Commentary

Keeping Travel Customers Engaged In A Pandemic

The priority for almost every travel company in the time of pandemic has been to maintain a connection to customers — and even to reach new customers through wise use of social media and other virtual marketing efforts.

It’s a tricky business to project the right tone in the midst of a health crisis. One luxury provider that got an early start and gained traction is the Conrad New York Downtown, a high-end property in lower Manhattan, which has been putting together a daily video or “story” on the Instagram Youtube Channel (IGTV) since early in the pandemic. 

The hotel is part of an American Express/Hilton program to donate 1 million rooms to medical workers and first responders, with no new reservations being taken through May. There are other guests in the hotel who might have had a previous reservation. 

With few guests, said Kara Freedman, assistant director of marketing and ecommerce, “it was important to keep customers engaged.” Managers came up with a plan to connect with past and potential customers -- something they could be part of at home. 

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A schedule of videos was put together for April with a different theme every day -- some with partners, others done by the hotel itself. The original schedule included Mixology Monday, with the hotel’s bartenders offering cocktail recipes; Bedside Reading Tuesday, a partnership with a company called Bedside Reading to have authors discuss relevant topics; Wellness (yoga) Wednesday, in partnership with Corc Yoga, a maker of yoga products; and Walking Tour Sunday, a Google Earth-based walking tour of the hotel’s neighborhood.

To keep things fresh, a second month of shows in May tweaked Mondays to offer a partnership with Empress Gin, and a different Foodie Friday each week.  

Shows range in length from two minutes to a 50-minute yoga class. They were specifically chosen so they can be watched at any time. The hotel had done a few stories on IGTV in the past but nothing on this scale.

While the Conrad created the schedule specifically for the hotel, said Freedman, it was encouraged by Hilton, which operates the brand, to share recipes and other branded items. 

Having partners enables the hotel to broaden exposure to new audiences. Corc Yoga, for one, is offering a 20% discount on products to viewers.  

However, none of the shows is overly promotional and there is no selling. It’s simply a way “to connect and share something relevant,” said Freedman.

The shows have enjoyed between 200 and 450 views with impressions between 600 and 1500 per video -- and an average of four actions taken from each IGTV story (Actions taken could be replies, sticker clicks [hashtag, location or mentions], profile visits or swipe ups (to IGTV or external links).

The response has been good enough that the series will continue in June. In the end, said Freedman, “We are trying to convey Conrad values, spread the light and warmth of hospitality — just as we bring that to you at the hotel.”

The Conrad is just one example of many, many providers trying to maintain an all-important connection – and even broaden exposure during these times. It won’t be possible to quantify how it all worked until we move toward “normalcy.” In fact, it might not be clear what the right thing is to do right now, but it’s clear that doing nothing is not an option.

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