We at Paradise would like to share a few easy-to-implement communication strategies to convey positive service messaging and encourage customer patience. In some destinations, with travel increasing to record numbers, the hospitality and tourism industries have not caught up to the pent-up demand. Scaling both staffing and supplies to meet the expectations of travelers is proving difficult — oftentimes testing their patience and negatively impacting their satisfaction levels. What’s more, COVID-19 concerns are on the rise due to the Delta variant, compounding frustrations even further.
Why is This So Important
Over the last 18 months and amidst the travel comeback boom, your destination or business has been introduced to a large volume of new visitors and new audiences. This presents a tremendous opportunity to grow your market share. It’s extremely important to ensure these new visitors have the best experience possible while in consideration of the changing travel landscape. Return visitors are a destination’s greatest advocates. Steps taken now to collaboratively nurture this audience will ensure continued repeat visitation, stronger brand trust, and maintain the integrity of future retargeting tactics.
Our goal is to support our industry DMOs and partners by developing a grab-and-go message plan that resonates with both businesses and customers. In doing so, we hope to create a more peaceful, patient, and fluid travel experience that impacts visitors now while securing valued repeat visitation in the future.
Traveler Communication Plan
Email Communication Strategy
We strongly encourage multi-step communications before, during and after arrival. By communicating early and setting expectations, you can ensure your guests arrive unsurprised and appreciative of your customer-centered approach to service.
- Before Arrival: Early, welcoming and informative communication is key. Let your customers know your commitment to quality and guest experience is most important. This will quell any concerns they may have before arrival. You’ll also want to update them on any safety protocols and basics on what to expect. This may include special hours, alternate menus or changes in traditionally available services.
- During: Email communications during a customer’s stay are most relevant for hotels. This is an opportunity to check in and highlight fun or interesting happenings around the property while continuing to communicate your commitment to their stay. Let guests know who to contact should they have questions or concerns while they’re on the property. This is all about high-touch communication, making your guests feel valued and supported.
- After: Just like the before email, the after-visit communication is an important step, too. You have the opportunity to extend and manage the mindshare of their experience. Here, we can thank them for their patronage, encourage them to share their photos with a custom hashtag, and foster return visitation.
Onsite Communication Strategy
Hospitality’s foundation includes the immense value of on-site communications and customer expectation management. The current situation provides us an opportunity to make an enormous impact with our customers, ensuring a positive experience they will share in reviews and with their peers.
Let’s not forget this all begins by making sure your best ambassadors — your own staff — feel supported and confident in their own experience with you. Provide extra training, outreach and feedback channels to stay abreast of what they’re feeling. Your staff is also a wonderful source of information about guest feedback, so make sure you keep this channel of communication open.
- Upon Arrival: We’ve seen a lot of well done polite reminders out there in the past few months. By providing a written or verbal acknowledgement of any shortages or changes and reinforcing your commitment to exceed their expectations, you can help calm the customer, promote patience and settle any concerns of compromise up front. This combination is much more effective than simply stating that you are short-staffed.
- During: Continuing with a high-touch communication strategy, it’s recommended to check in with your guest frequently. This can simply include stopping by their table to ask how their experience has been, checking in while they wait in line for a ride or check out, or asking how their stay has been while they’re in the lobby. Establish a manageable touchpoint strategy with your team, clearly defining what to ask and who to contact if there is a concern.
- After: Making a connection with someone on their way out is a final opportunity to secure them as a repeat guest. Letting them know their patronage was appreciated and you look forward to seeing them again means a lot more than we often think.
Onsite Patience Perks
A little gamification or incentivising always lightens the room. Offering “Patience Perks” can immediately shift guest mood and counter any preconceived expectations of reduced service. Patience Perks do NOT have to be expensive. They can be low-cost, high-perceived value extras that surprise and delight visitors when offered — an upgrade or added resort experience, an appetizer or drink, or a bottle of ice cold water or sample while waiting in line. Use your imagination and available assets to make up Patience Perks that work for your business! By acknowledging the fact that you have staffing issues — and offering a simple reward in advance for their patience — guests are more likely to be understanding of any service issues they encounter.
