69 – Client Success & Hotel Recovery Post-COVID-19

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In follow up to an episode produced in early 2020, this episode of the Suite Spot discusses the relationship with Travel Media Group’s Client Success Team and Hotel Recovery Post- COVID-19. Host Ryan Embree is joined by Client Success Team Lead Aislynn Roberts to update us on how hotelier sentiment has changed since the beginning of the pandemic.

Ryan and Aislynn talk about the crucial role that hotel digital marketing plays in a hotel’s recovery, and the creative ways hoteliers are connecting with guests to accelerate their recovery pace. Aislynn shares some innovative stories from Travel Media Group hotel partners and includes best practices for hoteliers not yet seeing the revenue bounceback expected. This episode is a great tool for hoteliers looking to spark ideas for targeting and capturing occupancy.

If you are looking for help or more information from Aislynn and her client success team call or text us at 407-984-7455.

Episode Transcript
Our podcast is produced as an audio resource. Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and human editing and may contain errors. Before republishing quotes, we ask that you reference the audio.

Ryan Embree:
Welcome to Suite Spot where hoteliers check in and we check out what’s trending in hotel marketing. I’m your host, Ryan Embree. Hello everyone, welcome to another episode of the Suite Spot. This is your host, Ryan Embree, thank you all for listening today. We’re getting to a very exciting time – depending on where you’re at right now – it could be frigid, frigid cold, but we see just on the horizon, the warm spring and summer seasons are coming just around the corner, which typically means for the hotel industry, a little bit of a boost in occupancy, which we could all use right now. So we are going to continue our theme of just recovery and accelerating speed towards getting that occupancy and ADR to “normal levels.” We’re seeing a lot of good news outside with vaccines that continues to see progress, were starting to see more and more people travel. We know that interest in travel is at an all time high. There’s just so much pent up demand out there. So today what we’re going to be talking about is one of the differentiators of Travel Media Group and partnering with us. And that is, not only do we provide you with the digital marketing solutions, you know, top of class solutions, but we also supply you with a team dedicated to our hotel partners. And we’re going to really talk through the role of what we call client success team and where they fit in, in hotel recovery. So with me today, I have Aislynn Roberts, she is our client success team lead. Aislynn, it’s been a while since you’ve been on the Suite Spot, but I want to welcome you again for coming on with me.

Aislynn Roberts:
Thanks Ryan. It’s great to be here.

Ryan Embree:
And we’ve got a great episode for you today, but I want to start before we roll into it, with just for those who might be unfamiliar with the client success team, so I kind of gave a high level definition of what your team does, but just walk us through your role and the relationship that client success team has with Travel Media Group hotel partners.

Aislynn Roberts:
Yeah, sure, so the client success team works alongside our hotel partners throughout their customer journey with Travel Media Group. When a hotelier begins a partnership with us, they are assigned a dedicated client success representative that walks them through the program on boarding seamlessly to ensure their program gets off to a good start right away. We provide training to all team members before the start and ongoing as needed in times of turnover. And we stay regularly connected throughout The first 60 days of the program to ensure all team members are comfortable with the system and new processes, providing encouragement to them, and answer any questions when needed. After that initial start, we proactively remain connected monthly to review progress, strategize for the coming months, and be a resource to our partners. We like to think of ourselves as an extension of the team at the hotel itself.

Ryan Embree:
And I think that’s key, and again, differentiating Travel Media Group from other vendors out there that your team isn’t just representative of a onboard and then, you know, here are the tools go ahead and kind of work with it. You know, your team actually stays engaged with the hotel, during COVID wee saw a lot of adaptation, quick changes that needed to be implemented at the property and your team was a big part of that. We had an episode on how your team was helping during the pandemic in the spring. Now in 2021, how have those conversations kind of evolved since then?

Aislynn Roberts:
Well, last spring, it really felt like we were all collectively holding our breath. We were still waiting to see the full impact on the industry and how each market was going to change and adapt to what was happening. But as we continue to move through 2020, we learned more about traveler behaviors during the pandemic and began seeing travel trends emerge for 2021. So as we approach the holidays and the new year, our conversations with our partners really became more about how do we reach the people that are ready now, rather than last spring when we were talking hoteliers through being empathetic to the situation, while remaining present online for future travel. Now we are discussing more on what our partners have at the hotel that sets them apart from their competitors and how to exploit that to capture more of the travelers coming into the market today. For example, I work with a hotel that spent time in 2020 to completely upgrade their wifi, to make it stronger and faster. In January, we started running campaigns with the theme #workfromhotel as a play on the trending #workfromhome that emerged from a lot of people having to change offices and work from their house, and we promoted their wifi simultaneously. They had travelers book with them for the day when they needed a quiet space for a few hours and because of that we are continuing the campaign through Q1.

