It’s no secret the hospitality industry is among those that have suffered the greatest economic impact at the hands of COVID-19. The global pandemic swiftly, and quite possibly irreversibly, transformed our understanding of the industry – turning our attention from the anticipation of new adventures to the realities and risks of being in unknown spaces with strangers. So, what is the next frontier for travel and hospitality, and how can the hospitality industry best communicate about it?
We’ve outlined some of the most prominent trends and adjustments we’ve seen across the industry thus far:
- Pivoting to focus on cleanliness, transparency and safety – Hospitality, by nature, has been a high-touch, deeply personal and interactive experience. Thus, companies have had to pivot to show that cleaning procedures are not merely procedures, but rather ingrained tenets of their business practice moving forward. To determine what practices are most effective, hospitality businesses can look to industry associations for best practices and guidelines. The American Hotel & Lodging Association, for instance, recently launched an industry-wide initiative called “Stay Safe” to enhance hotel cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace protocols as a result of COVID-19.
- The communications tip: The next key step is being transparent, clear and concise in communicating changes. Nick Kalm, founder and president of Reputation Partners, recently wrote a guest article highlighting communication considerations as restaurants reopen in FSR Magazine. As he mentions, being “very visible” with your hygiene practices is crucial. This could entail sharing a video of business cleaning procedures on social media and being prepared to answer customer questions and comments, or having flyers that show step-by-step what you are doing posted in high-traffic areas. Important to consider, as well, is sharing information via visual graphics to avoid language barriers.
- The summer of road trips is here – According to a survey by Morning Consult and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), “44% of Americans are planning overnight vacation or leisure travel in 2020,” a majority of which will be doing so on the road. Additionally 72% of respondents said they “were planning an overnight vacation via car over the next five months.” That means for many businesses, their target audiences may have changed slightly – moving from regional, or even national, to within driving distance.
- The communications tip: Renew your pitching efforts to the local community. Reach out to your local convention and visitor bureau (CVB), as they are a crucial partner in your PR efforts, especially with media relations. Make sure they understand your story, how you are keeping your customers safe, and any creative new programs you are introducing throughout the summer and fall. In our work with local CVBs, we like to provide a robust digital media kit with updated photos, recent news or announcements, logos, videos, a one-pager highlighting the business, and any other major initiatives you would like to promote. The same information can be regularly provided to key media in your target area.
- Heightened sensitivity to labor organizing – Layoffs, furloughs and overall uncertainty beget labor organizing. Following upheaval from COVID-19 and racial turmoil, news broke that employees of Tattersall Distillery, a craft distillery in Minneapolis, wanted to unionize. The backlash from the community in response to the owners’ initial comments against a union show an example of the new challenges and considerations around these issues.
- The communications tip: Whether or not you are currently facing an organizing effort, reflect on how you are communicating to your employees. Do they feel heard? Do they feel safe? Do they understand the challenges of the business appropriately? It is said time and time again, that people are a company’s most valuable asset. In times of crisis, sometime that can be forgotten. If you are facing an organizing effort, or have heard rumors of organizing, find counsel – both legal and communications counsel. They will be imperative to navigating the complicated legal and organizational ramifications of unionizing.