Why PR is Paramount for the Hospitality Industry Right Now
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Press trips to Morocco and Mallorca. Influencer visits showcasing the very best amenities and dining experiences. Articles from Travel + Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler highlighting the newest hotels to hit the scene. These exciting, creative opportunities came to a screeching halt in 2020 as the global pandemic brought the hospitality industry to its knees.
As we’ve all seen and experienced, COVID-19 certainly left–and continues to leave–its mark on the industry. In fact, the statistics are staggering. A recent study shows that more than 670,000 hotel industry operation jobs and nearly 4 million hospitality jobs were lost in 2020 due to the pandemic. Only 200,000 new jobs were projected throughout 2020, resulting in the loss of almost 480,000 hotel employees’ roles when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
While these numbers can feel bleak and overwhelming, we’ve seen some very promising signs of a resurgence in the industry. A full recovery may still be way off, but 2021 is shining a light on a slow, steady road to recovery. A recent Bloomberg article highlighted this, noting that in March 2021, occupancy rates at U.S. hotels reached 52%, the highest level since lockdowns began, according to lodging-data provider STR.
As hotels get back into their groove, and properties under construction work toward their new opening dates, there has never been a more critical time to invest in PR support.
While many may have put PR and communications efforts on pause in 2020–and some might view this support as a “nice to have”–now is the time to ramp these efforts back up to stay relevant…and in business. Here’s why:
The Travel Boom is Real
After serving a quarantine sentence of almost a year, Americans are more eager than ever to get back to their love of traveling. A recent survey revealed that more than 70% of Americans intend to travel throughout 2021. All of these people are the industry’s potential customers.
Future travel intent is stronger than ever, and that means competition is stronger than ever, too. Every hotel is working in overdrive, looking to fill occupancy and increase revenue. That’s where PR support can come in handy. A strong and meaningful communications plan or PR campaign can help ensure that a hotel can cut through the clutter, effectively reach its target audience, and share messages that will help consumers decide where they want to stay for their first post-pandemic trip and beyond.
Whether it’s a road trip or someone’s first flight since early 2020, the travel boom is providing hotels with opportunities to get creative, develop innovative content, and communicate offerings to guests that will help them press “book.”
While the COVID-19 vaccine is now widely available, and many people’s comfort levels have returned to normal, the reality is that the pandemic is still very much here. In fact, many U.S. citizens are still not able to travel internationally due to policy restrictions.
It’s critical that hotels communicate to current and future guests about safety protocols, policies, and their commitment to keeping guests safe–this also goes for potential corporate and group travel, which is something that hotels so desperately need for their survival.
PR experts are just that–experts at crafting messaging and deploying it to the various stakeholders that matter most in all forms from press releases to advertisements. During a time when there is still so much volatility and unknown, messaging and brand awareness matter. It will ultimately help travel businesses and customers regain the confidence, trust, and hope that will rebuild the tourism industry.
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Social is Supreme
The pandemic created a seismic shift in people’s behavior. While social media was already an all-consuming activity for many, the pandemic amplified this tenfold. Americans spent an average of 82 minutes per day on social media in 2020, a seven-minute jump from 2019. This number is poised for continued growth, meaning that hotels have a responsibility to be where their audiences are spending time.
In today’s world, PR agencies and contractors have fully expanded and are providing services beyond just traditional earned PR coverage. Most have vastly expanded their knowledge base and can create and implement meaningful social strategies that include, but aren’t limited to, influencer efforts, SEO, paid search, paid social, organic content development, community management, and so much more. With the help of a skilled expert, hotels can build, grow, and enhance their social presence to ensure they capitalize on the social media boom that is currently underway. And over time, hotels will connect with people in a meaningful way that will ultimately help drive business.
While the road to recovery may be more of a crawl than a sprint, each day presents a new opportunity to help revive the industry. Smart hoteliers will realize the need to embrace the changes that the pandemic has created and enlist the help of skilled and creative communicators to help bring their hotels back to life.