When Boris Johnson ordered Britain into coronavirus lockdown on March 23, Aria Resorts was already ahead of the game. “I think we were quite well prepared,” says Group Marketing Director Simon Pitman.
He and his team had been following the news, felt a shutdown was coming and prepared for the worst.
“As we started to head towards the possibility of lockdown, we were able to get some strong communications out to our guests,” Simon says.
Lockdown initially went for three weeks and was then extended for another three.
“For the first month to six weeks were in a cycle of cancelling holidays, trying to put the guest’s minds at rest, saying ‘don’t worry we’ll handle it’ and that sort of process just continued to roll,” he adds.
“I think RMS was really useful during that period because we could simply pull out all of our guest data and send emails to affected guests.
“We were able to pull that data quite quickly and quite simply from RMS.”
Not that it was an easy time. Aria Resorts effectively shut down after Johnson’s announcement and went to a skeleton crew.
“As with most companies we pretty much furloughed most of our staff,” Simon explains.
“All our resorts went down to a small on-resort support team of two or three staff to effectively ensure the resort was kept safe,” he explains.
“At head office where I sit with my marketing team literally everybody but three of us went onto furlough.
“So what that meant was we needed all the tools we could get because whilst the resorts themselves weren’t busy, the call centres, marketing and guest communications were still just as busy because people were calling to change or their bookings.”
Aria offered guests refunds right from the start but also pushed for credit notes or date changes, a strategy that has proved successful.
RMS Cloud technology was crucial to managing the deluge of calls and emails from stressed out clients.
Simon saying the company’s cloud-based software enabled staff to work remotely with barely a hitch.
“We put automation in place quite quickly around people rebooking their holidays or taking a credit voucher.
“They could simply say ‘yes please, move my holiday to the same time next year’.
“That would trigger an email for the call centre team who were able to make the booking and send out the reconfirmation without the guest sitting on the end of the phone for two hours trying to get through and obviously getting more and more stressed.”
This meant Aria was able to manage the chaos in a relatively controlled fashion.
“That gave us a better workflow that we could handle whenever we wanted, as it were. The guest knew they’d made their request, we’ve got the request, we able to manage that in a clean, more timely manner.”
It has ensured is Aria in a good position for the rest of 2020.
“We’ve done remarkably well,” he says.
“As we come out of it, we’ve kept three-quarters of our bookings. They’ve either booked for the same time next year or taken a credit voucher.”
Bookings bounced strongly after July 4 – “Super Saturday” – was announced as the date Britons could start travelling domestically again.
And they have continued to rise through June. “Tuesday June 30 was the largest day in company history for bookings and that week was our biggest ever with revenue of seven figures.”
He says over the months ahead Aria is “filling well – I think autumn will be good. For September and October, we are up year on year, while bookings are also pleasing for February, March and April.”
Uncertainty still reigns, though, and Simon says Aria fully expects further local lockdowns to control the spread of COVID.
Once again, Aria is prepared for whatever lies ahead, learning from first-hand experience how important proactive guest communication is in times of crisis.