Don't sit around and expect things to get back to the old normal. You need to prepare, now, if you want your hotel in Belize to overcome the Coronavirus crisis by applying strong measures for today, so you can be ready for tomorrow.
After searching the world wide web to see what accommodation businesses are doing all over the world, we have compiled this information that offers immediate recommendations for the questions you have today, and practical plans to prepare for your hotel in Belize to rebound.
Table Of Content:
Should I Relax My Cancellation Policies?
What To Do If I Get Lots Of Cancellations?
How Do I Handle My Obligation With OTA (Online Travel Agents) Bookings?
Should I Offer Massive Discounts?
Should I Focus On Domestic Or Local Travel?
What Should I Do To Increase Sales?
Should I Think Outside The Box?
How Do I Improve My Hotel Business In Belize?
1. Should I Relax My Cancellation Policies?
Especially, if you are a small hotel owner, you will be tempted to become rigid with cancellations, since it will translate to significant reduction in cash-flow.
However, the waiving of cancellation fees is the norm for the big guys in the accommodation sector of the Belize tourism-industry and globally, including OTAs, and airlines.
By relaxing your cancellation policies, such as what Imani's Inn is doing, It will help to ensure guest satisfaction, which is vital right now, and future loyalty by offering empathy through flexibility.
2. What To Do If I Get Lots Of Cancellations?
Try to be aware of the fact that many people literally cannot or do not want to travel right now.
Covid-19 will pass. And when it does, people will be more willing to travel, maybe even more so, since cabin fever is setting in for many people.
However, people will make bookings and will cancel, due to various reasons, since there will be a new normal, and unforeseen issues will pop up from time to time.
What you want to prepare for is to offer credit, reward points, or vouchers for future stay, instead of giving back cash.
This way, you can lock in future-spend from those guests, and also encourage potential guests, who are still on lock-down, to book, since they will know your hotel is flexible with cancellations. Note: this will not be possible for everyone so, please, remember # 1.
3. How Do I Handle My Obligation With OTA (Online Travel Agents) Bookings?
Online Travel Agents (OTAs), many of them are updating or have updated their cancellation policies, specifically for the Covid-19 crisis.
Their policies may impact your cancellation obligations. Example: AirBnB allowed all their guests to cancel without penalties, and without informing their Hosts and giving them no opportunity to react, which caused a huge backlash for the OTA.
We strongly recommend that you regularly check for updates from the OTAs you are working with, and booking channels, so as to be informed when responding to your guests concerning cancellations.
Some reference points for top OTAs:
Booking.com – Important information regarding the Coronavirus
Expedia – Customer service update on COVID-19
4. Should I Offer Massive Discounts?
You will be tempted, in the short-term, to offer significantly reduced prices for stay at your hotel.
This won't make much of a difference, since, right now most travelers are concerned about health and safety.
They simply won’t book in areas of high risk.
Here is the Silver Lining for Belize:
Being the last country in the Americas to report a case of Covid-19, and as of April 5th, 2020, Belize is also the first country in the Americas to report no active case of Covid-19.
Since this is the case, please remember, that people often look at the quality of a service based on price. Selling your rooms very cheap will give travelers the wrong impression and could easily harm your brand image. Cheap rates = cheap service, which could be the perception by travelers.
Make sure you have a Covid-19 Commitment Statement.
The market will rebound. Instead of discounting, focus on conversion. Every touch-point (especially: social media, website, email marketing, phone calls) translates, more than ever, and given favorable cancellation conditions, travelers may be easier to convince to make advance bookings.
Display clear promotions on your website: set-up value-added offers
Explore new sales avenues: if you have your business listed on several OTAs consider using a channel manager such as Tokeet
Monitor your local market and reservation pick-up to make the best pricing decisions now, and when things improve. See some ideas here
5. Should I Focus On Domestic Or Local Travel?
When people have the freedom to start traveling, they will. If you are paying close attention, as soon as the Government of Belize ease up on restriction to moving around, Belizeans are ...moving around...more and more.
Therefore, it will be your best bet to win bookings in the short-term, by creating value-added offers for the local market.
Remember: international travel might be off the table, but, some people in the country of Belize will still try to get away and "staycationers" should become a valid market.
This is a perfect opportunity for hotels, tour operators, restaurants, gift shops, cafes, et al...to work together and create mutually beneficial value-added services, or what I call MBVAS, which translates to each business selling the services of other businesses that is not in direct competition, but a complimentary business to their own.
Example: for a local traveler coming on a weekend getaway, who had to do so because they couldn't get away on an exciting overseas trip, try tying some tickets to local attractions, into a three-night stay package.
And while you are at it, make sure to inform your guests of other businesses that are offering value-added services, such as a restaurant offering a local drink with their meal purchase, or the cafe that is offering a doughnut with their Frap.
