Airport Hotels Contend With Drop in Passengers
Airport Hotels Contend With Drop in Passengers
19 JANUARY 2021 10:11 AM

Marketing efforts at airport hotels are targeting specific groups of travelers such as remote workers, staycation guests, construction crews and front-line workers.

With U.S. airline traffic rebounding slowly as effects of the COVID-19 pandemic persist, hotels that typically rely heavily on demand from those passengers are feeling the pinch and having to get creative to shore up business.

Some airport hotels are offering discounts to targeted and different segments of guests, including staycationers, remote workers, first responders, quarantining individuals, support contractors and government-supported housing guests, said Kannan Sankaran, senior director at CBRE Hotels Advisory.

“Many of these (guests) existed pre-COVID, but operators now find this demand critical given the impacts of the pandemic,” Sankaran said.

In general, airport markets with a greater concentration of higher-priced hotels were more adversely impacted by COVID-19, as hotels at the higher end of the market tended to be more dependent on group and corporate demand, he noted.

Sankaran predicted that hotels in airport markets will return to 2019 levels for occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room by 2024.

In the meantime, some airport hotels are targeting area construction projects for extended-stay guests and working with insurance companies to capture displaced travelers. Many hotels offer booking flexibility, especially to leisure travelers who want to travel but who may need to cancel last minute due to the continued uncertainty in the travel industry, said David Sangree, president of Hotel & Leisure Advisors, LLC.

“As marketing budgets have been slashed in 2020, properties are trying to market the location of the property above and beyond being near an airport. Some operators are establishing local partnerships with area businesses to provide more services and amenities, such as dining discounts and fitness club access,” Sangree said.

The Hilton Boston Logan Airport has leveraged its strong relationships with the airport “to ensure we are responsible partners through this pandemic,” General Manager Bruce Roy said.

In messaging to potential guests, he said, “we have been focused on communicating and delivering the Hilton CleanStay promise to all of our guests choosing to stay here, and this has been a rallying point for our team who understand the importance of delivering a consistent clean and safe stay.”

New standards for Hilton CleanStay that guests can expect include a room seal to indicate that a room has not been accessed since being cleaned and disinfected, “knock and go” dropped-off room service and flexible housekeeping options, he said.

The hotel has had an uptick in business from companies that need controlled environments for certifications of essential workers, Roy said, adding that the hotel offers walkthrough tours of these programs to groups and local planners and partners.

“Our efforts are focused on connecting directly with guests that are traveling at this time, those in the healthcare space and essential workers,” said Gregg Forde, chief operating officer and executive vice president of Island Hospitality Management, which manages several airport hotels of various brands, including the Hyatt House Los Angeles/LAX/Manhattan Beach.

In addition, the company is marketing to leisure travelers who may want to connect with friends and family they haven’t seen in months in areas not traditionally recognized as high-demand leisure markets, such as airport and suburban locations, Forde said.

The Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport Hotel has been targeting nontraditional advertising channels, including social media, and working with local negotiated sales accounts to let travelers know that the property is open, said General Manager Konstantine Drosos. Additionally, the hotel reworked its Park & Stay hotel package to offer self-park. Prior to the pandemic, the property had only valet service.

“The self-park option is great for travelers, since parking spaces are located directly in front of the hotel and offer unrivaled expedience in the airport,” Drosos said.

Additionally, as Chicago O’Hare International Airport continues to undergo a massive renovation, the hotel been able to obtain new business through the number of on-site construction teams.

“The teams need meetings and event space for offices and our location within the hotel makes us a great alternative workspace option with convenient access within the airport,” Drosos said.

Remington Hotels, which manages 10 airport properties, has been focused on digital marketing efforts that offer discounts and special packages, said Chief Operating Officer Stan Kennedy. The company also has targeted longer-stay business.

“We redirected our focus to more crew, military and sports related business, which typically were not major producers in the airport properties due to higher occupancy levels, stay patterns or rate causing potential displacement. All displacement models had to be re-engineered,” Kennedy said.

Remington also has concentrated on booking healthcare workers and has maintained an active direct sales effort through telephone and email, to remain in front of those who are in a position to refer hotels. These channels include airline gate agents, rental care agents, hospitals and sports organizations.

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