Interview: “How Yvonne Schnoor seized the opportunity and embraced hotel marketing during the pandemic”
“What can I do to increase my online visibility for my guests after the pandemic?” Yvonne Schnoor, owner of the boutique BnB Cortijo El Sarmiento in Andalusia, understood the crisis as an opportunity. Together with her husband, she took advantage of the lockdown and completely changed her hotel marketing from A to Z. “Now is the time to become more visible to our international guests after the re-start.” Yvonne gives insights into what motivated her and what she did for her hotel marketing in this interview.
Can you describe your situation at the beginning of the corona crisis? What was your occupancy level then? What was the outlook for the coming season?
At the beginning of the corona crisis, we were still relatively relaxed about the entire situation. Our occupancy rate had been really good the year before. The outlook for the new season in terms of revenue was excellent. We were well prepared and were looking forward to a great 2020 season.
What went through your mind when you knew the true scale of the crisis?
Well, at the beginning of the pandemic, we admittedly took the whole thing rather lightly and said: “Oh well, at least we now have time to get to grips with our marketing”. There were actually a lot of things that we’d always wanted to do but had never managed to do for time reasons. At the time, in my naivety, I thought I could just do a couple of adjustments here and there before the guests would return. But then came the day X, when we gradually realised that this whole thing was here to stay and would take much longer… That we were actually facing a proper crisis. Back then, no one addressed it as a crisis! The thoughts I had were probably more like “Oh dear, something’s going terribly wrong here. This isn’t good at all!”
How long did it take you to get over the initial shock?
It didn’t take long for me to digest the shock, because I am not that kind of person who wallows in a moment of shock for long. We were fairly quick in drawing up a plan which set out the next course of action for the months to come. Fortunately, we were fully aware of what actually was at sixes and sevens. In terms of marketing, there was a LOT, so we were able to say relatively quickly: “Okay, this is going to take longer than expected, but we’ll be able to conduct an entire redesign of the website and set up our marketing from scratch”.
How would you describe your marketing activities before Covid-19 hit us?
Before the crisis, our marketing activities were actually limited to social media. For instance, Facebook and Instagram were used on a fairly regular basis. We sent out a newsletter once a month when I actually found the time to do it.
Additionally, I wrote blog articles from time to time. In hindsight, we published them without any sense or reason: they were neither keyword optimised nor were they structured in any way. Hence, the readability was very poor and I guess they were actually more of an imposition for every potential reader.
Had you originally planned to invest in your hotel marketing in 2020?
No, we hadn’t planned to invest in our hotel marketing originally. At the beginning of the pandemic, we thought we could get away with just a few minor adjustments. But as the crisis had a growing impact on all of our lives and we had to admit that our website, too, was one ginormous crisis. It didn’t take us long to realise: we can’t do it on our own! We need help. So we decided that we needed to invest more despite the miserable outlook.
What was the catalyst behind your decision to step up your hotel marketing?
We just wanted to have a perfect website with content that would make it easier for us to use for social media and for our newsletters. And, it goes without saying, we wanted to give us a decisive edgeon the market in terms of visibility as soon as the crisis is over.
Not sure where to start or are you feeling overwhelmed with hotel marketing for your accommodation? My complete hotel marketing guide is happy to help.
So how exactly did you change your hotel marketing?
For a start, we booked a comprehensive online course. In this course, we learned about website optimisation and Search Engine Optimisation. Moreover, the course included how to write. I mean how to write good texts that actually get read. Apart from that, we learned how to smartly and purposefully distribute the content on the website for newsletters and social media.
What other plans have you got on your agenda?
First of all, we want to carry out our marketing plan persistently. Our sparkly new website is now online. It’s available in three languages to provide a nice booking experience for our international guests. In addition, we’ve got many blog articles planned. As a result, some articles have already been published in the corresponding languages.
Next, a corresponding content plan for social media is already waiting in the wings. In addition, we’ve completely redesigned our newsletter. We know that consistency is key and we really want to keep up with showing up and posting consistently.
The next step is to make it into the press. It’s quite clear that tourism and the way we travel will change dramatically in the long term. We’ve thought a lot about this and have collected many ideas. We think it would be quite interesting and good to get a foot in the door and to give it a go.
Looking back, what was the last year like for you? What feelings did you encounter? What developments did you go through?
