With the world turned upside down and the travel industry weathering an unprecedented pause, the path to recovery can seem arduous at times. But we can always find a silver lining. We see the wave of recent and upcoming reopenings as a chance for hotels, resorts and destinations to adopt an “opening” mentality and be born anew.
As the saying goes, you’re only new once. This is why many of the world’s leading hotels, resorts and hospitality clients seek out travel PR experts as they prepare to reopen. Having the support of a seasoned luxury travel advisor working behind the scenes to curate a seamless—albeit different—travel experience will be critical. Most importantly, it’s our job to articulate why these moments and new offerings are newsworthy to our trusted media contacts to amplify the message.
Our agency has always believed in providing bespoke service to our clients. We’ve earned a reputation as one of the top travel PR agencies, due in part to our customized and innovative approach, where no two client plans or strategies are the same. Whether it’s a standalone project, 30-day quick lift or long term strategy, we take pride in our ability to develop smart, actionable coronavirus recovery plans that will help our travel PR clients re-open and get back to business, stronger than ever.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jul. '20 Travel & Int'l PR Magazine.|
|Source: MMGY Global Travel Safety Barometer; June 2020|
And while there’s no “one size fits all” solution, we’d like to peel back the curtain and share five insider tips that guide our thinking to help our clients re-enter the market and capitalize on being “new” once again.
Be sure to ask: “why now?”
As travel enthusiasts, it’s easy to get tunnel vision when approaching a hotel, resort or destination’s coronavirus recovery plan. But remember that in order to achieve your client’s goals—securing best-fit coverage to drive heads in beds and arrivals—we must first demonstrate to the media why and how these offerings are newsworthy. Spend time thinking about your client—and how they relate to what’s going on in the broader national, regional and local conversation—and identify two or three “Why Now’s” that will anchor your recovery plan.
Re-evaluate your audience
While your hotel, resort or destination might have had an 80 percent/20 percent split of focus on national/international vs. regional/local pre-COVID, it might be time to invert these numbers and focus on travelers in your immediate backyard first. This can be a very real opportunity for our travel PR clients, but it requires a pivot in focus. To accommodate the rise in domestic road trips for our hotel and resort clients, we encourage them to think about their parking policies and ways to attractively package stays for guests arriving via car. How might their needs be new or different? What will a socially distanced welcome experience look and feel like with guests arriving via car?
We’re also advising our international clients to pay close attention to the airlines that service their destination for news about routes resuming and any increased airlift. Lean in on your resources—upstream tourism boards are often among the first to know about routes resuming—and focus your PR efforts on the markets who can now access your destination.
Examine owned assets
Does your photography show a bustling lobby, buzzing cafes or patrons elbow-to-elbow at the bar? In the pre-COVID era—where locals at your F&B outlets and a co-working style lobby were all the rage—these same images may now be red flags for today’s safety-minded travelers. Equally as important, are you showcasing a diverse clientele? If resources permit, use this time before you welcome guests back to audit your website and social channels and help fill in the content gaps.
Pick a focal point and lean in
You’re excited to re-open and you want to deliver a WOW moment to leave a lasting impression on travelers. While it might be tempting to think about something bold and new—a grand re-opening event? a new signature offering?—this is one area in which we recommend looking to your past for inspiration. Distill the essence of what makes your hotel, resort or destination unique—whether it’s a signature arrival experience, a drink at the bar, an evening ritual or that perfect area to watch the sunset—and find a way to celebrate and subtly reinvent that experience for travelers with safety in mind.
Adjust tactics based on the timeline
Once a reopening date is established, your PR team will have a sense of how much runway you have to work with and what tactics can deliver the biggest impact in that time frame. For instance, if a hospitality PR partner is engaged 30 days prior to reopening, short-lead outlets—such as newspapers, digital outlets, e-newsletters and broadcast—should be prioritized over long-lead pitches to national outlets.
This can be complemented by a short-term social media strategy, whereby the property or destination creatively builds excitement and paints the picture of the experience to be had once the doors—or borders—reopen. This is where your new photography will play a critical role in visually communicating that your hotel, resort, or destination has traveler’s safety in mind.
Now more than ever, it’s time to pull together as an industry and demonstrate the true spirit of hospitality. You’re only new again once and we look forward to making the most of this transformative time in the travel industry—together.
Melanie Brandman is CEO and Founder of The Brandman Agency.