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Saturday November 27th, 2021

Digital Strategies for the post-Covid boom in the hospitality industry

Rajitha Dahanayake CEO of eMarketingEye

Decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the travel and tourism industry is poised for a resurgence and eventual boom. eMarketingEye that helped top travel and hospitality brands in the region to sail through this crisis, is offering its range of products and services to ride the emerging wave.

What will travel look like in a new-normal, tech-driven world and how can hoteliers cater to evolving consumer trends, and return to profitability and growth faster? Answering these pertinent questions and more, Rajitha Dahanayake, CEO of eMarketingEye, a leading digital marketing agency catering to top hospitality brands in the Asia Pacific, discusses global trends shaping the future of tourism and the best way to respond to an emerging tech-savvy consumer segment.

Hospitality, it is among the hardest hit by the pandemic world over. What are the emerging opportunities and trends shaping the industry here and overseas?

As uncertainty and panic heightened in the wake of the unfolding pandemic, countries imposed travel restrictions from curfews to lockdowns and shut their borders to the outside world. Because of the very nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry was the first to be affected and will be one of the last to recover.

However, with countries now starting to relax travel and border restrictions, with more vaccinations in the market, travel is starting to ever so slowly pick up. People stuck in their homes for longer than expected have started to dream of the opportunity to travel again. Even though the domestic market will play a key role in tourism in the immediate period, it is predicted that underlying demand for international travel in the future is strong with a 3x jump in intent

The hospitality sector will begin to experience a boom by mid-2022 or early 2023 as more countries open up. Research also suggests that people will spend a lot of time dreaming, researching & planning as the number of trips will reduce since travellers are 2x more likely to travel less frequently. But travellers are likely to spend much more and travel longer.

With the pandemic, we have also seen more customers become online savvy and confident to carry out more transactions online than before. This becomes a favourable pathway when more customers use Online as a channel to plan their travel and make online travel and hotel bookings. And now will be the time for Hotels and Travel companies to be digital-savvy than ever before.

Hospitality brands will need to engage with their customers early to capture the unleashed opportunity and offer attractive experiences and promotions to suit the new traveller behaviour. It is important for the hotels to be in their best shape and adopt digital marketing strategies to attract the new traveller that’s out there.

As a digital marketing company that specializes in the travel and hospitality industry, eMarketingEye help hotels and travel companies to cater to this new mode of holidaymaking amidst the prevailing uncertainties. Understanding the changes in customer behaviour and quickly implementing new strategies, to attract these new visitors is one of the key specialities that we offer.

How is eMarketingEye helping its clients to sail through this pandemic?

We work closely with our clients and guide them in the right direction and recommendations to take care of things that they just never had time to get done before. We worked with them to upgrade their digital platforms, implement short & long-term digital campaigns such as SEO, Paid Advertising (PPC), Social Media campaigns etc, implement analytics solutions, advanced funnel analysis and also help them to understand the new traveller. So that they will be the best shape possible to get back in the game when travellers start travelling across the world

We even allowed some of our clients to continue their contracts for a longer-term without additional costs and with extended credit periods.

We developed innovative solutions to help them secure new business during the pandemic while opening up new opportunities for other revenue-generating streams. We launched an eGift hotel certificate system, a buy-now-travel-later travel voucher system. Both globally & locally we realized there is a vacuum for such products.

With this initiative, over a hundred hotels around the world have signed up for our eGift certificate system. It was very successful because we understood the market need, where people wanted attractive options to choose from and plan their holidays well in advance.

We also launched an online food ordering system. The restaurants relying on third-party distribution platforms had to pay an exorbitant commission of 15% to 25%. So, there was a need for a viable online distribution platform for them to go directly to the customer. Several top hotels in Sri Lanka have been able to generate a new line of business by signing up with RestaurantsEye; a cutting-edge food ordering system by eMarketingEye.

We also upgraded our online invoicing system called PaymentsEye. This solution generates an online invoice and payment link, eliminating the tedious process of asking for customer credit card details over the phone to process a transaction.

Can you discuss a few best practices that you see in the global market? Or in this hospitality industry overall?

As an experienced digital marketing agency that has worked with over a thousand hotels across 45 countries around the world our capabilities in data analytics and expertise in understanding markets allow us to build curated digital strategies for hotels and travel companies in the region

Our clients find it easier to work with us because of our expertise in the industry and proven track record in running digital campaigns for hotels. We are result-oriented, achieve faster turnaround times, and help customers yield higher Return on Investment (ROIs)

When developing websites & platforms, we always bring in best practices to keep the website simple yet informative, easy to navigate, modern and mobile-friendly. The Mobile-first approach on a website is curial as mobile generates about 40-50% of traffic to a hotel/travel website.

Having an attractive and informative website is simply not enough, it’s key to have a solid conversion platform to convert visitors into bookings & revenue. Hoteliers must make sure they get the right booking engine platform that allows them to run different credit card offers, limited-time sales, local offers, upsell options for ancillary revenue etc.

When the pandemic broke out, some of our local clients stopped investing in digital campaigns completely. Hotels that had invested, at least on a small scale, will get far ahead when travellers return. What we are suggesting is that you need to invest more in long term beneficial digital activities such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns to make sure you have enough visibility in the digital space.  Hotels that have invested continuously in SEO campaigns now see higher visibility and an edge over their competitors.

It is also important to remember that customer attitudes are undergoing a shift away from being predominantly price-driven, towards experience and sensation seeking. Consumers want to have life-fulfilling experiences when they travel and to reconnect with their loved ones and spend some quality time.

As a result, travellers are no longer impressed by just a room or a discounted rate, but experiences that the hotel can offer. Hence hotels should focus more on offering unique destination-oriented experiences to attract the right customers.

Also, you need to give travellers a compelling reason to book directly with the hotel rather than with intermediaries such as OTAs. While we need to work with all distribution channels and partners Direct bookings will always generate a higher yield, so hotels must make sure they encourage this.

Loyalty Programs play a very important role in digital strategies as it helps hotels to build a direct relationship with the customers and offer them benefits and increase repeat bookings. Whoever invests in the right digital platforms, campaigns and strategies, CRMs, and loyalty programmes, will be the winner. So, the advice to local hoteliers and travel companies is to make sure that you invest in the right digital platforms and campaigns without any further delay. The world is not going to be closed forever and when it opens, the industry should be ready to cater to the new digital-savvy traveller.

How has eMarketingEye performed since the outbreak, and what is your future outlook?

Soon after the pandemic hit with the travel industry been affected heavily, we also experienced a tough situation during the first two quarters as a company specializing in the travel and hospitality industry. During this time, we invested in new verticals, new revenue-generating streams, new product development and focused on improving internal processes, systems and training our teams. As a company, we always want to find the silver lining in the dark clouds and wanted to be in the best possible shape when the market goes back to normal.

The results of the current financial year have been encouraging as the growth momentum is continuing. If all goes as expected, this could be the best year in terms of revenue for eMarketingEye when we celebrate our 15th anniversary in Q1 2022.

eMarketingEye is on the right track and at the right place in its growth journey. Several local and global hospitality brands are intensifying their digital campaigns, which bodes well for us. Some are even investing in new platforms or upgrading existing ones. The unfolding months will be exhilarating for us as the advent of tourism’s post-pandemic boom unfolds.

For our part, we are preparing for that too. We will continue to introduce new solutions and innovative platforms to help the tourism industry ride the emerging wave of opportunity. We will continue to invest in our people to enable that future by building capacity around R&D and innovation.