COVID-19 Recovery Toolkit – Outreach and Marketing Strategy (Part 2)

June 4, 2020

In our first article, we focused on a hotelier’s initial path to recovery and building an effective response plan. This article we are going to go deeper into creating an effective outreach strategy to get your story out to your customers. 

Outreach and Demand Generation Strategy 

The top question from our COVID-19 webinar series attendees has been—when will travel and tourism recover? Honestly, no one can tell you for sure. What we can tell you is that based on current trends and historical response to events like 9/11 and SARS epidemic, we expect that the industry will recover in stages; a lot of it depends on how states and countries loosen up the travel bans and restrictions and how industries account for factors like social distancing and updated best practices. Sojern is predicting domestic travel and drive markets to recover before international travel. We expect the first wave of recovery in certain markets and regions within the next 3-6 months. 

Think about building your marketing strategy to adjust to nuances for each phase of recovery. 

When travel starts to unpause, with lifts on travel bans, your efforts should be focused on building awareness and confidence in your brand. Once demand builds up, switch things around by converting hi-intent travelers through your Metasearch and retargeting efforts. 

With a phased approach in mind, let’s take a look at how you can think about your outreach and marketing throughout your recovery.

Phase 1:

What are the markers of this phase: When travel starts to unpause, with lift on travel bans and ease of Government restrictions; indicating initial spike in demand. 

What to do during this phase: Focus on upper-funnel targeting and brand awareness. Time spent on social media platforms has significantly increased as people are looking to connect with the world while staying at home in the past weeks. 

According to Google Trends, YouTube searches for travel topics are up 60% in the last 30-days. People are already dreaming of their next vacation and trying to recreate travel experiences near home. As part of this phase, most of the budget 60-80% should go to upper funnel efforts. This includes channels like Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. Add Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Metasearch to the marketing mix with the remaining budget. 

You may think that no one wants to travel in phase one or at least not right away but there’s absolutely pent up appetite for travel; even if that means starting with weekend getaways and recreational experiences close to home. So, in this phase knowing your drive markets and offering unique promos, outreach, and communication will be key. 

Think about lining up offers and promotions 60 to 120 days out to promote future stays, flexible check-in and check-out options, and credits for in-room dining experiences. Assess how you can make their plans more special and give them a better bang for their buck. Offer experiential packages with local tours and attractions, spa treatments or visit to the cooking classes with your head chef at the restaurant. 

Phase 2:

What are the markers of this phase: When travel ramps backup and demand strengthens. Your website visits and search volume spikes. Lead time or Days to Arrival for your bookings is shorter. Refer to Sojern’s Real-Time COVID-19 Travel Data Insights to learn more about the latest trends in your area.

What to do during this phase: Add low-funnel targeting to the mix. Targeting hi-intent travellers will be key to drive direct demand. Amp up your investment on Metasearch and Retargeting efforts. Make sure you are closely monitoring rate parity to drive direct bookings. 

Shift budgets around to allocate 50% for Metasearch and retargeting efforts across all channels to convert hi-intent travelers effectively. Increase to 70-80% once you see traffic and bookings comparable to pre-covid volumes. 

Leverage data to adjust your strategy and reflect shifts in travel demand. 

Tips for an Effective Outreach Strategy

With smaller budgets, it’s important to hone in on the right strategies and target audience. We recommend the following tips to achieve that:

  • Geotargeting: mainly focus on drive and local markets. According to data collected by Sojern, 70% of hotel searches are for destinations within a 500-mile radius. 
  • Focus on future bookings: 60-120 days to arrival.
  • Audiences
    • Ensure you are capturing first party audiences
    • Exclude demographics that are less-likely to travel.
    • Create lookalike audiences based on your existing customer base
    • Rely on the experts. Sojern works with thousands of data partners globally to collect and analyze travel intent data which gives us an unprecedented view of travel demand. 
  • Metasearch
    • Adjust ad schedules to appear during the best performing times
    • Rate parity is key to success on this channel. 
    • Upload and update rates and availability at least up to 120 days, possibly up until March 2021.
    • If you have not run Metasearch in the past, start integrating your rates and inventory feed with Sojern now so that you’re well positioned to take advantage of the power of Metasearch as demand returns.
  • Search
    • Some of the big OTAs have minimized their marketing spend and bidding on keywords and hotel brands due to COVID-19. This gives us an opportunity to maximize your visibility and presence on crucial real-estate at the top of google search results pages. 
    • Focus on brand and destination terms to build your retargeting pool
    • Enable remarketing tags to engage audiences that have shown interest

It’s not just what channels you are on and which people you are reaching, it’s also important to think through the messaging you are using to inspire confidence. Reevaluate your current assets to ensure that your message is still relevant for the current environment. Update your creative assets and messaging with the goal of building confidence and showing empathy to customers. We will go into the latest trends and recommendations on Ad Creatives in the next article of the COVID-19 Recovery Toolkit series. 

Until then, we at Sojern are here to provide you with full support and guidance on your strategy and approach so feel free to contact us with any questions. We can help you build your multichannel marketing campaigns across Social, Programmatic, Search and Metasearch with the right strategies to make up for lost revenue and ensure that you are set up for success. 

Want more information from industry leaders on COVID-19 recovery? Check out our webinar series for the latest updates. 


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About Pooja Jumani

Pooja Jumani is a product Leader at Sojern driving the strategy and growth of solutions across hotels, tourism, and attractions.

Pooja Jumani About the author

Pooja Jumani is a product Leader at Sojern driving the strategy and growth of solutions across hotels, tourism, and attractions.