A COVID-19 global pandemic has brought the socio-economic structure of the countries to a halt by taking hold of all the world and has also created negative consequences for the tourism industry. By the measures taken within the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism-related expenditures have been on the top of the utmost reduced expenditures of the individuals due to the impact of social distance restrictions (McKinsey, 2020). Along with travel restrictions, flights, hotel reservations, events, and festivals have been cancelled, and this has significantly affected global tourism (Bahar & Ilal, 2020). The pandemic has urged individuals and enterprises to become more conscious and sensitive in many issues. Hotel enterprises, which have begun to open doors again together with the measures they have taken after COVID-19, have also altered their marketing activities so that they emphasize the measures they have taken. Acar (2020) investigated the current and future effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector; while Aydın and Doğan (2020) examined the changes in the decisions and behaviours of tourists together with the changes in the tourism sector after COVID-19. Bahar and İlal (2020) worked on the economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the tourism sector; Demir, Günaydın and Demir (2020) expressed that all the stakeholders of the sector should cooperate in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic; and Kıvılcım (2020) stated that a new period would begin in the tourism sector after COVID-19 and contactless digital transactions, social distance tours and isolated holidays would be at the forefront.
Chang, McAleer and Ramos (2020) emphasized the importance of turning towards alternative tourism in their study on sustainable tourism after COVID-19. Gössling, Scott and Hall (2020) expressed in their study on the pandemic, tourism and global change that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on air travel and hospitality industry all over the world since March 2020; and Karim, Haque, Anis and Ulfy (2020) stated that hotels would have an enormous loss of income in Malaysia after COVID-19.
2. THE PURPOSE AND IMPORTANCE OF THE RESEARCH
The purpose of this study was to know the marketing strategies of the 5-star hotels operating in Kuşadası during the COVID-19 pandemic process. As a result of the literature review, it was revealed that there were no studies conducted addressing the marketing strategies applied by the hotels in Turkey in general or in Kuşadası specifically during COVID-19 pandemic process, which reveals the importance of the subject.
By the purpose of the study, the answers for the following questions were sought:
- Determining the measures taken by the 5-star hotel enterprises operating in Kuşadası for COVID-19 pandemic,
- Finding out the marketing strategies, advertising and promotion activities, of the 5-star hotel enterprises operating in Kuşadası during COVID-19 pandemic process,
- Determining the competition strategies of the hotels according to the changing consumer preferences during COVID-19 pandemic process.
3. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The qualitative research method was used within the scope of the study. Interviews were done with the hotel managers by making appointments in advance. While preparing the interview questions, the views of a faculty member who is an expert in the field and an experienced manager in the sector were obtained. Besides, the study by Demir et al. (2020) was also utilized. The population of the study was composed of the managers of the 5-star hotel enterprises operating in Kuşadası. There are a total of 15 hotel enterprises operating in Kuşadası under Aydın Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism (Aydın Provincial Directorate of Culture and Tourism). The data of the research was obtained from 13 hotel managers between 10 July and 20 July 2020. The data could not be obtained from the two hotel enterprises because they did not open their doors for their guests this year because of COVID-19 pandemic. Descriptive analysis technique was used in order to analyze the data obtained in the research.
4. RESEARCH FINDINGS
Three of the managers interviewed within the scope of the study worked as a general manager, while 2 of them worked as an assistant manager, 4 of them worked as a front office manager, and 4 of them worked as a sales and marketing manager. It was found out that all of the hotels, except one, interviewed in the study had a safe tourism certificate, and the hotel without the relevant certificate did not have the certificate because they did not receive any supervision though they had applied before. It was emphasized that the certificate was essential in order for the guests to be able to rely on the hotel and for the hotel to be able to make its advertisement more effectively. Due to travel restrictions, the hotels operating in connection with the European and Far East markets (such as the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, China) turned their faces to the domestic market and the markets such as Bulgaria and Ukraine, where the flights were not banned. After COVID-19, hotels verged intensely towards digital marketing, and thus, they began to use their social media accounts actively. Social media, which is one of the easiest and fastest means of transportation to reach huge masses, became prominent during the COVID-19 process compared to the other promotion tools. It was also stated that the prices of the hotels which began operating after COVID-19 decreased between 10%to 50%. When the questions of “Are there any efforts you have made regarding digitalization after COVID-19?” and “If so, what are their effects on the promotion and marketing of your hotel?” were asked to the managers in the study, all the managers responded that the applications which required less contact come to the forefront in their hotels and that their importance was understood better after COVID-19. It was expressed that the applications such as accessing the menu with QR code readers, checking-in and checking-out with smartphone applications, and using the room service with the help of applications began to be preferred. The managers also stated that hygiene and safe accommodation were at the top of the expectations of the guests from the hotel after COVID-19. Furthermore, such holiday alternatives as preferring boutique hotels, renting villas, renting boats also became prominent after COVID-19. To the question of “What have you done for these competitive markets?”, the managers responded that they had created new sales and marketing strategies such as 1+1, 2+1, 3+1 suite flats to be rented daily and weekly which included a kitchen and all kinds of kitchenware as well, and farmhouses which were aimed at rural tourism.
5. CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
Tourism is one of the sectors that has mostly been affected by COVID-19 pandemic. With “Safe Tourism Certification Program” led by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, hotels have made reorganizations. The fact that contactless transactions will increase and innovations regarding digitalization will be made in the hospitality sector after COVID-19 are of the important conclusions drawn from the interviews made with the managers within the scope of the study. The decrease in hotel accommodation prices in both the domestic and foreign market after COVID-19 caused a severe economic loss. This conclusion is in parallel with the result obtained in the studies by Acar (2020), Bahar and İlal (2020), Gössling, Scott and Hall (2020), Karim, Haque, Anis and Ulfy (2020) emphasizing that the tourism and hotel industry sector have suffered a massive loss in income.
The fact that the majority of the managers of the hotels, which opened their doors to guests after COVID-19, expressed they did not have very high expectations for 2020 but aimed to reach the end of the year with a low profit or without any financial loss is another conclusion drawn within the scope of the study. The conclusions that the governments are required to do the necessary planning for the recovery in tourism after COVID-19 pandemic, that the stakeholders of the industry are recommended to act collaboratively and come up with new projects, and that more effective and remarkable efforts are required to be made for advertisement and promotion are in parallel with the conclusions drawn in the studies by Atay (2020), Demir et al. (2020) and Gössling et al. (2020).
The recommendations to be made for hotel enterprises regarding the process after COVID-19 can be summarized as follows:
-The criteria of hygiene and necessary measures, which are the main expectations of the guests, should be maintained, and great attention should be paid to this issue.
- Hotel enterprises should turn their faces towards the smart applications that require less contact. The importance of digitalization should be acknowledged better and budget should be allocated for this.
- It should be ensured that social media is used more actively.
- It should be ensured that the stakeholders of the sector come together in the promotion of the country and perform more effective promotional attacks. More effort should be made in order to create a more positive image in terms of health and safety in Turkey.
The fact that the current study, which aimed to investigate the marketing strategies of the hotels in COVID-19 pandemic process, was conducted in Kuşadası destination and only involved the 5-star hotels are among the limitations of the study. A similar study can be conducted at different destinations. The satisfaction levels of the guests staying in hotels after COVID-19 can be measured by using quantitative and qualitative research methods. Interviews can be done with the other stakeholders in the sector, and information can be obtained regarding the marketing activities.
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