Ryan Embree:
I love that idea. There are so many things that if you’re a hotelier listening to this, that probably looks so different from February of 2021 to February of 2020. Some of those are positive changes, like that upgrade to the wifi. You might’ve been able to do some deep cleaning at the property or even implemented some operational changes to streamline the guest experience or improve the guest experience. Those are things that need to be advertised and marketed out there. And it’s those types of campaigns that your team is kind of spearheading, and helping and, almost consulting with the hotelier to run them effectively and make sure that it’s reaching the target guests out there. You know, I love talking with your team Aislynn because you guys really are at the frontline of talking to hoteliers, and you kind of hit the nail on the head, when you talked about last year, we were holding our breath as an industry. We didn’t know how bad this was going to get. Now we kind of are starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel, we’re starting to see travelers come back into our hotel lobbies or trying to get a glimpse of what that might look like in the future. In talking to these hoteliers, what’s the general sentiment out there that you’re hearing from hoteliers right now?

Aislynn Roberts:
Well, so there’s still a lot of moving parts regarding COVID-19 and travel, but generally most of the clients that I work with are optimistic about the near future. So they are tuned into the news regarding the vaccine, staying up to date on travel restrictions for their area, and continuing to follow all CDC recommendations for safety of guests and staff, but we’re looking to the future strategizing on spring travel as trends show Americans are looking to plan trips for April and beyond. Many have experienced a pickup in occupancy that started with the holiday season and carried over in the new year. However, I have a few clients in areas with higher restrictions that do not share that same sentiment. For example, I work with a Vermont hotel and their state still restricts travel to only essential workers and state residents, which has been keeping occupancy low for the last year. And as we ended 2020, they were frustrated that things didn’t seem to be moving in any direction. So we strategized on ways to capture, travel that they can have. We used their social media platforms and website to promote Vermont resident and long-term stay rates for those coming to the area on assignment and after we ran content online, they saw pickup and reservations, and were so excited that we plan to continue to promote these rates through March. We were able to turn a frustrating time into a positive experience by stepping outside the norm that they came to know about their traditional travelers and we got creative with ways to reach people today.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, I think that’s a great example of a “not one size fits all.” This recovery is going to come at different paces for different regions of the country. In Florida, where our headquarters are, we’ve seen coastal cities really pick up occupancy pretty quickly because of obviously the warm weather, but obviously the ability to be outside, near the beach somewhere like you were mentioning in Vermont might not have that luxury. Whether it’s the restrictions that are put in place or whether it’s the season out there, the winter season, where people are being forced to stay indoors. That’s why your team is such an asset Aislynn, because you do work with properties around the country and you can really customize and hand pick a strategy that works for them. I’m curious, just your opinion, what part do you think digital marketing is going to play in this recovery for 2021?

Aislynn Roberts:
This is such an important topic for the hotel industry because digital marketing is vital to a hotel’s recovery in 2021. The pandemic and shutdowns brought on a significant shift in consumers day to day. I mean, grocery shopping even became something people went online to, rather than going to the stores too frequently. So we know that Millennials and Gen Zer’ s are driving travel right now and getting in the market. So these travelers grew up in the digital age and are comfortable navigating an online world to satisfy their needs and desires. These travelers also rely heavily on the opinions of others and influencers. So they are reading reviews and within seconds deciding on whether they want to continue looking into a brand, based on the reviews and the responses to those reviews. Social media and influencer recommendations, also heavily influenced their purchases and buying habits. They find these recommendations and testimonials more sincere than direct product marketing and advertising. And with consumer spending over six hours a day interacting with digital media in some capacity, businesses can’t afford to not reach out to them on these platforms and arm themselves with every tool they have at their disposal, from frequent reviews, to sincere review responses, to social media, consumers are looking at it all and not wasting any time moving on when they see something that doesn’t meet their perceived expectations.

