Using mobile technology in customer communications to overcome their fears and initiate recovery from the post pandemic economic crisis.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption in the hospitality industry. Movement restrictions (e.g., border closures, and lockdowns) led to the cancellation of most leisure and business bookings. Now, as the vaccination programme expands to more and more age groups, and the UK prepares to come out of national lockdown, companies in this sector need to win back customer confidence.
Brunel University’s Business Resilience Fund helps small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to introduce innovation to minimise the impact of Covid-19. This case study summarises the research and innovation support St Margaret’s Hotel received from Brunel and the impact it generated on the business.
The hospitality sector faced unprecedented challenges. St Margaret’s Hotel had the need to overcome two types of consumer fears: 1) fear that venues are unsafe; and 2) fear that local restrictions will limit the leisure options available. Businesses can address the first fear by communicating to customers which venues follow the upmost industry safety standards, such as Visit Britain’s “We’re good to go” scheme (2020). To address the second fear, businesses can curate and share with customers information about which venues are open (e.g., restaurants, museums) and which activities are taking place (e.g., tours, outdoor events), so that customers can make the most of their journey. That is, by communicating clearly and effectively with their customers, hospitality venues can gain back their confidence.
Several mobile phone apps have emerged, recently, to help individuals feel – and be – safe. The role of these (and other) apps in allowing the easing of movement restrictions, and keeping customers safe, suggest that there is an opportunity for hospitality businesses, too, to use this technology to communicate with customers, in order to overcome their fears and, therefore, initiate recovery from the economic crisis induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Assess effective ways of signalling venue safety and range of local options available, to address the the information needs of hospitality guests, and overcome their fears related to the use of hospitality venues.
- Determine the specification of a tailored smartphone app to deliver messages signalling venue safety and range of local options available.
- Pilot the app and develop recommendations for further development.
- Through our connections with the regional tourism board, extend the positive impact of this research to the other hospitality businesses in England’s southwest region.
- The App will allow people to explore how safe their stay at the Hotel will be, thus giving them confidence to book directly. Bookings will increase as they will have first-hand re-assurance that their stay is safe. As they will make direct bookings, no commission will be paid so profit from the booking is maximised.
- To explore further research and innovation support and investment to develop the technical skills in house that allow the roll-out of the app to other hospitality venues and, this way, support the economic recovery of other hospitality businesses in England’s southwest region.
Based on the findings from the project and the guidance from the team, the hotel management has implemented measures that resulted in occupancy rates well above comparable hotels in the area, decrease in perceived pressure to offer discounts, and excellent customer feedback (both in person and online).
Collaboration with Brunel expanded to include a study visit from MSc Corporate Branding students, and subsequent project recommendations regarding the hotel’s branding.
Based on the support provided during this collaboration, the hotel management made changes to the layout of certain rooms, which increased capacity. Moreover, the hotel changed communication with their guests, emphasising outdoor spaces in the promotional materials, which was identified as a key factor in choosing where to stay. Finally, the hotel cultivated relationships with key stakeholders (e.g., Experience Oxfordshire), which resulted in the hotel being featured (free of cost) in communications to visitors to the region.
From the start of the pandemic, you have guided the Hotel and me through the unknown, and at times unclear, rules, regulations and laws. You have provided professional, realistic and beneficial advice that has ensured the Hotel survived the pandemic.
The best indication of the benefits of working with Brunel is the Hotel's financial performance. The hotel is in such a good position that it now outperforms pre-pandemic levels.
It has been a pleasure and a delight working with you to save the hotel. Many of the implemented changes will ensure the continued success of the Hotel. I sincerely thank you for your help, advice and encouragement over the last two and a quarter years.
Get in touch with the project team member(s) for this case study
Dr Michael Paratharayil
Business Development Manager
I have managed large partnerships for a budget of £5million with private sector organisations in the UK and overseas. I have led capacity strengthening programmes in resource mobilisation strategy and business model canvas, marketing strategy and proposal development. I have experience in developing route-to-market strategies and investment pitches in healthcare and MedTech. I currently lead Brunel's SME Capacity strengthening project on Engagement and Research and Innovation & Business Resilience Fund. I also manage projects in knowledge exchange and health innovation. I contribute to Brunel's Early Career Academic Capacity Development Programmes and South East Asia and South Asia Regional Working Group in addition to innovation ecosystem management for specific R&I projects. Connect with me on LinkedIn
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Case study last modified 15/08/2022