That’s a good question. Looking back, the year 2020, naturally, had its ups and downs. I think we managed quite well in the end. We worked very focused and determinedly on our tasks.
However, we experienced many very dark moments, obviously. For instance, moments in which we didn’t know why on earth we were doing this. There were moments full of doubt. And these moments continue to resurface every now and then because we still don’t know when we will be able to re-open. That the re-start will come eventually – of that we are 100% sure!
Our feelings have literally been a rollercoaster ride. But we’ve made a terrific step in our personal development! We acquired more new knowledge and skills in 2020 than ever before in our entire lives. Above all, we met a whole lot of great people – all participants in this course – with whom we will continue to work together in the future. As a result, very valuable cooperations have derived from the crisis. So with hindsight, we can say it was worth all the hard work and worth every single penny. And we are super chuffed about the outcome.
How do you assess the 2021 season?
As far as we are concerned, 2021 will also be far from perfect. In other words, just as modest. I consider the first half of the year as a non-starter – not a lot is going to happen revenue-wise.
But I see opportunities for the second half of 2021, especially for September, October and November – for the low season so to speak. In the peak season from July – August we expect more Spanish guests to come and stay with us. However, we expect the inner-European tourism to pick up again during the late summer months – perhaps with small restrictions here and there.
We consider ourselves lucky to have such big, spacious grounds. There’s ample space for our guests to retreat to. So we can relax a bit more about it than in a big hotel where a large number of people have to move around in a very confined space!
More about Yvonne and her boutique BnB Cortijo El Sarmiento
The Cortijo El Sarmiento in Andalusia, Spain, is a very unique place – just as unique as the transformation it went through to become the picturesque boutique BnB it is today. “The house found us!” says Yvonne Schnoor, who runs the boutique BnB together with her husband, Carsten.
Yvonne fulfilled a childhood dream with the old country estate. “In our Adults-Only BnB in the south of Spain, it’s entirely up to the guest: retreat to the pool with a good read and listen to the birds and crickets on the terrace with its accompanying large garden? Admire the old olive and orange trees and bougainvillea on a walk through the garden? Chat with other guests over a glass of wine paired with scrumptious homemade paella? Or would you rather prefer a massage?
“You’re very welcome to find out more about the beautiful boutique BnB, Cortijo El Sarmiento, and its hosts, Yvonne and Carsten Schnoor, on their website.
4 proven advantages of human translation vs machine translation
Why machine translation is not an option for accurate translations
The term Artificial Intelligence is on everybody’s lips, who deals with the translation of copy. It has undoubtedly made enormous progress in the past years. The biggest bonus which as a matter of fact seems to attract more and more users by the day is, that the biggest online players, such as Google Translate or DeepL, offer their services for free.
But, setting the cost factor aside, are the results of such online machine translation platforms really accurate for your translations? Do they really strike the right note? In this blog post, you will find out, why a machine translation just cannot replace a human translator and why you should always opt for human translation for the translation of your marketing materials and online presence. Here are the 4 advantages of human translation vs machine translation.
3 different kinds of machine translation
In order to understand what really distinguishes human translation vs machine translation and what skills are necessary to deliver accurate and authentic translations that convey your message to your international audience, I have listed the three types of machine translation:
Rule-based systems analyse the text to be translated (the source text) and translate it according to programmed language rules. i.e. dictionaries are linked with common terms, linguistic as well as grammatical rules.
Static systems are based on existing translations. The system scans the internet for existing translations. These are checked for suitable text passages in the target language and are then used by the system.
Neural systems are the current further development of static systems and represent a new approach. The neural system learns via a large neural network. It is the most advanced method of computer-aided translation and uses artificial intelligence, big data and deep learning. The system continues to learn as it is used and trained.
Different areas of application
According to its design and suitability, each system today has its own areas of application. Rule-based systems, for instance, are used in technical documentation, such as assembly instructions and online help texts, or for traveller ratings in travel portals.
Statistical systems, on the other hand, are used for example in Google Translate. These programmes require a large data amount as they search for translations of multilingual websites, which then form the basis for the programme. Possible areas of use are help pages of software vendors, travel websites, online shops or news sites.
Neural systems, on the contrary, can be used as the basis for professional translations and can help make the translation process more productive and efficient.
What are the risks of machine translation?
The main risk for the use of machine translation is the protection of your data. If you use publicly available online translation programmes, either online or via app, it is important to understand that all data entered is stored on the providers’ servers. Confidentiality of your data can therefore not be guaranteed.
