COVID’s impact on online marketing in the hospitality industry

Just about every business (except perhaps Zoom) is being negatively impacted by the current global pandemic. The numbers are, of course, alarming. According to Yelp, a US-based online directory for discovering businesses, “consumer interest in all local businesses plummeted, by 50% or more.”  By the nature of the industry, hospitality is one of the most affected. Now is the time for companies within the industry to understand the scenario, how to best react to it, and how to plan for when the world reopens.

The Trends They Are A-Changing

Source: Google Trends

Consumer preferences have shifted greatly. Planning a fun night out on the town has become searching for fun family games to play at home. Cost-consciousness feels like it is at an all time high, and consumers must perceive extraordinary value to even consider booking or buying.

Now is the time to look towards a longer purchase path – with many people either working from home or sitting at home, research is still happening, but bookings may not be. Focus on building awareness and an early sales funnel with positive, hopeful messaging which looks towards the future. Don’t ask for a sale, ask for a conversation.

People still have wanderlust in the hearts, perhaps now more than ever. With this in mind, tourists are traveling from their living rooms. The Google Local Guides program, for example, is curating interesting lists to share with its community so they can explore the world from home. From enjoying nature to art to culture, people are still eager to partake. How can your properties help satisfy these needs during lockdown? Do that! Consumers will remember and be grateful.

Of course, we are all eager for a return to normalcy, but we do need to understand what that new normal is and how it’s going to roll out. Next, we need to pivot our offerings and messaging accordingly. While an international trip may not be in the cards for many people right away, they are looking to get out of the house and experience new things. Consider looking towards your local audience when the lockdown is lifted; promoting staycations, spa days, and local tourism in the near term, and then getting back to standard offerings and marketing in time.

What Hotels can be doing right now.


Reviewing social chatter online, one core thing travelers are looking for right now is answers. From reward point expirations to existing wedding bookings to room refunds, people want to know what the impact is on them and what they should be doing about it. Be clear in communication. While all operators are facing difficult decisions right now, an unliked policy is better received than an unknown policy.

Make sure to then communicate across channels – email, social, on your website, and anywhere else your clients turn to. The industry has moved fast to help, going as far as Schema ( a structured data language) being updated to include COVID announcements. These can be used to update Google so searches will see up-to-date and accurate information directly from your property in the search results. Additionally, Google My Business (the tool that powers Google Maps) has been updated to allow for COVID announcements that can appear alongside your map listing.

At the very least, be sure to let clients know how your brand is reacting to COVID-19, what precautions you are taking and will take, and how to best contact you. This should be a streamlined message across all of your platforms, ads, and other communication.

Focus on the marketing activities that may take time to add value.

With bookings limited, or not happening at all right now look towards marketing activities with a longer time horizon. Is your current website starting to grow stale? Start your redesign product now while business is slow. That way you’ll be ready when the world opens back up. Link building is another great activity that will yield results post lockdown. Even though we are all working from home, Google Search spiders are still crawling the web looking for links. These links are used as one of measures of where your site should rank on the search results page. Look towards building authoritative links from quality sites. While your business may not be running at full speed right now, the links will continue to provide value once you are operational again.

Publishing evergreen (non-timely, long-lasting) content is another great lockdown idea. Build out your content library for use on your website and social media. Consider a simple six step process:

  1. At a very high level, think about who your audience is and what content will be most helpful and interesting to them.
  2. Narrow this down and finalize a few key phrases and topics. Consider using a keyword research tool to make this more precise and faster.
  3. Finalize clusters of topics and the content that belongs to each cluster.
  4. Create your content.
  5. Polish your content and bring an SEO-eye to it (thinks like keyword rich page titles, meta titles, structured data, etc.). You can even use an on-page grader here; SEMRush and Yoast both have great options.
  6. Schedule your content and publish when logical.

Focus on evergreen content that will last well beyond the current crisis. That way you’ll be equipped with great content that search engines love for weeks or months to come.

Give back where you can.

As bad as you may be doing right now, it’s important to ground yourself and remember there is someone out there doing much worse. Help them where possible. While altruistic reasons should be the main motivator, during times of crisis brands often become heroes. Is there something unique about your business which enables you to help those around you? Leverage it! Likewise, if you need help from a business, don’t be afraid to ask.

We are all in this together and we will get through it together. Looking forward to brighter days.

Rob Peck
Rob Peck

Rob Peck is a digital marketer and American expat living in Chennai. As Director of Client Services of O3M, a leading Chennai-based digital marketing agency, he helps companies of all sizes grow their digital footprint and achieve their marketing goals through data-driven performance marketing.

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