Guest Post: Navigating socials during volatile times for travel

Guest Post: Navigating socials during volatile times for travel

It's a balancing act for hospitality brands, advises Fred Bean, CEO of HotelPORT

In the face of ongoing conflicts and challenging situations, the hospitality industry finds itself navigating a delicate balance on social media. While social media platforms offer a powerful tool for connection and engagement, they also present a unique set of challenges during volatile periods. Brands must tread carefully, striving to demonstrate empathy, social responsibility, and a continued commitment to their guests and staff while also avoiding potential misinterpretations or backlash.

Hotels and hospitality brands face a complex decision when it comes to their social media presence during volatile times. On one hand, leveraging social media to showcase support for guests, staff, or broader humanitarian efforts can foster a sense of community and shared resilience. This approach aligns with the brand's values and demonstrates its commitment to social responsibility. However, treading this tightrope requires careful consideration. Expressing support without appearing tone-deaf or insensitive can be a delicate art. Missteps can alienate potential guests and damage the brand's reputation. Moreover, in highly sensitive and polarized environments, every message is scrutinized heavily, making it crucial to avoid even the slightest hint of bias or political stance.

The Sandals Foundation use Twitter to promote their sustainability initiatives including marine conservation efforts which demonstrates their commitment to environmental responsibility. This best practice highlights sustainability efforts and engages with environmentally conscious guests.

Conversely, some global brands opt for a more reserved approach, pausing their social media activities during volatile periods. This strategic move aims to avoid any potential misinterpretation or backlash in an environment where every message is under intense scrutiny. By temporarily stepping away from social media, brands can minimize the risk of offending or alienating stakeholders, particularly in regions with diverse political landscapes.

While pausing social media activities may seem like a safer choice, it carries its own set of implications. It risks making the brand appear distant or disengaged during crucial times, potentially damaging customer loyalty and brand reputation. Moreover, in the absence of regular communication, guests may perceive the brand as unresponsive or indifferent to the situation at hand. On the other hand, remaining active on social media, if done thoughtfully and authentically, can maintain engagement and foster a sense of community. It allows the brand to express support for those affected by the conflict, showcase its commitment to its staff, and highlight its involvement in humanitarian efforts. This approach can strengthen the brand's connection with its stakeholders and enhance its reputation for social responsibility. Regardless of the approach chosen, it is of paramount importance for hospitality brands to align their social media strategy with their core values and brand persona. Messages should be crafted with empathy, authenticity, and a genuine sense of care and concern. This includes avoiding inflammatory language or taking sides in political discussions.

Hotels have a history of leveraging social media effectively during crisis periods to communicate, reassure, and support their guests. During Hurricane Harvey The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida, used Twitter and Facebook to provide timely updates on evacuation procedures, room availability, and safety measures. This proved invaluable with real-time updates, evacuation plans, and contact information for guests to ensure their safety. After an incident at Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, the hotel used social media to convey condolences, share information, and coordinate with law enforcement. The hotel’s display of empathy during this time was recognised, while they cooperated with authorities and maintained transparency to address security incidents.

Navigating social media during volatile times requires a delicate balance of empathy, social responsibility, and brand reputation. While expressing support can foster community and demonstrate social consciousness, brands must tread carefully to avoid appearing tone-deaf, insensitive, or politically biased. Pausing social media activities can minimize the risk of misinterpretation, but it risks making the brand appear distant or disengaged. Ultimately, the decision should align with core values, and the messaging should be crafted thoughtfully to echo authenticity, empathy, and genuine concern for those directly affected. By incorporating best practices, hotels can effectively use social media during crisis periods to maintain guest trust, provide valuable information, and demonstrate their commitment to safety and service.