In the recent, much anticipated ‘roadmap’ announcement, Boris Johnson promised spring and summer would be “incomparably better” than our previous months of lockdown, yet for most consumers and our hospitality operators, getting back to usual can’t come soon enough. “Today’s pace of change will be a hammer blow to aviation, pubs, restaurants and hotels” noted Steve Baker of the Covid recovery group of backbenchers.
The frustrations are entirely understandable. British Institute of Innkeeping and UKHospitality trade bodies found that 72% of firms “expect to become unviable and close in 2021”. As a key partner to many of the sectors biggest brands and most innovative player, we want to see a turn of the tide. As one of the areas of business worst hit by the pandemic, it’s clear that our hospitality sector needs a boost, with some unprecedented demand.
As April 12th (at the earliest) will see the re-opening of pub gardens and outdoor seated restaurant service, which may benefit up to 40% of pubs who have the space to do this however, myriad other logistical factors may still make this unviable to do profitably for many.
For some time, the opportunity for most operators is in take-away and this is set to continue at least a few more long weeks. In the UK, Just Eat recorded record performance, as delivery orders surged by almost 400% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared with the same period of 2019. The CEBR and Just Eat Takeaway Economy Report expects the continued rise of takeaway throughout 2021, fuelled by consumers switching their out of home spend to in-home treats.
We’ve seen some great innovation in takeaways, from delicious easy finishing boxes on the menu, to TV enabled ordering and even robot delivery in places! In most cases, maximising the appeal of listings and your brand’s online experience remains central to driving volume.
Most promising perhaps is that, following the Prime Ministers announcement, despite the ‘no earlier than’ caveats, there are multiple reports from the likes of easyJet noting a significant jump in bookings almost immediately. It’s a commonly held view, backed by surveys, that having so many people kept homebound for the best part of a year has created a pent-up demand. A pent-up demand to travel, to socialise, to eat and drink out, to essentially experience all the delights our hospitality sector has to offer. With around 25% of the country now having had the vaccine and further roll-out happening at pace, you can forgive people for starting to plan for the light at the end of the tunnel.
Things will really pick-up from May 17th, (‘at the earliest’) as the industry is able to welcome our customers back indoors and the weather improved outside which this will collectively help the returns to holidays and travel get back into full swing. So, what can we do to make our ‘summer bounce back’ one that’s comparable with Christmas and peak holiday season bookings?
Be known – There is going to be a lot of ‘noise’ across all communications channels, so being able to be found in search, in listings, as well as having a plan for outbound reach to your existing customer and potential customer audiences.
Stand out – With the volume of communication likely to start in this ‘bounce back’ period, we need to ensure our offer is highly compelling and targeted. After waiting so long in many cases, many consumers will have an experience in their mind, they want to deliver on.
Re-connect – In many ways, this can be a fresh start with customers, to put a best foot forward, be their new favourite and win their loyalty. Now is a good time to prepare, to step back and see where we can positively build into the brand and experience – both online in booking contact, as well the physical environment. Then, having a plan to keep in touch and incentivise, ensuring you stay front of mind and efficiently drive repeat business.
Reassure – Consumer behaviour has changed, at least for the foreseeable, for many of us, there is now a hyper-awareness of the interactions we’re having and safety measures which have been put in place. Reassuring customers early in the communications this has been considered, that they are in safe hands, and delivering on it, will go a long way in delivering bookings, but also in building a timely, positive base of positive reviews.
Cancellations – In the ‘Yo-Yo’ environment of the last 12 months, its unsurprising that particularly for higher involvement purchases like holidays and hotel rooms, people are expecting no strings attached cancellation policies, should the situation around the virus deviate from the plan. Placing information surrounding this clearly and where relevant will really aid customer decisions.
And last but certainly not least, Have fun! At the end of the day, we all need a break and some well-deserved relief from the realities of the last 12 months. Hospitality holds much of the answer to this as we try to forget the pains and deliver with the vibrancy and passion our sector is so well known for. Hopefully this will usher in the green shoots for a new age of turn-around and momentum for the sector.
We are committed to helping you making this summer as successful as possible. We are offering a ‘summer springboard clinic’ working with you to prepare and maximise every opportunity at each stage of lockdown easing. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more and book yours.