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Covid: One year on 7 Apr 2021 - 3 min read

Ovolo Hotels marketing boss: Hotel and travel sector was antiquated – Covid forced fast evolution to the customer

By Stephen Howard, Director of Marketing - Ovolo Hotels

A renewed, real focus on guests and flexibility, tech-fuelled insights and unique, local tourism experiences kept Ovolo Hotels ahead and built brand equity through Covid, per marketing boss Stephen Howard. The tourism industry has irrevocably changed – in favour of the customer.

[Covid] has forced what can sometimes be looked at as an antiquated industry to evolve, putting the needs of the market first to ultimately provide a better and more flexible experience for travellers.

Stephen Howard, Director of Marketing, Ovolo Hotels

Playing catch-up

While Covid it has tremendously affected business, and more importantly our valued employees, there is a silver lining.

It has forced what can sometimes be looked at as an antiquated industry to evolve, putting the needs of the market first to ultimately provide a better and more flexible experience for travellers. Weve seen this be achieved through improved customer service, implementation of new technology and greater creativity in the brand experience and marketing space industry-wide.

At Ovolo, Covid has not necessarily changed the way we look at our customers/guests as we have always strived to be guest centric, providing memorable effortless and effervescent hotel experiences whilst connecting with them emotionally.

Rather, the current world situation has allowed us to further explore how we can do whats rightby our guest. Ovolo already had our hotel first NFW Promise in place, which allowed for flexible changes and cancelations, along with a rate promise seeing that Ovolo refund any dollars to the guest if their room rate dropped below what they paid between booking and checking in.

We looked at this and made further enhancements to make it even more flexible for our guests. Allowing us to keep business on the books over this period and also give guests peace of mind – a move that ultimately has created even greater positive brand loyalty and sentiment, allowing us to rebound faster than some of our competitors.

[Covid] allowed us to further explore how we can 'do what's right' by our guests...it kept business on the books and gave guests peace of mind – a move that ultimately has created even greater positive brand loyalty and sentiment, allowing us to rebound faster than some of our competitors.

Stephen Howard, Director of Marketing, Ovolo Hotels

Tourism’s tech future

Given that a lot of positive changes have been made over this period, most of which favour the consumer, it is likely that consumer behaviours and expectations will not change anytime soon. In fact, given the competitive environment in tourism, these expectations may only continue to increase and propel change.

In the same vein, technology has played a vital role in hotels evolution over Covid. Whilst I am not a fan of too much technology in room, it has become an extremely important consideration, both from a safety and consumer journey perspective. Safety comes by the way of touchpoints and adhering to Covid safe regulations in the implementation of our Covid policy (‘Obsessive Commitment to Deep Cleaning’, or ‘OC/DC’).

We implemented bespoke online booking portals, coupling accommodation with local tourism experiences, and providing complimentary luxury Genesis cars to our guests to explore the local area in style.

Stephen Howard, Director of Marketing, Ovolo Hotels

Customer journey mapping

When it came to the consumer journey, we looked at the markets booking habits and demand based off major tourism campaigns. In response to these insights, we implemented bespoke online booking portals, coupling accommodation with local tourism experiences, and providing complementary luxury Genesis cars to our guests to explore the local area in style.

Both these initiatives spoke to the staycay and domestic travel markets directly and loudly, allowing Ovolo to provide a hotel experience which was, and remains still, relevant.

One area which was vital to ensuring the continued relevance of a smaller hotel brand like Ovolo was to consistently be creative in ways which were newsworthy and socially relevant. Successfully, this saw brand frequency in the market and built brand equity over a period where society was consuming higher amounts of media through both traditional and new mediums which ultimately for Ovolo lead to faster recovery and new customer acquisition – we did not stop at all!

To achieve all this though you need to have a dedicated and passionate team who believe in your brand, both internally and externally. We achieved some great things as a smaller brand over what was possibly one of the most difficult times we will (hopefully) ever experience in our careers through the support of our team and our agency partners. These achievements were made possible with regular, clear and open communication whilst continuing to champion an ethos of generating results and celebrating them.

It is important to continue and always evolve or you will be left behind. This is a mantra both myself and Ovolo live by – not just through Covid.

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