How Hoteliers Should Respond in Times of Crisis

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Direct Bookings, Crisis management, COVID-19

What hotels can learn from Hong Kong's response to COVID-19

by Rob Funnell
March 13, 2020

The hotel industry is facing a generational crisis at the hands of COVID-19, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. However, even during these hard times, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks to rapid responses, many countries in Asia are already starting to see a recovery in their hotels’ direct bookings, and are regaining control and predictability around their digital marketing strategies. After comprehensive analysis of our hotel data from the start of the year, we’ve identified the countries, trends, and tactics to help hoteliers from US and Europe navigate such uncertain times.

Watch Charlie Osmond take you through the latest data from Hong Kong.

Asia is on the first steps towards recovery

While the effects of coronavirus hit Asia-Pacific incredibly hard at the start of February, the situation is starting to stabilize across the region. This is largely due to a shift from international bookings to more people travelling within their own country. By looking at the total number of direct bookings by day across APAC, we can see some countries are remaining relatively stable, with hotels in Australia and Malaysia seeing around 80% of the direct bookings they received at the start of the year.

However, most notable are the countries that reached their lowest point at the very start of the outbreak, and are now bouncing back. Despite early panic and severe government lockdowns, Japan and South Korea have started showing green shoots - but it’s Hong Kong that stands out for its remarkable response. After hitting a low on February 2nd, Hong Kong’s direct bookings grew 270% over the following thirty days - and observers are cautiously optimistic that the growth will continue.

Hong Kong’s uplift in direct bookings hasn’t happened by chance, but because of swift action from hoteliers to target the right bookers at this time of crisis. International travel to Hong Kong has plummeted - as we’ve seen with almost every other country at this time - but the number of bookings from guests already based in Hong Kong has seen a dramatic increase. The trend of domestic bookings is not far off what we’d expect during regular seasonal changes, and has risen above the baseline level of international bookers from before the crisis.

And for the first time this year, the amount of mobile bookings made in Hong Kong has overtaken those made on desktop. Hong Kong learnt from the devastation of SARS in 2003, and has managed to keep cases of COVID-19 low through a serious lockdown across the region. In these rapidly shifting circumstances, travelers are changing the way they book to one that is focused on convenience and speed.

How can hotels react quickly like Hong Kong?

With travel bans increasing by the day, it’s unsurprising to see domestic travel take advantage of the gaps left by international bookers. While many countries are still facing the worst of the crisis, domestic bookings are weathering the storm - or, at the very least, declining slower than international ones. At the tail-end of COVID-19’s spread, we can expect to see domestic travel continue to grow as the world heads towards a sense of normality.

However, while the exact response and recovery for your hotel may be different, the most important thing to do is monitor how the market is changing. There are still guests who are booking rooms, but perhaps not through the ways we’d usually expect them to. From device type to searcher country and even lead time, you must make your hotel agile and flexible enough to focus entirely on ensuring those who visit your website eventually convert.

To help your hotel take immediate action, we’ll be releasing regular updates during the crisis based on the trends we see from our extensive booking data. Our analysis plays a crucial role across the Triptease platform, and we’re hoping our findings can help hotels regain a sense of control and predictability over their guest acquisition strategies. If you’d like to get in touch to learn more or request advice, please contact our team for more information.

About The Author Rob is a Content & Product Marketing Executive. Find him in the DJ booth at the next Direct Booking Summit!

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