Online presence to attract future travelers Hospitality industry boosts

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Hospitality industry players are focusing on strengthening their online public relations (PR) campaigns to maintain their relations with customers in the hopes of rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to government and company officials.

Global hotel chain Marriott’s property in Bali, Westin Nusa Dua, for instance, has been actively conducting online campaigns through its website and social media accounts despite the coronavirus outbreak in a bid to stay connected with its customers, the property’s communications director, Dewi Anggraini, said.

“PR campaigns during a crisis are essential for companies,” she said during an online discussion on Wednesday.

“We have to stay connected with our audience while also promoting a positive message and position ourselves as their partner through this trying time.”

The pandemic has hit the tourist industry hard with people staying at home to contain the virus spread. Foreign tourist visits to Indonesia plunged 87.44 percent year-on-year (yoy) to 160,000 visitors in April, a level unseen in the country’s history, as physical distancing and lockdown measures are imposed throughout around the world.

As a result, 1,642 hotels and 353 restaurants had shut their businesses down, the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) reported in late April. The association also revealed that 180 tourist destinations and 232 tourist villages across Indonesia had been temporarily closed.

Dewi said her company’s online campaigns through social media were a low-cost investment to build up engagement with the company’s audience while also delivering information on how the company was improving its hygiene standards to attract potential customers.

Westin Nusa Dua’s social media pages run weekly online events, such as home workout programs, yoga activities and cooking shows, to attract audiences.

Besides maintaining relations with travel-goers, Dewi said the property was also keeping in touch with the business sectors to promote their meetings and conference products, which also heavily focused on cleanliness.

“Since the pandemic began, we’ve been in close contact with our corporate partners. And from time to time, we also inform them about our new packages so that they remain our partner when the new normal begins,” she said.

“We are also informing our audiences on our preparations to face the new normal, which heavily emphasizes the CHS [cleanliness, health and safety].”

According to research released by mobile travel application Tripadvisor, 86 percent of surveyed consumers believed that cleanliness was a crucial aspect when selecting accommodation after post-pandemic.

The research also show that 84 percent of consumers said cleanliness or sanitization certificates were important when booking a travel experience while 79 percent said it was important to publicly display compliance with government safety standards.

Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry spokesperson Agustini Rahayu said during the discussion that the government was vying to regain the public’s confidence in the Indonesian travel industry by actively promoting the CHS program.

“Public information regarding the government’s efforts to [revive] the tourism sector is crucial,” she said.

“To gain the public’s confidence we have prepared content regarding the CHS program to be published through digital media, print media and out-of-home advertising.”

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called on the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry in late May to prepare “special strategies” to revive domestic tourism in regions safe from COVID-19 for the transition to the so-called “new normal”.

However, he asked the ministry not to rush to open tourist areas, urging it to gradually identify areas that were ready based on COVID-19 basic reproduction rates.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Wishnutama Kusubandio said his ministry had prepared standard operating procedures for various sectors in tourism and the creative economy.

“We are synchronizing the plan with other ministries, institutions and task forces,” Wishnutama said in late May.