On your marks, get set, plan. Two weeks ago, the accommodation industry opened its doors to travellers after a four-month hiatus, but simply turning the tap back on doesn’t guarantee the bookings will flow. Serviced apartment and co-living companies need to devise a strategic revenue plan to attract and, more crucially, maintain a constant stream of bookings in order to maximise profits in the second half of the year. Here’s how.
Prioritise customers likely to travel
In the short-term, think millennials. Less susceptible to the virus and more likely to travel, the 20-40 age bracket are expected to make up the bulk of bookings and operators should target them by catering for their needs. Given millennials are tech-savvy travellers that value transparency, authenticity and flexibility, communicating regularly and embracing tech solutions that simplify and streamline their stay will enhance guest experience and encourage repeat bookings.
Moreover, borders may be gradually opening, but don’t expect a tide of international business travellers just yet. Instead, focus on domestic workers that have to travel due to collaborative needs or specialised workplaces. Besides safety, these travellers value privacy, fast internet and productive work-from-home environments.
Implement local strategies
The coronavirus has hit different countries, regions and towns in contrasting waves with the authorities responding in-kind. In the UK, for example, England and Scotland have enforced varying restrictions, while Leicester faced a local lockdown following a surge in cases.
Therefore, when it comes to revenue management, operators cannot treat units in Edinburgh the same as units in Birmingham. Localised geo-strategies are needed to offset local spikes and restrictions that many take place later in the year.
Offer flexibility where possible
Covid exposed the flaws in rigid revenue models with operators focusing too narrowly on short-stay suffering most. Going forward, having a diverse portfolio and offering a flexible range of stay lengths will hedge against unforeseen shocks.
In addition, operators should offer a flexible cancellation policy as guests are more likely to book if they can cancel, free of charge, up until a few days before check-in. If guests do decide to cancel, operators should be supportive and helpful: maintaining good relations will increase trust and increase the chance of future bookings.
Use a variety of booking channels
The lockdown showed OTAs in a bad light. From treating operators with disdain to not returning customers’ money on time, they breached trust and adversely impacted operators who relied on them. OTAs will bounce back, but operators should look to incorporate them as part of a revenue management strategy, not the revenue management strategy.
Instead, operators should encourage more direct bookings, which provides more control and less commission. For example, operators must ensure their website contains all relevant booking information, accepts direct bookings, can easily be found on Google and consider using specialist agencies such as Silverdoor, The Apartment Service, Situ or Bridgestreet to establish strong relationships with the supplier.
Communicate regularly to build loyalty
With travellers more likely to book with operators they know, respect and trust, brand reputation will be vital to revenue management post-Covid. Operators therefore need to build their brand presence through targeted messaging and regular communication with potential customers.
Using a digital CRM platform, operators can easily keep customers abreast of new developments and initiatives. From announcing revised safety protocols to providing updates on new benefits, services and policies, streamlined digital communication builds strong customer relationships and loyalty. In particular, operators should prioritise regular travellers by sending personalised communications and offering discounts, such as long-stay cost reductions and repeat-booking benefits. It’s ten times easier to work with existing and previous customers and strengthen that bond than chase new customers.
Adopting automated management systems cuts overheads and enables operators to manage operations remotely, but when it comes to revenue, their analytics and number-crunching capacity are what’s invaluable. By using real-time data and accurate client information, operators can establish the who, where, when and why of bookings and make smart revenue decisions that are tailor-made to their business. What’s more, with a digital platform, operators can easily manage various booking channels, optimise availability and offer a range of flexible stay and apartment types.
With national lockdown over and the potential for second waves on the horizon, it can be tempting to dive in head first and focus on boosting short-term revenue. However, the pandemic will pass eventually and for revenue management purposes, it’s better to have a flowing stream than a flash flood. Building up brand reputation, trust and a loyal client base now is more beneficial in the long-run than offering mega deals to fickle new customers in the short-term.