Interactive Communication Strategy:
As always, website messaging should directly align with your email content and onsite experience. Clearly identify any changes in usual hours or updates to amenities, while reinforcing your commitment to the guest experience. You can also showcase any new amenities or enhanced outdoor opportunities as a way to balance changes. This may include expanded outdoor dining or music, lawn space, outdoor movies or recreational options.
Social messaging should stay light and visual, in line with your brand guidelines. For lodging and attractions, fun, friendly, entertaining or relaxing images will resonate well. For our dining partners, culinary images and experiences that include your staff or happy patrons will also share well. Make sure you stay close to guest messaging and be ready to respond in a timely manner to both positive and negative posts.
The DMO POV
At Paradise, we’re always eager to share our perspectives on timely topics such as this. But we also know that our opinions may tell just one side of the story. That’s why we’re excited to be able to share the perspectives of some of our clients as well.
Jack Wert, Executive Director of Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades CVB and a Paradise client for nearly two decades, had this to say about one of the key factors in his DMO’s recovery — the importance of DMO to partner communication:
“What we found during the height of the COVID-19 meltdown in March, April and early May in 2020 was that listening to the traveler sentiment research from several national and statewide sources — and then sharing what we were hearing with our tourism partners — effectively positioned the CVB as a credible source of information and leadership. That was what the tourism business partners needed because they had never experienced such a massive downturn in their business”.Jack Wert
Jeremy Harvey, VP of Communications and Marketing for Visit Savannah, shared these insights from his team on the power of Partner/DMO communication:
- Social Media Answering Questions: When it comes to social media, we constantly get follow-up questions after posting evergreen content about ‘whether a business is still at a certain location?’, ‘do they still have my favorite dish from a few years ago?’, ‘do I need to make a reservation?’, ‘what are their hours?’ As the DMO, we want to be the authority for our city but maintaining a pulse on the answer to all of these questions can be exhausting. We rely heavily on the information partners put within their profiles and direct people there to find their answers.
- Social Media Coverage Driving Business: When we meet with our partners, the first thing we tell them is how important it is to keep our creative team in the loop with a new opening, offering or exciting event. When our content team is brought in, we can cover the event/promotion offering on our social media channels in an organic way that builds awareness and authenticity with both brands. It’s a win/win!
- An example: The JW Marriott/Plant Riverside District reached out to us about a quarterly wine tasting event that they were kicking off and needed help increasing ticket sales. They invited our social media manager to experience the first event and cover it on our Instagram account. It highlighted a new venue (Myrtle & Rose Rooftop Lounge) that most of our visitors hadn’t had a chance to experience yet and told them about an unique experience they can plan into their upcoming trip.
- Website & SEO: Thanks to our keyword usage and backlinks, our SEO performance allows our website to get ranked highest in the area for every day questions pertaining to Savannah. This means that our website and partner pages show first in the google results. Our partner’s profiles on our website will sometimes rank higher than their business websites, thus making it all the more important to have their information updated on a regular basis.
- An example: This became even more prevalent during the height of COVID-19. Most local businesses had changed their hours and started new offerings like curbside pickup. We did a big push for our partners to submit their changes on a regular basis and that Savannah safe page became the most highly-trafficked page on our website for close to a year. We even got plenty of submissions from non-partners because they knew how imperative it was for their businesses survival.
What to communicate checklist:
- Updated hours of operation, alterations in services, new offerings and amenities, etc. If the hours are services are fixed we recommend updating your DMO website listing and your Google Business and social media listings.
- In the case of early dining closures, the DMO can prepare content featuring establishments that will open for visitors late night rather than have them struggling to find a place to eat. Conversely, they can showcase the establishment closing early as a “Do Not Miss” option earlier in the day.
- Another bonus to sharing with the DMO is if you have a new offering or updated space the DMO can highlight this in their enews or through their social channels driving more visitors to your business!
Clearly, we are in a unique time for travel and tourism right now. There is no possible way to plan for changing marketplace conditions, industry logistics, and customer expectations.
However, by continually being sensitive to traveler sentiment and taking it into account before someone plans their next trip, destinations, hotels, restaurants, attractions and other tourism partners can do more than just survive current conditions. They can set themselves up to build customer loyalty that will reap rewards well into the future.