Hotels, travel brands pitch for a rebound as Covid-19 lockdown eases

Topics Coronavirus | hotel jobs | Lockdown

Trust building is a function of cleanliness in the post-pandemic market, say marketers
Looking into the camera, mask and glove in place, the staff at Taj Hotels vouch for the safe processes being employed in their properties in a short video welcoming people back to the hotel. On a similar note, Oberoi Hotels has launched a social media campaign with its housekeeping, front office and kitchen team bantering over how they have spent the lockdown, smartening up their hospitality protocol. MakeMyTrip has a Corona handbook, ITC Hotels has a video about the hygiene focus at its properties, and Airbnb conveys the same message through a new cleaning handbook for its hosts on its homepage. Across the travel and hospitality sector, cleanliness and hygiene frame the advertising narrative. Flashy destination images, exotic menus, celebrity endorsers, offers and packages — all of which once helped develop an aspirational character for the sector — find no place in the new communication. 

The tone is direct, deliberate and helpful and for legacy brands as well as newly-minted properties, employees and founders are taking the podium to renew faith and rebuild trust. This is in line with some of the consumer behaviour reports for the sector. According to one by Google (The state of travel in APAC: Identifying trends to prepare for the road ahead), “Safety is top of mind for consumers around the world, especially as they get older.” Also people across the world said they expected “hospital-grade cleaning” from their hotels and all modes of transport.

 

Trust building is a function of cleanliness in the post-pandemic market say marketers. But during a crisis like this, a brand also needs to be seen to be helpful. That is one of the reasons one sees so much messaging around the theme ‘We are with you,’ but solidarity must be authentic or else all brands fuse into one. “It loses its impact beyond a point and they all start looking the same,” says Soumya Mohanty, chief client officer, South Asia, Insights division at Kantar. 

The consumer, according to Mohanty, needs something more specific and is more interested in what that the brand is doing for her benefit, whether it’s the product, pricing or a solution which is relevant to the current situation. The biggest casualty during a crisis period like these is trust, says Mohanty.

Trust is built through trusted voices. Several experts point to the manner in which Nestle fought back after Maggi was banned as a case study worth following in this case. Constant communication, reassurances from users and employees about the safety of the product and an outreach programme that sought to remould the brand as ‘good and nutritious’ rather than ‘safe to eat’ helped win back the market. Hospitality and travel brands would need to pull off something similar.

“Further to trust, as much as it is important for brands to ensure that the communication fits the moment we are in, it is equally important that the communication stays the course and doesn’t deviate much from brand’s core positioning, says Mohanty. She cites the example of a consumer brand. “Center Fresh which is associated as a fun, cool brand has managed the fine balance with a smart tagline, ‘change the way you feel behind the mask’,” she adds. JB Singh, president and CEO at InterGlobe Hotels that runs the Ibis brand of hotels says a trustworthy brand will innovate to respond and define the future. “Therefore a trusted brand will by definition be agile and believe in it ability to adapt.”   


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