How to Make Guests Feel Safe Post-Covid
I was inspired to write this blog when I found myself holding my breath in a queue for ice-cream.
Here in Austria life is slowly returning to normal. Not everyone has received both vaccinations, so “normal” is punctuated by getting negative Covid tests and remembering to download and save them before being allowed entry to certain places.
That was what I had to do last week after my kids begged me to take them to the recently opened outdoor swimming pool.
It was there, in a busy queue for post-swim ice-creams, that I found myself subconsciously holding my breath.
No one was wearing a mask. Yes, we were outdoors but the café area had a patio roof.
It was the first time for months I had been close to so many people. And it felt really, really weird.
My physical reaction to the proximity of others in the queue was subconscious. And I have no doubt I was not the only one to feel this subliminal unease.
The intrusion Covid has inflicted on our subconscious is evident when we see hundreds of people together in a movie scene. A voice from inside wonders first what is strange, and then a voice from inside arises and wants to scream “No one is wearing a mask!" **cue tonnes of shocked emoticons 😱😱😱😱**
It has happened to you too, right!
The hospitality industry is based on social interactions, relaxation, and fun. This presents a huge challenge to make guests feel at ease in such an uncertain world.
After all, even after vaccination and/or proving a negative test result, accommodation owners cannot guarantee 100% safety. Nor can you be held responsible for any issues that might arise at your property when it results from something out of your control.
The ultimate choice to travel during this Covid-recovery period is with the traveller.
It is easy to hold up your hands and pass the buck to the decision-maker.
But that would be a mistake.
In order to take a decision, said decision-maker needs to receive confident and succinct messaging – both visual and written – that encourages that feeling of ease.
Therein lies our responsibility as hotel, lodge, b&b, hostel, and restaurant owners.
While we cannot guarantee 100% certainty, we can at least grant peace of mind.
To have survived this pandemic so far, you are already super resilient.
This is just another step, another tool to gain you a competitive advantage by addressing the very real issue of granting peace of mind in an innovative way.
Before I share some ideas about how to do this, I first want to answer a question that has come up quite a lot recently.
How much detail do guests want to know about my cleaning procedures?
The amount of detail you share and how prominent it needs to be, has evolved as the pandemic has moved forward into a stage of recovery for the travel industry.
A few months ago, your enhanced cleaning procedure was the first question a traveller had. Now, if someone is considering travel, an enhanced cleaning procedure is already a given – just like running hot water.
It has become an intrinsic part of our offer and there is an implicit trust that if you are open for business, you want to stay open. Therefore, why would you risk anything that could leave your business exposed?
So, yes. It is an absolute MUST to have your Covid FAQs listed on your website. But more than that, your job now is to create and share subtle yet prominent messaging that instils that all important peace of mind.
Here goes with a short checklist of ideas to make guests feel safe post-Covid:
1. Update your marketing messaging e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e
On your website first of all, but also on your OTA profiles, in your social bios, and even add a short excerpt to your email signature. Repeat it, make it prominent and let it work for you to get your messaging across.
Let people know that you have (and are) taking care of Covid by showing guests what you do to keep them safe as an integrated part of your service. It is no longer a temporary add-on. Be at ease and let people see that you have embraced this new normal.
Be bold. Be confident.
Your marketing messaging now needs to go something like this too.
"We take Covid seriously, but we won’t let it affect your fun. Leave the details to us. We leave enjoying your well-deserved rest and creating magical moments to remember to you."
See how powerful this is! It immediately makes you think "Great, these guys have got my back!".
2. Don’t feel obliged to embrace contactless check in
This might seem controversial because it has been the subject of SO many articles recently. Personally, I would not choose to stay in a place just because it has contactless check in. I like the interaction with a person. If you show me how I will be protected to the best of your ability, you stand a better chance of getting my reservation.
Most small properties don’t get an influx of check-ins all at once.
But still, why not show “stations” where you are “held” before moving to the actual reception?
Make it fun. Think Monopoly, Ludo or chess. You could have “Bond Street” where you receive a complimentary drink and where you fill out the check in form. That way, if someone is at reception - “Pall Mall” - when your new check in arrives, they are not just standing their tapping their feet or hovering too close behind the person talking to you.
By providing fun areas where people feel cared for and protected, you instil that all important peace-of-mind right from the start.
3. Create an alternative check-in set up
Consider moving your check in to a comfortable lounge set up with a large table in the middle. The guests sit on comfortable chairs on one side and you on the other. Add in a colouring station or a discovery tank for kids. By doing this you guarantee distancing, a way to avoid kids running off, as well as a genuine, personal, check-in scenario.
4. Set up wait stations for restaurant/café/spa areas
If you have to limit the number of people in your restaurant for breakfast, or during the day, consider adding a juice station while people wait. This could be manned with someone creating fresh juices on demand.
Add in a kid-friendly activity like “Which way up is your face when you look into a metal spoon”, or place another discovery tank nearby. You don't have to build a full aquarium, even a few stick insects is enough.
As the parent of two curious small kids, I guarantee this is a winner for parents and would definitely sway my booking in your direction. Anything that relieves stress and creates those all-important moments that you remember and laugh about post-stay is a great way to add value at the same time as making people feel comfortable.
5. Gamify the use of your shared facilities
If you have a shared kitchen area, what about embracing gamification to generate that fun element that hostels are known for. Put up a leader board for the fastest washer-up of the day. Allow one or two people at a time to wash and clean up. Encourage them to use the sand timer or stopwatch to measure their speed and then ask them to write their name and time on the chalk board. You can even give a prize or a discount for the winner.
6. Talk about your destination. A LOT
It is true that no one ever travelled just to sleep in a hotel, but now they are assessing every detail of the destination – and how safe it is – before making a decision to go there. Write blogs that answer the burning questions of travellers so you can share the URL in emails and social posts. Embrace email marketing to inspire confidence and generate trust.
If you are interested in learning more about blogging and email marketing check out these free 91 content ideas.
So, this is just a drop in the ocean, but my intention is to inspire you to think outside the box, and to see the importance of not just telling, but showing people what you are doing to keep them safe.
One last thing.... remember to be confident.
The more at ease you are with what you are doing to keep people distanced and safe, the more your guests will feel at ease.
Include visuals and details of what you are doing to keep people safe in everything that you publish.
That know, like and trust factor has always been an important part of winning bookings for hospitality, but right now it is more important than ever.
Getting clear and confident with your hotel marketing messaging is not just a smart move to stay ahead of the game, it is essential for creating a sustainable business that not only survives but thrives.
I will leave you with this quote that sums it up quite well:
“Recovery is largely reliant on how safe guests feel staying at a hotel and a destination”. ¹
I'd love to hear your comments along with any other ideas to create that all important peace of mind. Scroll right down to the bottom of the page and leave a comment.
Also, as always, if you just want to bounce around ideas or pick my brain, please do drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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¹ Spectrum Enterprise Hotel Management Report: How Hotels Can Embrace Technology On The Road To Recovery