We’re starting to see the beginning signs of hospitality’s recovery, with more and more glimmers of optimism on the horizon. In North America, we’ve seen multiple weeks of occupancy levels at or near 50% in some markets (according to STR). Globally, we’re seeing booking trends and search traffic point to a release of pent-up travel in the leisure segment. What once saw the travel industry come to a screeching halt is now manifesting in an adjustment to how travel is viewed and when it is engaged in. A near-total shutdown of lodging has transformed into smart policies by providers and adherence to the social contract by travelers in both care and concern for their fellow explorers.

Are we out of the woods yet? No.
Have we recovered off the bottom? It seems like it.
Are brighter days ahead of us? Absolutely.

So how can hoteliers accelerate their recovery from the current crisis, building on key lessons learned from the past and articulating a plan for the months and quarters ahead? I’ve noticed five common themes running through what I’ve seen from successful hotels and brands that are leading the upswing:

1) Lead

Nothing is more important than motivating managers who will help drive the return of business, namely sales and revenue leaders. Get creative with how you bring these roles back, whether in a partial-hour situation, functioning as a shared resource, or covering multiple jobs while sales volumes don’t demand a full position. In order to accelerate a return of revenue, you must sell your way into the recovery and that begins with having the team on staff to do the work.

2) Listen

Sales, Revenue Leaders, and Marketers must listen to what guests are seeking. They are listening to what people who are traveling want and adjusting their offering and messaging to attract those guests. Understanding the “who” is paramount before you plan the “what”.

3) Reach

Once you know who you need to talk to, you have to reach their eyes and spark their decision to travel. It’s more than being present in the online space, it’s a willingness to spend appropriately to gain visibility in digital spaces. It’s smartly spending scarce funds to drive targeted meta campaigns and ensuring your content addresses what travelers need to see in order to select you.

4) Drive

The strongest results I’ve seen so far have been when hoteliers drive guests to their own website, to reassure them of their safety and comfort, and to capture them at the moment of inspiration. A strong booking engine is the cornerstone of a robust recovery strategy and goes hand-in-hand with an effective digital acquisition campaign.

5) Prepare

The hotels that will launch into recovery fastest over the next 18 months are understanding the steps they need to take 3, 6, 12 months from now and begin planning them today. As an example, GDS Media might not seem like the right use of funds today given the booking volumes in your market, but have you planned that as a budget item for January in order to be ahead of your competitors? When guests start calling your hotel to make reservations, you may not be able to ramp up the staffing you need immediately; have you engaged an overflow reservations handling center to ensure you’re capturing every interested guest? Don’t just live in the now, but plan twice as much for the changes you expect to come.

As has been said consistently, this recovery is going to come in phases. Leisure before business, younger before older travelers, purposeful before aspirational trips.

The important part is knowing it all will come back in time, and likely faster than we initially believed. People are traveling again, explorers are growing restless, businesspeople are itching to see their customers, and families are ready to get out of the house. Undoubtedly, travel will return. The question remains, will you lean into the recovery and accelerate your own success, or wait for others to be in front and play catch-up in response?