sense of control over any situation. In addition, if needed, they can quickly and easily return to their home, so there is no fear of being stuck in a foreign country should the situation escalate again and border controls suddenly tighten.
Travel insurance will be much less of an issue, while confusion over borders, quarantines and rules will be avoided.
Cheaper and more convenient
This pandemic has not just given healthcare systems a historic test, but also the entire economy.
With everything grinding to a halt in a way that few could have possibly imagined, it is sensible to prepare for seismic economic consequences in the years ahead.
Many people have been sent on unpaid leave or unfortunately, lost their jobs. This is another factor that will contribute to the rise in popularity of staycations this year. Many will be extremely financially conscious, ahead of an uncertain future.
Staycations can still be luxurious and indulgent, but they will typically be a cheaper option than international travel.
On top of that, travelling within the borders of one country is much more convenient, as people can usually reach the destinations by taking a few hours drive. That also means avoiding crowds at the airports and on public transport - which can help with safety concerns.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and this is no exception. The climate change crisis is, unfortunately, not recent news and many hotels have already started changing their practices towards sustainability.
Seeing the drops in carbon emissions while we were all locked down has inspired many to think about ways they can personally reduce their carbon footprint.
Staycations are an ecological and sustainable option for spending a vacation because, in most cases, people don’t have to fly to get there. At the same time, staycations are a way to support local small businesses - restaurants, attractions and other local services - another benefit to add to the list at a time when they really need it.
How to prepare your hotel?
If your hotel has previously mainly focused on welcoming foreign tourists and travellers, you might want to do some tweaks and adjustments so you can focus on staycations effectively.
Here are some things to think about when preparing your hotel for the domestic market.
Create a Domestic Customer Persona
Customer personas are crucial - running a hotel without knowing who is your target audience is like sailing without a compass.
Customer personas are essentially detailed descriptions of the guest you want to attract. Creating them helps you to keep your marketing focussed on addressing their specific needs.
Even if you already have customer personas, this is a very unique situation, so you should go through profiles again and update them. As I have listed above, people have different factors and criteria when planning the vacation this year.
If you have been mostly focused on foreign travellers, then invest some time into crafting a domestic customer persona. By doing this, you can create a staycation offer to attract your target audience and promote it correctly.
Addressing the safety and health concerns of this new audience will be critical.
Define your (new) staycation offer for domestic travellers
If you have created a domestic customer persona, then this should be an easy step.
You will be able to identify exactly what will be important for your guests. Take into consideration things like pet-friendly rooms, the food you serve, attractions in the area, the hotel features and activities, if the hotel is family-friendly or adults-only, to create packages that will fit your audience needs.
People have been missing family over this period, and this may be reflected in multi-generational bookings.
Keep your website updated
Your website is your dedicated space on the internet. It should be constantly up to date, and relevant.
Whether your hotel is currently closed, closed but reopening soon, or open for business as usual - make your current status obvious and the first thing visitors see when they land on your homepage.
Add a page dedicated to staycations and introduce your offer.
Explain the concept of it and why is that the best option for vacationing at the moment. Create the content that will properly follow your offer, highlight and showcase the destination you are located in and build your local area authority.
Work with your Destination Marketing Organisation for invaluable support. And don’t forget about keeping your “Google My Business” listing up to date.
Adjust your communication
Spreading the word about staycations requires you to localise your strategy.
This is probably obvious, but I will say it anyway - whether you are located in a country where English is the official language or not, you should communicate about staycations in your native language only. You are trying to attract domestic travellers, so speak to them in a way they will listen.
Use geo-targeting, and create different landing pages that will target people from different areas.
For example, someone coming from a rural area and someone coming from a big city might have different reasons to choose your hotel. So it will help to communicate with them in a different way.
If you haven’t targeted domestic travellers before, again, make sure you refer to your domestic customer personas here, as it’s really important to understand who you are targeting. The more you know them, the more personalized your message can be - which should give you a higher response rate.
As I’ve mentioned, a major factor that travellers will take into account is how safe your hotel is for them. Be open and transparent about your cleaning standards.
Explain the cleaning procedures you do before and after each guest that comes to your hotel. You will likely need to enhance these processes.
Announce all measures of precautions you have taken to make sure your guests are safe. If you have a restaurant, make sure all tables are at least six feet apart from each other, even if that means operating with less capacity. Offer extended room service, so people can avoid the restaurant altogether if they want to.
Put hand sanitizers in lobby, reception, all spaces where people are passing by. Use stickers on the floor - the appropriate distance apart - to illustrate where people should line up at reception.
Put reminders for your guests to keep the space between themselves - you can keep this fun and light-hearted, I like the term “a lama away”.
Show that when it comes to the safety of your guests, you make no compromises.
Flexible cancellation policy
Now is the time to be flexible with the cancellation policy. Remove the risk from your customers as much as you can. If you keep a strict cancellation policy, you can’t expect a high booking rate.
Nobody knows what the future holds. We do not know for certain if there will be another wave that will bring back the lockdown and restrictions that will force people to cancel their trips.
If you offer a flexible cancellation policy, people will feel much more comfortable booking at your hotel. At the same time, you can encourage them to postpone the trip instead of cancelling if they need to.
So, if possible, remove the non-refundable options and offer a full refund to all bookings, put the option “Cancel anytime” without a fee and give the option to change reservations at any time, also without a fee.
Maja Nenadov is a Content Strategist and a Creator with over ten years of experience in the industry. She is also a founder of Destination Marketing, a specialist design and marketing agency for the travel, tourism and leisure industries. To find out more about it, visit https://destination-marketing.co.uk/