Virtual events have made their place as an alternative to live events as the ongoing pandemic continues to disrupt businesses that chose to make social distancing a norm. The hotel Industry is one of many industries hit hardest by the pandemic, with occupancy rates as low as 41.2% (-32.6% in November 2019) and revenue per available room (RevPaR) reaching $36.45 (-52.2% in November 2019). Additionally, US digital travel sales are expected to fall by 44.7%in 2020 to $115.27 billion and remain below pre-pandemic levels ($208.44 billion in 2019) until 2022. Seeing the downfall and an expected revival in the coming years, players in the hotel industry are looking for alternate ways to engage with and stay within the minds of their customers through virtual events, campaigns, competitions, property and cocktail experiences in time for business to normalize in what is expected to be mid 2021.
1. Fairmont’s approach to user generated content
Fairmont Hotels leveraged UGC in its #UnderTheSameSky competition, where it asked users to upload their favourite moment with nature. The brand reposted the top images and the campaign proved helpful for users to not only engage with, but also visualize moments of beauty through different lenses at different locations.
2. Engaging virtual events by Kimpton and Belmond
Kimpton Hotels launched a weekly virtual hour event with its beverage team every Tuesday to interact with Instagram and Facebook users in these pandemic times. The event helped viewers try their hand at making cocktails, selecting wines, and pairing them with homemade snacks. Belmond launched its new virtual program, Belmond Invitation, clubbed with Belmond’s Good Living Offering, focused on creating virtual experiences in the user’s home, connected with Kimpton on Instagram and Facebook, similar to the ones they would experience at Belmond properties.
3. Marriott International goes digital to sustain its mindshare
COVID-19 has enforced the concept of working from home across all sectors. From professional meetings to casual chitchats, everything has gone virtual with the help of platforms like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, and more.. Marriott found a unique way to stay in the minds of customers and likewise ensure that customers do not miss out on their favorite destinations by launching video conferencing backgrounds that include beaches, pools, interiors, outdoors, homes, and villas by Marriott. Experimenting with these backgrounds can help users feel they are working from an exotic Marriott location and therefore relive their pre-pandemic travel days once again.
4. Experiential digital platform by Airbnb
Airbnb launched its user experiences platform to help wanderlusters enjoy a variety of activities without travelling or leaving the house. The experience platform offers activities like bartending and cooking classes, virtual bike tours, Korean makeup tutorials, fortune reading, comedy shows, and drawing lessons.This events platform provides local hosts with a new source of income.
Virtual events and campaigns not only engage customers by providing them with appropriate information, but also act as a reviving factor for the events business, which has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. Moreover, 45%of survey respondents (aged 16+) in the US plan to book and travel during 2021, in line with the arrival of the vaccine.