How UK holiday resort group, Aria Resorts, utilised RMS to deliver key COVID communications to guests during lockdown.

When Boris Johnson ordered Britain into a Coronavirus lockdown on 23rd March 2020, 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.

“Using RMS, we were able to keep that guest communication running very strongly over the period. It was a very effective tool.”

Simon Pitman

Marketing Director, Aria Resorts

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 quickly and simply pull out our guest data and send emails to affected guests."

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.

“At head office where I sit with my marketing team, literally everybody but three of us were furloughed. That meant we needed all the tools we could get because while 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 cancel 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 with the help of RMS.

RMS Cloud technology was crucial to managing the deluge of calls and emails from stressed-out clients, with the cloud-based software enabling 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.”

This meant Aria was able to manage the chaos in a relatively controlled fashion.

 “It gave us a better workflow that we could handle whenever we wanted, as it were. The guest made their request, we received it and were able to manage that in a more timely manner.”

It has ensured is Aria in a good position for the remainder of 2020. 

“We’ve done remarkably well,” he says. “As we come out of it, we’ve kept three-quarters of our bookings. Guests have either booked for the same time next year or have 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 30th June was the largest day in company history for bookings and that week was our biggest ever with a 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 2021.”

Uncertainty still reigns though, and Simon says Aria fully expects further local lockdowns to control the spread of COVID. Whatever happens, Aria is well-prepared, learning from first-hand experience how important proactive guest communication is in times of crisis.