Ryan Embree:
You’re right, travelers are spending more time than ever looking at things like social media, review responses, reviews, because the stakes are higher now. If they don’t feel safe from what they’re seeing, they will not choose your property. And I think that is something that I really, really want to stress and highlight on this episode. It is all about the perception of your guests. You can have an incredible customer experience and product out there, but if that’s not being perceived online, it’s going to be absolutely devastating to your business. And this is something to where it was not like this in any type of degree in the past, we are in unchartered waters right now. And if we don’t have a good foundation in place, when these travelers start to come back and we start to see that good news of vaccines and cases come down, then you’re going to be lagging behind and you’re not going to recover as quickly as some of your competitors that have really been focusing and fine tuning these strategies during the pandemic. Now, I want to go back to what we talked about, you know, different regions of the countries, performing at different recovery speeds. Let’s talk to that hotelier right now that might be listening to this, that hasn’t bounced back as quickly as they would have hoped. What ideas would you offer to this hotel or property on ways that maybe they can just get that little competitive edge?

Aislynn Roberts:
This is a great question and so important for every hotelier to keep in mind and really analyze and think about as they plan for the year ahead. So a key factor I discuss with my clients is understanding what type of hotel they are right now, after the shift and travel and consumer behavior that 2020 brought. Are you a destination market or are you the stopover market – the halfway point between destinations – if you are the stopover, where are your travelers coming from and where are they heading? What do you offer that no other hotel in your market offers that will make you stand out? Why did people come to your area before 2020 and what do they come for now? Really get into the nitty gritty of it all, as it sets us up to begin strategy talk. So I want to relate this to a little bit more of a specific situation. I recently partnered with a hotel in Louisiana on social media and reputation management. During on boarding, I quickly learned how in tune the GM was with his hotel, market, and travelers. He even broke down his breakfast items to what blue collar travelers prefer versus what white collar travelers prefer and added in healthier items to attract a different market. We discussed how before 2020, they were a stop for many travelers on their way to and from New Orleans, but now he’s getting locals from New Orleans who just need a few days away. So we plan on leveraging quick road trips to meet that traveler itch many of us are feeling right now. He mentioned a younger front desk employee of his that dabbles in photography, so she’s going to capture organic photos of the hotel and area to incorporate into the social media content. No one better than that to help curate content to reach travelers of the same generational group, but more importantly, the front desk typically has a lot of helpful insight into guests likes and dislikes, what attracts them to the hotel, and what brings them to the town. They usually have the most interaction with your guests daily, so use them, empower them to find out more about the guests, encourage feedback upon departure, and use what they find out to play in: packages, deals, promotions, social media, content, property updates – really the list is endless.

Ryan Embree:
Yeah, I love that. Find out what your hotel is today. What is your hotel being used for? Why are travelers coming to the property and staying with you? These could be insights to ways that you can strategize a digital marketing strategy to market and advertise to those types of travelers. And it could be something completely different like you mentioned, Aislynn, it could be something completely different than it was a year ago. So it’s super, super important to figure out what your property is and how your guests and travelers are using your property in what capacity. So let’s go on the other end of the spectrum. We’ve talked to a lot of hoteliers that are doing really, really well. They’re seeing positive signs of occupancy, ADR is a little bit up, just recovery, right? And that’s what we’re all hoping and yearning for. Have you or your team kind of noticed any common trends between those hotels that are seeing those positive signs of revenue recovery?

Aislynn Roberts:
Yes, in fact the first thing that comes to mind to me is transparency. When we talk about the younger generations, they can feel when a business or brand is dishonest online with the information they share. What I recommend to my hotels is to share their story, make the younger generation believe that you are not hiding anything from them before they come and stay with you. Cleanliness was a frequent talking point in 2020 across all industries, but for hotels it really became apparent that their policies and procedures needed to be shared and highlighted. So in the past, guests didn’t have much interaction with the housekeeping staff, but now they want to see them. One of my clients appointed a cleanliness captain and shared her photo with a quick bio, introducing her. They later followed up with a video of her using their new electro sanitizer sprayer in a guest room, demonstrating her and the hotel’s commitment to a clean and safe environment for all. These two posts were among their highest performing posts for 2020. Being transparent about what you do and what you offer feels more genuine and will go a long way with the travelers that are in the market today.

