Updated: May 8, 2020
Covid-19 has hit the world, including Belize, really hard. It basically gutted and brought the tourism industry to a complete stop.
I won't get into all the statics and data here. I will add a link to that at the end of this blog post.
The purpose of this article is to help you, hotel owners in Belize, from continuing to damage your chances of recovering as quick as possible, by encouraging you to stop what you are doing right now...
...and that is go completely inert, motionless, still, dormant...you get what I am saying.
Let's jump right into it.
Here Are 5 Things You Need To Remember
Keep your focus on the long term
Don’t make panic decisions. You will regret them later, trust me. Short term decisions that are not well thought out can harm your business in the long term. Think carefully before you act. There are lots of free information out there. Do your research.
Protect your public rates
I see far too many small hotels in Belize make this giant mistake: things get a bit slow and then they start on the race-to-the-bottom. They offer heavily discounted rates on their website, to walk-in guests, on OTAs (Online Travel Agents) such as booking.com, airbnb.com.
This is damaging your ROI (Return On Investment) and once this COVID-19 crisis is over, a lot of Belize hotel owners will be tempted to offer rock-bottom rates. Do not do it. Doing so will have a long-term damaging impact on your business. It can take years to recover from discounted rates, so think carefully.
Look after your existing customer base
How many hotels in Belize do you think took the time to send out an email to their client list? Don't just sit at home stressing out. Get on your computer and take care of your existing business and don’t short change your loyal customers.
Email them with an update about your business, about Belize, about what you are doing to prepare to welcome them back. Offer a discount to them. Tell them to inform their friends to take advantage of the discount. Remember: send whatever discount you are offering, directly to them only. Do not make it public on your website, or on OTAs.
If people are interested in getting discounts. Create an email opt-in subscription form on your website. This will help you grow your email list, which you can use for email marketing purposes down the road.
Whatever you do, don’t compromise your service standards. It will come back to bite you!
Concentrate your marketing efforts on the domestic market
I only see a few large resorts establishing marketing campaigns to tap into the local market.
What are all the small to medium sized hotels doing?
The economy is in the process of slowly opening back up. When it does, the first set of people that will be able to travel and stay in your hotel in Belize, will come from the local markets. Statistics from all over the world are showing increased demand.
Target your efforts on the local markets. People who cancelled their overseas trips are looking for alternatives, so highlight the local option to them. Leverage your local presence to attract your neighbors and your local community. This could be a valuable new segment to grow for the future.
Don’t cut your marketing budget
Not only do I see hotel owners in Belize cutting back on marketing. Many did not even market their business to begin with.
If there is any time in the life of your business, that you should invest in marketing your business, it is now. Marketing will help you focus on capturing existing demand.
10 Ideas To Drive Business To Your Hotel In Belize
1. Attention To Cleanliness and Safety.
You will want to reassure guests by making a list of your hygienic and preventive precautions and communicate them, in a crystal and obvious way, to your guests. Make sure your staff is fully updated and have them communicate regularly to your guests, so they know you are proactive. Print up copies and give the list to every guest on check-in to reassure them. Here is an excellent example of this in action at the Royal Plaza Hotel, Hong Kong.
2. Focus Your Marketing Budget.
I know revenues are under strain. Do your research and focus most of your marketing efforts where margin is significantly higher. A strong direct strategy will lead to more profitable and sustainable business.
3. Improve Free Cancellation Terms.
Make sure that your terms are better than OTA and T&Cs (Terms and Conditions).
Things are still very volatile. Even though it seems that the world economy is on its way to slowly opening back up, and travelling will resume; things can still change drastically, and no one can anticipate, fully. Therefore, give guests the comfort of being able to cancel without penalty if the situation changes. I created a template that you can use.
4. Reduce Uncertainty.
When guests make a booking, offer additional flexibility on your Non-Refundable rates. Free re-booking is an excellent option. Pay now but reschedule if you need to (up until a particular date).
5. Offer Additional Benefits.
As I stated above, many hotels will want to reduce rates, this is a big no-no. Instead offer additional benefits. Rather than cutting $50 off, add $50 on by way of additional benefits.
Free bottle of wine on each night of your stay. Free entrance to local attractions. This is a perfect opportunity to work with other local businesses, such as restaurants.
Here is a great idea: go to local restaurants near your hotel, and cut a deal that you will send all your guests to their restaurants if they offer a discount, say, 10% on their first meal.
Get creative. Add more benefits. Whatever you do, don't reduce rates.
Distinguish your offers from your competition. Bundle, package, and add value.
6. Promote Staycations.
Lots of Belizeans and people from other countries, living in Belize, are waiting patiently to get out of their homes and shake their cabin fever.
So start heavily promoting through geo-targeted PPC & Metasearch campaigns in the domestic market. Consider also working with local domestic tour operators to offer accommodation or meals to domestic tour groups.
7. Tap Into Your Local Community
Over the past 3 weeks I have had the opportunity to be invited by friends who work at local resorts, to go and hang out for the day. I and my girlfriend had lots of fun, and had no idea that these resorts have so much fun things to do.
This is a perfect opportunity to invite your local community to experience your hotel. As soon as the Government of Belize gives the go-ahead, you can push alternative revenue streams with your local market, F&B (food & beverage), bar, restaurant, spa etc can be promoted to locals.
Studies have shown that food and beverage operations are not as badly affected as compared to accommodation during an event that affects travel. Why? Local residents chose to dine in restaurants with better sanitation and high standards of cleanliness.
So, promote your hotel's services on social media, local search, leaflet drops, as well as via email newsletters and targeting local companies in your neighborhood.
Keep up-to-date on what GOB is doing here.
8. Special Rates For Local Residents
Why not consider encouraging local residents to stay at your hotel by offering special rates and packages? These offers should be geo-targeted to your local audience in order to avoid a reduction in rate to the general marketplace. In other words, if you are going to promote a Facebook ad, or Google ad, make sure you target just Belize.
9. Offer Gated / Fenced Offers
If you are going to offer discounts, instead of discounting across the board, use re-marketing to target previous guests, newsletters with a promo code, geo-target display campaigns and display campaigns on local business sites.
10. Are You In An Infected Area? (San Pedro, San Ignacio, Corozal, Belize City)
If so, use the low occupancy period (however undesirable) to retrain and up-skill staff, bring forward some refurbishment or maintenance jobs you had planned. Plan to come out of this challenging period more effective and better prepared for the future.
Additional Information and Resources:
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