2020 was a crazy year for many industries, and the hospitality industry was hit harder than most, no doubt. With various international travel bans, restrictions and quarantines in place, more isolated areas such as Hawaii have been affected to an unprecedented degree.
As part of our recent focus on resort hotels, we caught up with Jenna Villalobos, Vice President, Revenue Strategy at Outrigger Resorts in Hawaii, to find out how the company adapted in the wake of COVID-19, how those adaptations are working out for and what part Duetto has played in efforts to strategize, recover and get ahead in these toughest of times.
Q: How have you adapted resort operations in the current pandemic?
We’ve adapted in three main ways. Firstly, we produced the Outrigger Clean Commitment, which is a certification to show we’ve created a safe environment for our guests and hosts. It includes things such as host checks, hand washing and social distancing. It starts at the very beginning of the buyer journey; we initially tell our guests about the Clean Commitment and then it’s reiterated again when they check in. It’s on all collateral pre-arrival and it’s woven throughout the journey.
Secondly, we’ve adapted to the current situation by communicating pre-travel testing to our guests, giving them all the information they need at their fingertips. You need to get a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of your arrival, and then 24 hours before your journey you have to visit a specific website and load your trip.
We have a lot of travel guidelines in place to protect Hawaii, and so our aim is to try and communicate them to our guests and help them navigate everything. Basically, we’re doing everything we can to promote the message that Hawaii is open and it’s fairly easy to get to.
Thirdly, we have changed our booking policies to make them much more flexible, giving guests the option to change their bookings should they need to. This is very different to how it was before COVID-19. Because Hawaii was so busy, we had much more stringent booking policies in place, but now, even on our most discounted rate, we give our guests flexibility. Because these days, it’s hard to know what’s around the corner, you plan a trip but who knows what’s going to happen that’s out of your control? By giving them that flexibility, we’re making sure we’re building a solid relationship with our guests.
How have you adapted your revenue strategy?
Hawaii was in a unique situation where travel restrictions - such as the 14-day quarantine - impacted the market. It meant that the amount of guests we could service was limited and so Outrigger partnered with the community and focused on local residents and first responders. We offered locals excellent offers on local getaways and developed a program for first responders which offered them fantastic value breaks as a little respite from their day-to-day work.
As Hawaii transitions back into trans-pacific travel and with guests potentially able to work or study from anywhere, we are now also offering longer length of stay promotions, which is a shift from the norm. We’ve shifted this strategy through 2021 and beyond as it’s so important to rebuild Hawaii.
What successes have you seen?
One of our biggest success stories has been the use of our CRM and the ability to tailor for and target our loyal guests. The success has shown itself in the high open rate of our emails and the revenue gained from our most loyal customers. Over the course of 2020, it wasn’t right to sell to people, but people were missing Hawaii. So we created a campaign where we were able to let them know what we were up to over here. We would post live Hawaiian music on social media and send out live links to guests, really keeping them engaged and connected to Hawaii. We also created a photo filter which featured Diamond Head in the background, so people could actually see themselves in Hawaii! It was great - and really exciting - to be able to do such engaging things with our CRM.
What’s your email open rate at the moment?
For 2020 we have over a 50% open rate compared to 2019 when it was 19%. We recently sent an email that had an amazing 90% open rate! It basically included a big ‘welcome back’ message and offered amazing rates for a 7-night stay. We got a lot of click through and had a really great performance on the email.
What channels do you see showing the most promise?
The data is showing that leisure travel booked either direct or through OTA is showing the fastest recovery with wholesale not too far behind. That’s the biggest rebound. We weren’t a heavy group market and we depend on international travel.
How are you using Duetto to strategize and get ahead?
Something we’re using a lot at the moment is the Enterprise Rate Guidelines. We have a reduced staff right now and so we’ve consolidated some of our revenue operations. Enterprise Rate Guidelines lets us set corporate standards and lets the revenue leader adjust within those standards. This really saves us QA time as we don’t have to keep going back and forth asking why the pricing rule is doing such and such. It’s really helping us boost our efficiency.
Another thing we’re using Duetto for is the website regrets and denials as a supplement to our web reporting. Duetto really digs deep into the length of stay and the geography etc, so that’s been helping us guide our length of stay rate programs.
We’ve also done our budget and forecast with Duetto, which has really helped us save time and increase efficiency.
What are your hopes and expectations for 2021?
My hope is for a healthy and safe world for us all. It will be a gradual return to long/short haul travel and I think Hawaii is uniquely positioned with pre-travel testing to bring confidence to residents and visitors alike. I do think that people will return to travel eventually. It’s different in the US because people can drive to places. Whereas here in Hawaii, we need people to trust the system enough to get on the airplane to get here. But I’m confident we’ll return; Hawaii is doing its best to be a safe place and to protect its residents and visitors.
Discover top tips and best practices for building out your Resort Revenue Strategy for 2021 in our latest eBook ‘Resort Revenue Tactics: Building Robust Strategies For 2021.’ Download for free here.