Another crucial aspect for the quality of a translation is accuracy. The accuracy of machine translations does differ considerably compared to human translation. Unlike a human translator, a machine translation system cannot look at the context of a paragraph and performs a sentence by sentence translation based on the system defaults. As a result, context is disregarded entirely and, thus, translation errors are guaranteed.
If website operators rely on free services such as Google Translate or DeepL, the sole intention should be to gain an overall idea of the contents. A conscious decision to save costs before quality was made here. This inaccuracy may be acceptable to some people in exchange for convenience and cost. When the stakes are higher, as in business, law or medicine, a machine translation often falls behind the expertise and professionalism of a human translator.
What constitutes a good translation?
A number of aspects need to be taken into account for the translation of your text. What is the purpose of the document to be translated, the field or the client itself? Are you an expert in your niche, is your document a marketing text that is intended for publication or do you come from a specific field? Then a confident appearance in the desired language is extremely necessary for addressing the relevant audience professionally.
“Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.”
– Günter Grass
Taking a closer look at the supposedly higher cost factor for a professional human translation is definitely worthwhile. Did you hire a professional copywriter to write your original copy because you want to appear professional and convincing to your audience? Then the same level of professionalism should be applied to the English to German translation of the copy, because a bad impression caused by poorly translated marketing materials or a specialist text can have a massive negative impact on your international success in the long run.
In addition, a good translator translates into his or her mother tongue and usually specialises in a particular field. Consequently, he or she is familiar with the industry and has the necessary terminology. Clarity of the source text, which is a prerequisite for machine translation, and thus the creative limitation, does not apply to a professional translator. The recognition of ambiguity, the application of linguistic nuances and context consideration are striking arguments for a human translation. In addition, the translator adheres to the tonality and wording in the original text and combines this with a certain degree of creativity. In this way the translation becomes a text that does not sound like a translation, but as an original text that was written in that language.
The 4 proven advantages of human translation vs machine translation at a glance:
No good translation without context
There’s no doubt that Google Translate and the likes have their place. As a quick translation tool it can serve a multitude of purposes. It’s good for a quick translation that merely aims at getting the gist of a text in a foreign language. The translation results are fairly decent. However, the quality of these online providers is not sufficient for a confident international appearance. Rather the opposite is the case.
Machine translation simply lacks the nuances of human communication. For building a relationship with your international audience and making the text sound natural and authentic, you should always go for a human translator.
Reaching out to a greater audience has never been easier. We’re living in times when information is at people’s fingertips. A large amount of people is connected 24/7 and consumers have adapted to the digital world. They expect the same from travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, and other businesses in the tourism sector. The key to success lies in increasing your visibility for foreign guests by providing compelling content. In other words, showing up with a multilingual website and content in a sector depending on internationality is a prerequisite.
Here you will find 5 benefits of a multilingual website & content.
#1 New markets
The aim of accessing untapped markets is to reach a whole new set of customers and thus increase sales. But doing your homework in advance is essential:
assess market players and market conditions
overcome language barriers to communicate in your audiences’ languages
However, poorly translated content can turn your splashy entrance to a new market into a dent in your reputation that might be hard to restore. The key is avoiding linguistic pitfalls through proper localisation. This is where localisation comes into play. The content is not only translated but also adapted to the culture and traditions of the target market.
Another reason for international expansion can be diversification. The aim here is to diversify assets and to reduce your dependency on a single domestic market. As a consequence, diversified market presences allow you to better offset global market fluctuations. For instance, companies with international operations can offset negative growth in one market by operating successfully in another. Different markets hold a strong potential for certain offers of yours. People of culture A might not be the biggest fan of a specific offer, but people of culture B might love it!
Communication is all about building trust. It is crucial to know that customer service already starts when a potential customer or guest visits your online presence.
Imagine a family of four sitting at the dinner table and discussing where they want to spend their next holiday. Everyone is excited and they brainstorm possible destinations. In the end, several destinations are thrown in the pot. The parents go online afterwards and start looking for possible options.
Anticipation starts right here!
The parents will decide depending on their budget, the amenities and attractions that will make theirstay worthwhile and memorable. But it also depends on how they experience your website! If it’s hard to navigate or confusing, they might be put off immediately and go for another option.
