HOTEL SURVIVAL IN THE AGE OF COVID-19
In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, the travel industry has suffered more than others. According to the U.S. Travel Association, travel spending experienced “an unprecedented 42% annual decline” in 2020. Moreover, hotel occupancy averaged “just 44% in 2020,” with economy hotels performing the best at 45% occupancy in December of 2020 and luxury hotels performing the worst, with occupancy in December of 2020 averaging at 21%.
So how have hotels around the globe been surviving over the course of the past year? Despite a report by Forbes that estimated 100 million travel-related jobs were put at risk by the pandemic, there was hope for those involved in social media content creation.
To combat the negative numbers driven by the pandemic, luxury and boutique hotels have taken to Instagram to foster a sense of wanderlust in the viewer. Upper East Side legend, The Carlyle hotel, has topped the charts in reminding customers of the treats that await them. With 37,000 followers, The Carlyle knows its audience: from “Evenings with Earl” in its famous Bemelmans Bar to picturesque images of a snowy Central Park, The Carlyle reminds potential customers of the potential luxury they could attain upon a quick trip to New York City.
Claridge's Hotel, one of the most sought-after stays in London, keeps its 325,000 followers entranced, despite having its doors closed by British government regulations. Posts are accompanied by captions praising the country’s front-line workers, thanking the staff of the hotel, and uttering consolations to guests. The Instagram page is dedicated to making the audience feel like it’s missing out on a piece of home. By expressing hope that guests will be able to cozy up next to its legendary foyer fireplace again and reminding followers that “spring is just around the corner,” the Claridge’s Instagram account evokes nostalgia, longing and hope, making it an ideal place to rush to once travel restrictions are lifted.
Moreover, hotel social media enables the hotspots to promote specific pandemic offerings. Claridge’s utilizes the platform to remind followers that delicacies such as French patisserie afternoon tea and Michelin-star dinners are available for pickup and delivery to those who live in the area. By promoting dishes with a well-taken photograph, the hotel can ensure some revenue in a time when other businesses remain completely closed.
Hotel chains are able to get in on the action as well. Contrasting the homey photographs of boutique hotel accounts, pages for Holiday Inn and Marriott are full of professionally shot oases. With links in their bios promoted as a way to start planning vacations, the chains are able to increase future bookings and potentially plan for new hires.
Some hotel accounts have grown more inventive than others when it comes to follower-engagement. Four Seasons Hotels has taken to giving followers “virtual journeys” on its Instagram stories, promoting trivia about its most iconic destinations in order to ensure contact with future guests. With over 1 million followers, the account has skyrocketed in growth, hopping on social media trends to stay in the loop. Additionally, the hotel chain has fostered a sense of closeness by highlighting various employees during Black History Month. Through educating its audience, the Four Seasons has created an environment in which followers can engage in important topics, asking questions such as: “What does celebrating Black excellence mean to you?”
By conversing in important topics, promoting pandemic-related features, and inspiring a desire to travel, both luxury and economy hotels have been able to stay connected with guests, old and new. While the travel industry is a long way off from full recovery, social media gives both employees and guests something to look forward to: the day when doors around the world are open again.