Sales teams are recommended to re-evaluate their business groups.

There is finally light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, but the road to recovery for hotels will be a long one, and sales teams will have to work harder than ever to survive the new economic climate. This time, traditional sales approaches won't cut it.

Sales teams have to abandon old marketing habits and embrace the challenges posed by a very different business landscape. We can expect to see six stages of recovery: full lockdown, restricted reopening, local reopening, domestic reopening, continental reopening, and global reopening.

The first two stages have been devastating for the tourism industry as many hotels have been ordered shut, and flights have been limited to repatriation and essential business only. At present, however, many countries are entering stages four and five: local and domestic reopening, meaning tourism is slowly resuming operations. It is important to recognize exactly which stage your hotel is in before implementing a particular recovery strategy, and with some governments, it’s not always made perfectly clear.

Three main indicators that can help determine the stage of the economy are market demand, feeder markets, and competitor campaigns. Analyzing hotel searches, flight bookings, booking trends, average length of stay, and occupancy rates will help hoteliers better understand market demand. Feeder markets’ flight booking data and travel restrictions are a leading indicator of future demand from feeder markets. Lastly, keeping up with your competitors’ latest marketing campaigns and promotions will help you determine whether the market will reopen soon.

Next, sales teams are recommended to re-evaluate their business groups. Segmenting target consumers into leisure and business travel will not be helpful to strategizing recovery plans. Government disease control regulations are subject to change at any moment. Instead, salespeople should classify their target groups based on the crowd size and locality, suggests HSMAI.

Small size, local groups include visitors who are looking for a getaway weekend, holiday brunch, staycation, special family weekend, or a baby shower. Large, global groups are those who are traveling for the Olympics, big sporting events, academic conferences, and tour groups.

HSMAI anticipates that the latter group will take longer to generate revenues. Moreover, bigger crowds will definitely require more investment in disease prevention measures, meaning additional operational costs for the hotels. To determine the length of recovery, hotels have to identify which group most of their customers fall into. Doing so can forecast how hotels' bookings will look in the near future.

Those whose usual visitors are from the large, global group should consider making international events local, such as turning an international vacation into a weekend staycation or converting a big annual meeting into smaller, regional ones, where several hotels in different cities collaborate to connect these small meetings with enhanced audio and visual technology.

HSMAI further suggests that after identifying their hotels’ group businesses, hoteliers should include the following into their tactical recovery actions:

  1. Check-in with Customers: Empathy with customers is key to a successful recovery.  Now is the time to understand what your customers are going through and to fortify your relationships with them.
  2. Update Contact Database: While the sales team is making check-in calls, use this as an opportunity to update your contacts as you go along. This crisis has caused many roles to shift and jobs to change and putting the hard work in now will make your future efforts more efficient.
  3. Package Facelift: With new types of customer demand comes the need for new product offerings. Create packages with community partners for staycations or explore new ways to stage a semi-virtual board meeting. Determine packages that will meet your customers’ new sets of needs and arm your sales team with the info to sell them.
  4. Refresh Buyer Enablement Collateral: Investments in your sales enablement assets now will pay dividends as the recovery heats up. This means updating seating capacity for socially distanced events, taking pictures of your event room set up with better audio/visual equipment, and updating your website with new packages and offerings.
  5. Identify a Target List of Groups: With an understanding of the customers’ challenges, new buyer personas, and local market knowledge - create a list of groups the sales team should focus on first. Now is the time to deeply understand your customers’ unique situations and to act accordingly.

Everyone knows the hotel industry is going to change. But no one is confident about how the customers’ business will change. Sales teams must go into investigative mode and understand how their customers’ business is shifting. Hence, it might be worthwhile conducting thorough market research before making any big decisions. The sales teams that understand this are the ones who are going to win.