This is a perfect opportunity for businesses to get creative with adding value to their services.
Imagine the Placencia Village Council setting up BBQ grills made by Martin Galvez, and allow people to have DIY BBQ beach picnics in designated beach areas? This could be a value-added service for all hotels within Placencia Village, and local hotels can make sure to use that as part of their value-addition in selling their rooms.
There are lots of potential here.
It doesn't matter what type of travelers normally stay at your hotel, consider adjusting your targeting to domestic market. It will take some adjustment to your messaging and sales offer, but it is worth the effort.
Remember: after times of great stress, people naturally want a break. Coronavirus is impacting everyone but large portions of the general public will still be dreaming of the trip they want to take when the emergency has subsided. Once you get the chance to take a breath and look ahead, think about what opportunities you have.
6. What Should I Do To Increase Sales?
There are no simple answers to this question, however, not taking it into serious consideration can be the difference between your business surviving or disappearing.
When something is severely restricting travel for large amounts of the world’s population, the need for your property to diversify is greater than ever.
This is the time to to look for different markets and create new partnerships to increase your chances of finding guests who are still willing to book your hotel moving forward.
Some niche considerations:
Has your property and location got the style and flair to attract couples seeking a boutique, luxury experience? Consider connecting Mr and Mrs Smith.
Do you meet the criteria to be listed with Airbnb?
Do you have key selling points for travelers seeking unique experiences and adventures? Explore tablethotels.com.
Do you want to target people needing an escape to a beach-side location? Look into Onthebeach.co.uk.
Can you accommodate travelers who want to bring their pets, with a channel such as Petspyjamas.com?
Change presents the opportunity for you to explore new markets or segments beyond your historical market preferences.
7. Should I Think Outside The Box?
It is time for you to start thinking outside the box and get creative in developing promotions, packages upselling/extras, ancillaries (food, beverage, entertainment, tours and activities, upgrades, on-site store; on-site services such as spa, fitness etc...), and amenities.
Double-down on ancillary revenue
This is a perfect time to come up with special services that you can offer your guests, and charge extra fees for those services.
if you use local produce in your kitchen, make a basket of this available for purchase – local cheese, wine, fruit etc.
Another option is to provide pick-up and drop-off services if you don’t already.
Don't only focus on the Extra-Night sales gimmick, any hotel can do that. Try to be as unique as you can when thinking of ways to boost bookings and revenue.
If you need some inspiration for ‘outside of the box thinking’ to boost brand reputation and recognition, check out these hotels:
Mandarin Oriental in Boston is offering room service – to people’s own homes! This includes delivering meals and cleaning services.
Hotel Doolin in Ireland is helping the elderly through the crisis by offering to house-call with ready-made meals.
Carlton-Europe in Switzerland is also providing home visits for meals, groceries, and spring cleaning.
Encourage Longer Stays With Incentives
Do you already have bookings rolling in for later this year or next year? Why not capitalize on existing guest bookings by getting them to stay an extra night or two?
Depending on your budget, you may throw in some free extras or upgrades, or exclusive deals on amenities; anything that will add value and make the additional night(s) worth it.
a free massage and spa for an extra night’s stay. If your occupancy is down, this small revenue boost will be worth it. Don't offer that service in-house? Then go to a local massage and spa business and offer to buy discounted certificates from them, and offer these certificates to your guests.
Tailor specific packages
If you want to target a new or niche market, consider building an offer that is relevant and interesting to them.
During these stressful times perhaps a massage or meditation package could appeal to those seeking wellness experiences.
8. How Do I Improve My Hotel Business In Belize?
This is very important: most accommodation businesses in Belize are looking outwards on how they will start attracting new customers to get the revenue stream going again.
However, it is critical that you look inwards on how you can optimize the processes of your business and increase capabilities as you prepare to hit the ground running when nasty ol' Covid-19 takes a hike.
How can I increase the efficiency of my business?
Is there a chance you’ll have to cope with fewer staff? Upskilling your remaining team members could be valuable, especially if there’s an area of the business they have a keen interest in.
Are there administration processes that are clunky or outdated? When business picks back up it could come with a rush and will help you to be ready.
Should you re-evaluate your services and policies? Take the time to look at where you’ve received negative feedback in the past and see how you can rectify them.
Do you have a loyalty program in place and is it adequate? Loyalty could be more valuable than ever when market demand recovers. The guests you bring in need to feel valued and have a reason to come back.
The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) is currently offering some amazing free online webinars that can help you, in many ways, to improve the internal and external operations of your business.
Using this current downtime to prepare your business for the future can be an investment with significant ROI when the travel industry starts to bounce back.
Be flexible on cancellations
Ensure the safety of staff, guests, and property
Avoid massive discounts
Maintain marketing for a rebound
Optimize internal processes
Plan for the future