Ryan Embree:
You are absolutely right there, and what a cool idea with that cleanliness captain. We’re always looking for an opportunity to humanize and personalize our business. And you could be a hotelier thinking, “I’m just a property, I’m a Holiday Inn Express, I’m a Hilton Garden Inn, Marriott property, independent,” but there’s individuals working at your property, which make your property, who you are. And you need to be sharing that online, this pandemic, if anything, has really stressed the importance of human to human connection. And even though we haven’t been able to be face-to-face to one another, sometimes just seeing a friendly face on the other side is all you need to make an impression on a guest and that’s what we’re attempting to do right now. Now I know you’ve mentioned a lot of really, really cool examples, but I have to ask, you know, I think sometimes some of the best teaching moments that we can share are just really cool success stories. So any cool success stories, jump out at you when thinking about this past year and the client success team and hotelier partnership?

Aislynn Roberts:
So much has happened in the past year, hoteliers really got creative with content and starting conversations online with travelers. So everything from Facebook contests for jacuzzi suite, that received over a hundred likes within the first 30 minutes of posting, to a lost stuffed animal that was shared online to find it small owner missing its friend, and even a food truck event, in which a hotel rented out its parking lot for food trucks to park and serve people lunch. But one of my personal favorites is a hotel I work with in Nashville that receives a lot of five-star reviews regarding their bartender. As we discussed ways to use him on social media, to connect with past and future guests, we came up with the idea to do a Facebook live, of him making one of his special cocktails. They used this opportunity to provide updates on the travel restrictions and what’s open in the area. Since that first one, they have done two additional lives, and with each one, their engagement increases. Their most recent live reviewed mandates, updates on bars and restaurants and attractions, capacity limitations, and even property policies, like masks being required in common areas. That video had a 45% engagement rate with interactions on it as it was happening live including a comment from someone in another country. Across the board live content exploded in 2020 and became commonplace on social media with LinkedIn, even throwing in their hat. So this particular video and results just reiterate the desire people have to connect with brands on a more personal level and live videos make people feel like they are there with you at that moment.

Ryan Embree:
That’s just absolutely incredible statistics and what a story to hear that – again, just going back to the people part – that is the foundation of the hotel industry: customer service, people serving people. You might have some of the best rooms in town and upgraded suites, amenities, and features, but it really could be the people that are working there that make the difference for the property. So keep that in mind, that’s such a great example of really personalizing and telling a story on your social media accounts and what a testament to that employee’s hard work and dedication. I’m sure they were absolutely thrilled to be a part of that type of strategy. So what great ideas we got in today’s episode. Aislynn, definitely want to thank you for joining me on the Suite Spot, before we wrap up today’s episode, I always just kind of like to throw a final thought on there. Any final thoughts for today’s episode?

Aislynn Roberts:
Well, I know I covered a lot today, but one common theme I hope was clear is that a big part of digital marketing is about painting a picture of the type of experience travelers can have when they stay with you. And connecting with them on a personal level, so that they want to come back to you when they are ready to finalize that booking. The client success team is your liaison between the day-to-day of running a hotel and the digital marketing world. We will help you navigate through the different consumer shifts and habits, and we’re just another tool at your disposal.

Ryan Embree:
Absolutely Aislynn, and your team does some incredible work, and again, it’s a differentiator between ourselves and other vendors. So if you’re partnering with us right now, as a Travel Media Group hotel partner, you have a dedicated client success representative for your property. Utilize them, leverage them. These are the types of ideas that we’re partnering with hotels, helping them with their social media, their review response, reputation management. It’s exactly like Aislynn said, we are just another tool at your disposal, so make sure you’re using them to its fullest. And if you’re not a hotel partner out there and would like some more information on Aislynn and her incredible client success team, reach out to us (407) 984-7455 or you can visit us at travelmediagroup.com. Travel Media Group is dedicated to providing, not only the best in class solutions, but also the best in class service. So thank you all for listening to this and we will talk to you next time on the Suite Spot. To join our loyalty program be sure to subscribe and give us a five-star rating on iTunes. Suite Spot is produced by Travel Media Group. Our editor is Anne Sandoval with cover art by Bary Gordon. I’m your host, Ryan Embree, and we hope you enjoyed your stay.



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