A traveller’s emotions vary significantly while going through the different stages. They experience excitement peaks during lead-up and arrival and feel fulfilled once they’ve returned home.
So, sparking the customer’s interest when they visit your website is essential. The user-experience you provide on your website and the amenities you offer play a crucial part in the decision-making process. Do you already have a multilingual website? How much effort did you invest in the translation? In other words, has it been translated professionally or quickly with an online translation tool? Is it correct in terms of spelling and grammar or is it full of errors? Not only will this make a poor impression, but it will also make the customer feel less valued.
“Communication is all about building trust.”
Communication plays a vital role in building trust among your customers. This is even more important during the corona pandemic. Attaching the utmost importance to rebuilding trust and instilling a sense of safety and security in your customers is fundamental.
So, let us dive into customer behaviour with regard to country- and language-appropriate content. A survey of language preferences conducted by the Harvard Business Review revealed that the success of your online customer experience is determined by how quickly and painlessly guests find country- and language-appropriate content.
“How quickly and painlessly guests find country- and language-appropriate content, will determine the success of your online customer experience.”
Harvard Business Review
These are the survey’s results:
Hence, what do we learn from these results?
Customers want to get an impression of what they can expect from a stay at your accommodation on your website. Your competitors’ offer might meet the same requirements as yours. But maybe they also went that extra mile and offer their website in various languages. Which website, do you think, will catch the looker’s attention and will lead them to stay longer?
#4 Increased Conversion
Providing a multilingual website with the native language of your target audience will increase your direct bookings. Visitors will not only be attracted by their search results, but will also spend more time on your website. Consequently, this will boost your online visibility as well as sales since it is a positive ranking factor for Google. Find out more about how to increase your visiblity and direct bookings with my complete guide for hotel marketing.
I know I’m repeating myself here, but translating your content into another language with an online tool is one thing. However, attaching the same importance to the translation as to the original copy will make all the difference:
Another study revealed that the number one factor for purchasing a holiday online is the “excitement tourists experience while booking their next trip”. The use of emotional and creative language in their native tongue is the winning factor.
Wouldn’t it be great if a looker turned into a booker because your content hooked them? They felt welcome, understood, and most importantly, were in joyful anticipation about their next holiday?
#5 Image boost
Providing a multilingual website and content for your international guests not increases your online visibility. It also leads to increased engagement with your audience on your social media channels. Your followers get to know you and your values and a trusted relationship can form in the long run.
Another great benefit of multilingual content is the improved communication with your guests. Bridging language barriers for your guests makes them feel valued. They appreciate you going that extra mile to make them feel welcome. People are much more inclined to book with you, if you provide a convenient booking process for them.
Turn former guests into brand advocates
The holiday is over and your guests have returned home. They’re full of happy memories and everything went to their complete satisfaction during the holiday. Chances are good, that they’ll spread the word to friends and share their experiences online. This opens the doors to new potential guests.
Be international in an international industry
If you don’t think that translating your content is important, consider the following: unlike some other industries, the tourism sector operates in almost every corner of the world and in every language possible. In an age where being online 24/7 is regarded as normal, connecting with your target audience by speaking their language is eminent for you as a tourism business. This is something that can only be achieved by a translation expert specialising in tourism and hospitality who is able to apply the necessary language skills and cultural knowledge.
Life after Covid-19: 9 tips on how to emerge stronger than ever from the corona crisis
A year of being firmly in the hand of the corona crisis has passed. We’ve gone through several lockdowns and social distancing is part of our day-to-day business. A collection of terms related to the corona crisis are constantly looming over our heads. I think not a day has gone by without social media being plastered with posts about short-time work, curfews, homeschooling and economic losses. These losses can be perceived across all industries. However, one sector has been hit at its core from the lockdowns: the hospitality industry.
But slowly after months of lockdown, the restrictions imposed with it are being lifted in small steps. Children are returning back to school but have to comply with certain regulations, hairdressers and garden centers have opened again. Shops are waiting and hoping to follow suit. A reopening for hospitality seems to have returned within easy reach in April – at least in the UK. Gastronomy and hotels in Germany, however, are still waiting for a clear perspective to reopen.
We are given an inkling of what it might be like to return to our lives before the corona crisis. And one thing’s for sure, there’s an unabated desire to travel! The closer the lifting of the restrictions is getting, the more this desire will be set free. Everybody will want to emerge from the crisis stronger and get their helping from the enormous cake. In this article, you will find 9 tips on how to set the course for a successful reopening.
