As borders are closed, events and gatherings cancelled, and general populations asked to stay home in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, our tourism and hospitality industries are being challenged like never before. Drastic measures are necessary to protect our global health and economy.
Lodging providers and other tourism businesses are having to make tough decisions as they navigate a unique and unexpected crisis that has had a profound impact on nearly every aspect of life. These are challenging and uncertain times, but the travel industry will recover—it’s just a matter of when.
In the meantime, analyze costs thoughtfully, communicate with your customers, and maintain sight of the upturn. When it comes to reservation management during the COVID-19 pandemic, lodging operators can use their property management system (PMS) to implement specific strategies to help manage cancellations, availability and customer communications. Here are some actions to consider:
Create a cancellation code for COVID-19
To help track cancellations due to the pandemic, and to assist with managing cancellation and refund policies, create a COVID-19 cancellation code that can be applied to relevant canceled reservations. A custom report can then be generated, collated by cancellation code, to track all COVID-19 cancellations.
In addition, identifying where the majority of canceled bookings are coming from (geographical regions and booking channels) is important for determining any required adjustments to marketing and distribution budgets and channels.
Convert confirmed bookings into gift certificates
Some properties are choosing to convert bookings into gift certificates or vouchers instead of cancelling bookings and issuing refunds to protect revenue and secure business for the future. When a booking is converted into a gift certificate, the reservation payment is held as a guest deposit for future bookings.
To help track reservations that are converted to gift certificates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, create a ‘COVID-19’ source code that can be attached to converted bookings.
Keep customers informed by email
During any crisis, it is important to keep in touch with customers to inform them of any changes related to your business that might affect them. Use your PMS or CRM to send customers a bulk email informing them of your property’s COVID-19 policy and reassuring them that their well-being is of utmost importance to you.
A customized pre-arrival email template should be created and sent to confirmed reservations arriving within up to 90 days, letting customers know about the steps you have taken to ensure their health and safety, detailing your cancellation policy, reassuring them that you are closely monitoring the situation, and inviting them to reach out with any questions or concerns they may have. Our partner Revinate offers good advice for writing COVID-19 emails to guests.
Apply temporary closeouts
Many properties are making the hard decision to temporarily close out part of their property or their entire property in order to control costs. This is a decision that should be carefully weighed in terms of forecasted occupancy and P&L.
Within your PMS, temporary closeouts should not affect any bookings already in place as a property could choose to honor those existing bookings. If a reservation during the closeout period is canceled, the unit attached to that reservation should automatically close out. Closeouts should also push a stop sell to OTAs integrated with your PMS.
Add COVID-19 messaging to your website booking engine
Use your website booking engine to help clarify your property’s COVID-19 status to customers. For example, if your property is open but some services such as the restaurant, gym and spa are closed, a customized message informing customers of limited operations can be added to your online booking engine, displaying for all availability searches. In WebRezPro this is executed through the ‘maintenance note’ feature, and can also be applied to all booking confirmation emails sent during the designated time frame.
If your property is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, update the “no availability” message that displays when a search returns no availability to let customers know that you are not accepting reservations at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that you look forward to welcoming them in the near future.
No one knows how long the COVID-19 crisis will last, but we can all work together to stop the spread and eliminate the virus. When that happens, people will be eager to travel again and the hotel industry will recover. Until then, use your data and hotel technology to make informed decisions for your business and to implement procedures that will help you navigate evolving operations during these uncharted times.
If you require assistance implementing any of the above reservation management practices in your WebRezPro PMS, please don’t hesitate to contact our customer support team. Stay safe, and keep your eyes on the horizon.