Written by: Varun Khanna, research scholar
Over the past year and a half, hospitality marketing and management has witnessed tremendous growth in terms of research and development (Byrd, et.al, 2021). The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about much of this change, as it has warped our concept of time. The early part of 2020 until now feels like a decade ago, not only because of our perception, but also because the world, and specifically the hospitality industry, underwent a lot of changes in a short period of time that normally would take years to materialize. In this article, we will discuss how Covid-19 has changed the face of marketing in the hospitality industry, with more technology being adopted by the industry (Fantozzi,2020). This article will talk about the increase in dependence on social media and content marketing, the variety of available technology that is being currently used by marketers in the hospitality industry such as virtual and augmented reality technologies, and how they have effectively made their space in the hospitality industry. Also mentioned are the disadvantages of using technology for marketing in the hospitality industry.
One of the major changes that has taken place after the Covid-19 pandemic is the dependence on social media. According to the 2020 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report, 92 percent of the respondents believe that influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing. Choosing an influencer is like choosing a marketing partner; hence, businesses, particularly those in hospitality like restaurants, need to be very careful when they choose an influencer, making sure that they share the same beliefs and interests (John and Thakur,2021).
Branded videos are another effective method used for marketing. This technique not only helps in promoting the brand but also helps highlight the ‘ins and outs’ of the operation. Sixty-four percent of consumers make their purchases after watching a branded social media video. Today’s customers want a peek into your restaurant to see the ‘behind the scenes’ action and if the restaurant is taking precautionary measures or not (Luna,2020).
Communicating a hotel’s hygiene and safety efforts are a must in 2021. Before the pandemic, it was often perceived that offering increased hygiene and safety protocols were not always a selling point for customers, but this perception has changed. In today’s marketplace, not advertising these changes will likely turn customers away. In addition to communicating a property’s health and safety protocols, marketers can take it a step further by using technology to include something extra. For example, in an ad released by Marriott Bonvoy titled “Joy is Near,” which showcases a family of three enjoying their vacation in one of the Marriott hotels, it is like any other advertisement except for the fact that two important safety and hygiene initiatives are highlighted by the company. This provides reassurance for guests, enhancing their stay and positive experience (Rastegar, et.al, 2021).
Another emerging trend in marketing, especially significant to hotel marketing, is the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology, with AR possibly being the most interesting marketing tactic available today. Technology alters a person’s perception of their surroundings, and it allows hotel owners to change the way their visitors see and experience their environment. Many people are planning to travel later this year or next, and knowing exactly what one will get before even stepping onto a property is a draw for customers and can be a deciding factor, as well. Marketers have also understood that they need to create virtual tours of their properties that showcase their various amenities and health and hygiene protocols in place. Considering that roughly 80 percent of consumers feel positive about VR tactics, customers will likely appreciate this additional amenity. Other ways to use VR include enabling your staff to show guests local attractions to encourage them to stay for a few extra days or to return for a future visit (Luna,2020).
‘Big Data’ and analytics are considered beneficial to business in general. The effective use of Big Data is associated with market research and strategic marketing purposes (e.g. identifying customer trends to best cater to marketing opportunities). Data analytics supports business decision-making and research insight, along with analytic insight, enabling large-scale volumes of data to be reviewed in a user-friendly fashion. Other improvements in cloud infrastructure and hardware supporting Big Data have decreased the costs of these services and have improved their performance. These technological advances provide significant opportunities for businesses to harness the wealth of data to support their activities and gain a competitive advantage. The efficient uses of data and analytics drive process and cost efficiencies, as well as strategy and change (Zeng, Chen and Lew, 2020).
As seen in the above, there are many benefits of using technology for marketing in the hospitality industry. The use of technology in the hospitality industry not only improves the ability to reach an enormous number of people with just a click of a button but is also very flexible and quick to fix in case of marketplace changes. However, there are a few disadvantages, as well, like increased levels of competition and the fear of homogenization in the way products are promoted.
In conclusion, this article has just scratched the surface of hotel marketing. Although there are a lot of benefits of using technology for hotel marketing, like enhancing customer experiences and increasing overall sales through AR and VR, there are some drawbacks, as well. However, we need to remember that digital marketing and the use of technology in hotel marketing is the way to go after the pandemic, especially if the hospitality industry wants to stay ahead of the curve.
Varun Khanna is a research scholar with the HFTP Middle East Research Center. He is also a student at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai, UAE.
- Byrd, K., Her, E., Fan, A., Almanza, B., Liu, Y. and Leitch, S., 2021. Restaurants and COVID- 19: What are consumers’ risk perceptions about restaurant food and its packaging during the pandemic?. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 94, p.102821.
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- Zeng, Z., Chen, P. and Lew, A., 2020. From high-touch to high-tech: COVID-19 drives robotics adoption. Tourism Geographies, 22(3), pp.724-734.