1. Change management in times of crisis
The current situation is daunting, and understandably so. Hotels are battling soaring costs while being faced with empty beds and thus no income at the same time. However, now is the time to analyse existing processes and identify new potential. Tourismuszukunft has developed a useful guide “Corona Roadmap” for the industry to identify new tasks and alternative paths.
2. Communication is key
Reaching out to your guests and keeping them informed about current or upcoming bookings in these uncertain times is essential. Clear communication can help you minimise losses. Therefore, try to postpone current bookings or turn cancellations into rebookings so that guests may return once the corona crisis is over.
3. Be flexible
Your guests are already going through a stressful phase due to the current situation. They will be worrying about their bookings and finances. Take away some of that stress by offering an easy way to cancel their bookings. If you flexibly adapt to their needs, it will leave a positive impression and they are likely to book with you again. Communicate this openly, for example with a section on free cancellations on your website.
4. Be present and nurture desire
Use the break inflicted by the coronavirus to revise your website and your social media activities and stay in touch with your target group. Are the texts and images on your website up to date? It could be a good move to have your website translated into other languages. This would allow you to engage with a much larger target group and to stay independent of the domestic market.
Create interoperable content for customer care and customer loyalty. By having translated your emails and newsletters for email marketing campaigns or your social media content, you give assurance and spread a positive mood. Especially on social media channels, travel publications serve as a source of inspiration and nurture desire. It’s not only about vivid pictures but also about the accompanying texts. Write engaging texts to reach out to a much larger, international audience. Tell them that you miss your guests and that you’re looking forward to welcoming them when you reopen again after the coronavirus.
Break new grounds in communication and create video content. Videos get the most attention on social media and are a superb way to authentically capture the atmosphere for your audience. You can even go that extra mile and have your videos transcribed or subtitled into other languages.
Speaking of languages: why not have your marketing material such as travel guides, menus, spa treatments, or even signs translated into different languages. This is a great way to show your guests that you care and that you want to make their stay as pleasant as possible.
You don’t know what to do with all those vacancies? Make use of them: express your gratitude and thank your local corona heroes by offering them a free overnight stay. They deserve it. #hotelsforheroes
5. Focus on your loyalty programme:
Send a newsletter to your loyal customers, offer them rewards, or reduce the number of nights needed for a free stay. That way, your loyal guests will stay in touch with you.
6. Consider new paths and themes
Identifying new topics to market is a great way to address whole new customer segments. These could be, for instance, yoga retreats, reading tours, hiking, or cycling tours. You can put attractive packages with additional services together.
Set up a voucher system with which future bookings can be purchased by vouchers. In this way, additional sales can be generated.
Traveling abroad will be ruled out by many. But since the majority still want to travel, people will look for domestic alternatives and have a staycation. So increase your local presence to attract local customers.
7. Invest in new technologies and services
Make use of the current pause in operations by investing in your services and technology so that you are ready for the upswing when it does arrive. Use this time to understand what your technology can do for your business. While occupancy will be low at the beginning due to reopening restrictions and reduced travel, you have the unique opportunity to make the stay of your guest much more personal. You can make their stay a one of a kind experience with exclusive dinners or special services. That will stick in their memory and they will return as loyal customers.
9. Learn from the crisis
The corona crisis and its devastating consequences came entirely out of the blue. Although there have been other pandemics before, think of SARS in 2002, H1N1 in 2009 and MERS in 2012, none has had such a limiting effect on our lives as the current corona pandemic.
As experts expect a second wave after the restrictions have been slightly lifted, precautions can be taken in order to be prepared when it hits again. It’s therefore advisable to commit yourself and your staff to procedures and tightened hygiene measures for surfaces such as bathrooms, door handles/knobs, kitchen and dining areas introduced during the first wave, and train staff accordingly.
Invest in the future and look ahead even in times of crisis
For your continued success, it is important not to surrender yourself to the current standstill, but to see the crisis as an opportunity. A constructive SWOT analysis of your strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats will reveal potential and paths which you had not considered before. The key to success is an open mind to novelty and the flexibility to accept and adapt to the changed conditions. Investing in yourself, in marketing and in customer loyalty will lead to a fruitful restart in the long term, even if it does not seem feasible at present. Stay positive, stay safe, save lives.