80% of the conversation relating to Sri Lanka, monitored online is currently negative. Media coverage locally and abroad focuses on emerging details of the attacks and incidents of communal violence, portraying quite a bleak picture of Sri Lanka. You could forgive someone following the news in thinking Sri Lanka is an active warzone. That’s bad news for hotel brands.
Travel advisories further complicate the matter. At the time of this writing, last updated on 13th May 2019, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK states “Terrorists are very likely to carry out attacks in Sri Lanka.” With advisories in place the entire value chain of the industry is disrupted, from reinsurance companies baulking at the idea of insuring travelers to cancelled flights due to lower demand.
The silver-lining though, is people still want to come. We base this statement through an analysis of 54 individual Sri Lankan Hotels (3 Star and Above + Villa and Boutique Properties). Reviewing website and online booking engine data, a sharp decline compared to 2018 is clear. But, post the Easter Sunday Attacks, 1,000s of people are still actively conducting rate searches on brand websites reviewed. The purchase funnel from travel inspiration to booking can take months. On the brand sites reviewed, more than 50% of rate searches conducted between 21st April to 15th May 2019 were for 45 days or more in the future.
To read the full report; click here.
With years of experience in online hotel marketing, here are our thoughts on how to fast track your brand recovery.
Watch and wait is a poor option in our opinion. Double down on your Social Media content plans and start posting. With one caveat, start ‘timestamping’ your content with the idea of narrating ‘life’ at your property, post the attacks. This is Sri Lanka, here and now. Use references such as ‘today’, ‘this evening’ and offer time-based context to your content to draw a frame of reference. The Easter Sunday Attacks happened. Three weeks later, this is what a day at our hotel looks like.
Most would consider a small increase in last minute cancellations acceptable to generate a larger share of total bookings. So, ease the financial burden and provide better cancellation terms for those who may still consider coming down to Sri Lanka. The objective is to offer peace of mind, as we care and will minimize your financial risk.
The government, tourist bodies and everyone else is trying their hardest to return Sri Lanka to its former glory. But we should be talking to the fortunate few who might just stay at your property. Tell them as much as you can about the safety measures and similar processes you have put into place. Are your restaurants open to walk-ins? What measures do you take? Tell the world. A simple FAQ page, visible on your website, might go a long way.
Grab your agency and kickstart your advertising. Google Re-Marketing and Social Media Re-Marketing Ads can be configured specifically to be shown to ‘quality’ visitors on your website. Individuals that look for rates on your booking engine or spend a considerable amount of time on your site may be considered a ‘quality’ visitor. This should be your first and foremost marketing effort online, so hunker down and convert those still interested in your brand. Need help? Give us a shout.
Tip: Segment your audiences based on travel bans and flight availability. Non-traditional markets typically ignored due to low yield can be looked at for precision marketing with an emphasis on positive ROAS.
FIT travel is increasingly becoming an anonymous process. The primary human interaction with your brand could just be the waiter you talk-to during meals. To build trust, brands need to relate. Consider introducing nominated brand representatives on your brand platforms. Instead of ‘write to reservations for inquiries’, try, ‘speak to “James” your concierge on travel concerns’. Promote interaction-based call to actions such as email and chat to build a dialogue. Reassurances and conversations with a person might be the tipping point for your next booking.
Have some ideas of your own? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org