Event Content, Community and Collaborations

A guest article by Natasha Thorne, from Hotel Casa Bonay in Barcelona.

There is absolutely no doubt that the effect of COVID19 has been devastating in many ways - ways that are unquantifiable both emotionally and financially.

One thing that has brought comfort in recent months is the way the industry has come together, to help support one another.  Despite reeling in the depth of despair with just a glimmer of light to hold on to, we have united to really show solidarity. However, the way brands have chosen to communicate has become sombre and informative and quite frankly, at times ….. uninspiring.

Clorox Cleaner & Bleach (IG: @clay.banks)
This is not an inspiring travel message.

Navigating sales and marketing through a pandemic is not an easy feat. What is right? What is responsible? Am I allowed to sell without appearing uncaring? These questions are facing many Sales and Marketing leaders these days who, more often than not, are navigating their first significant crisis.

There have been many strategies to this, however, I can count on my hand the number of brands that have stood out amongst the crowd whilst regaling countless communications that have had me searching for the delete button.

From what we have witnessed, there has been quite an obvious flow of communication in various forms covering:

1) “We are in this together” to
2) “Lets cook & do yoga together” to
3) “Here's our CSR initiative” to
4) “Here is how we plan to clean our corridors”

Wonderful as this may be, where has the personality gone?

Where has our identity gone?

What seems to have emerged from this communication flow is care, love and generosity. It really is wonderfully warming, but where has the travel inspiration gone?  What is apparent is that brand personalities have been lost, completely washed out.  

It's clear that these initiatives are essential, however during a muted world we are starved of inspiration. As people and as a travel community, we need to continually be inspired. And yes, granted, at the appropriate time.

Sustainability is an old hat and cleanliness should be too. As hoteliers, these need to be rock solid and continuously adapted, however, they should be part of a hotel's DNA, the norm, and not a selling tool. Every business has a duty of care whether that be within sustainability or cleanliness, however, this should not be the main part of the brand's communication strategy and certainly not through social media channels.

Hotels have an obligation to become DMCs. They are selling an experience, a feeling, an emotion, the destination. Yes, we have all stayed at places where resting your head is the purpose for that night, yet within our community we seek more.

I guess I am lucky; I represent a hotel in Barcelona which is a destination that allows you to climb or ski the endless mountains surrounding the city whilst being able to dip in the Mediterranean in the same weekend. But we all have a wealth of opportunity around us.

During my journey in Barcelona I went to the Barceloneta in order to see the sea and think. 
It’s hard to explain what I was feeling but the sea was like an old friend: you can travel, you can change as you want but he will be there whenever you need to make you feel loved.
Remember, people travel for the experience.

Ask yourself, when you think back to a trip, any trip, what do you feel?

I have a set of Russian dolls on my bedroom shelf. They are terribly tacky and really do nothing for my 'interior design' attempts. However, every time I look at them I am transported to 2014 in Moscow, travelling alone for a training course.

In particular, I remember drinking a small vodka in a café with an oversized hat, a travel book and feeling completely out of my depth as I tried to navigate how to take a metro to the airport. But equally, I felt elated, alive and fiercely independent.

Everything, from the things you buy to where you stay contribute to this overall experience and as creatures, we are hungry for experiences. It's our job as sales and marketing leaders to inspire. And if there is any time to review your communications strategy, it’s right now.

Planning for success

In addition to revising your communications strategy, your sales efforts should be reviewed. These tactics should operate hand in hand. As a business we need to remain profitable and during this window of time, here is your opportunity to mould your plan.

There are not enough words in this article to allow for thorough communication or sales strategies however, what is clear is that we are in a changing world and how you adapt will ultimately dictate your success. It's time to re-think how you manage your day to day operation and understand where you eventually see your future business coming from.

Like any hotel, we strive for direct business and direct bookings.  However, as an independent hotel, 3rd party business has always and will continue to be an important part of our mix.

Over the last two years we’ve watched the big players increase their commissions to 10+% and we’ve seen the slow reduction of rates due to increased competition. In a world where commission has become even more important to travel designers, we ask “how will you remain competitive?” Who is inspiring your clients and what tools do they have?

What is clear is that we need to sensitively create content that continues to inspire and touch people in different ways. Yes, that means cleaning, sustainability and comfort are fundamental, but that is a given, a basic for your property.

The question you need to consider is: how do you go that one step further?

As an event professional, a hotelier, a traveller and an avid consumer, I understand we are living through extraordinary times which are sad, challenging, and emotional. It’s easy to draw back and limit your communication to the dull basics.

However, I encourage you to go further, to remind us why you’re here, to inspire, motivate, and grow.

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