In the Covid-19 situation since the start of 2020, and up to the year end when the second wave broke out, it is obvious that the most heavily impacted sector has been tourism and hotels. Bookings fell off a cliff as people became fearful of cross-border travel and lengthy quarantine requirements. These made tourists abandon their travel plans and put their suitcases away quietly until the situation improved.
This difficult time is having a huge impact, not just on business owners, but also their staff, car and boat charter services, and other stores around hotels which have to overcome the challenges of this fragile situation. Adapting this business sector must involve offering services which match New Normal lifestyles. Communications planning, operating businesses in compliance with government policy, and plans to stimulate bookings are absolutely vital. It is not enough for tourists to just click and read. That must be enough power making the tourist decide to come and stay for real.
The current new wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has involved lockdowns in some areas. This has certainly impacted Thai tourist numbers negatively. It is at this juncture that the hotel sector must continue to communicate and create loyalty among its customer groups, so they do not forget, and decide to use guest accommodation services.
Kasikornbank's Research Center states that there are six provinces highly dependent on tourism, including Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chonburi and Phuket. Data from the TAT found that besides foreign tourists from countries such as China, Korea and Japan, the working-age group and millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) constitute a large market segment who still wish to travel in-country. They are flexible, without the burdens of retirees, in good health, and bold enough to make the decision to travel. If it is desired to persuade this target group to show an interest in booking accommodation, LINE services can certainly reach them, whether at the stage of gathering information, comparing packages and special offers, or even doing Live Commerce to close sales more easily.
Looking at the overall state of the tourism sector, viable tourist segments and current anxieties, it is time to design online communications which help to stimulate bookings successfully. One model from LINE available to hotel owners is Live Streaming. This gives knowledge about outstanding features which are interesting for tourists, and shares good experiences. These can include photos and video clips of the rooms, balcony views of sunny fields or beaches, rooftop bar sunsets, the general ambience, or even the breakfast menu, which is something tourists pay attention to.
The presenter could be the owner themselves to create intimacy, loyalty or exclusive feelings for tourists. Or it could be an employee specially selected for their fluency, professionalism and approachability, to impart relaxing feelings and trust. It could be a chef with the specialized knowledge to talk about cooking various menus at the hotel. As such, staying at the hotel is not just being in a bedroom, but the possibility of experiencing exotic tastes, and tempting guests to try them out for themselves. Hotels or other accommodation can do live streams using LINE with the In-LINE LIVE Viewer feature, a live broadcast in LINE OA. This gets information to tourists in real time, making it easier for them to decide. If they need any extra information or want to book a room, they can press the chat button in LINE OA to talk to an employee immediately.
Many people might be familiar with LINE OA as a tool to create awareness, disseminate information, and inform tourists about promotions, activities and various special offers. It is possible to chat and field inquiries efficiently through the chat system. This can be set up to differentiate customer segments with Chat Tags. Meanwhile, it is also possible to make a Card Message, which is a broadcast in the form of a slideshow of up to 9 images. This is great for pinpointing the tourist attractions and photogenic viewpoints which are a part of millennial lifestyles. Details and Google Map pins can be included in the Card. More than this, a hotel owner can also use LINE OA to give tourists greater confidence by communicating about hygiene measures, disinfected guest rooms, efficient housekeeping teams, and coordination with nearby medical facilities in the case of emergencies. This also includes care of equipment such as diving masks, kayaks and paddle boards, so they are clean and ready for use. This can directly penetrate the requisite target groups, and will engender confidence among tourists travelling in an organized group, families with children or elderly relatives, or couples seeking privacy. This demonstration of safety will encourage tourists who already have the intention to travel to compare information, and make their decision to book more easily.
While Covid-19 still ravages the world, efforts to stimulate domestic tourism have been outpacing foreign travel. Meanwhile, many hotels have been adapting to compete on price and give exclusive privileges, which includes the government's policies of “Home Tourism” or “50-50”. These have affected the current behavior of Thai tourists, as they might look at upgrading their booking to a five-star establishment, which they previously would not be doing often. Meanwhile, hotels and smaller accommodation are not giving in, as they can offer new formats of accommodation such as long-term stays with a monthly payment, catering to the trend of Work From Anywhere. Or they can leverage their small size to offer a more personalized tourist experience with less hassle, and suited to Social Distancing.
Another channel to offer services is MyShop from LINE OA, which is the hotel's online storefront to issue vouchers for accommodation, which can be redeemed when the situation improves. Promotions or exclusive and unusual guest experiences might be designed to generate interest from customers, who might keep it for themselves, or as a surprise gift for their loved ones and families. It is also possible to extend CRM and the existing customer base in MyShop by retargeting to increase the rate of repeat bookings or offer extra interesting items.
In these difficult times, many parties have to cooperate to keep the sector afloat and overcome the crisis together. Adapting, planning and willpower are crucial. LINE technology hopes to be a part of helping to support operators and all other stakeholders to have the encouragement to carry on, while at the same time delivering excellent experiences to tourists, from the start of their travels to their destinations.