As millions of people self-isolate during the COVID-19 crisis, they are searching for ways to connect with experiences and events from the safety of their own homes. Hospitality brands, which are known for providing travelers with authentic experiences while on-property, are now moving some of those experiences online to connect people during this time of isolation. Stephanie Versin, senior vice president of marketing for Sightline Hospitality says, “For brands, it’s all about keeping an emotional connection alive with the customer.”
Sightline Hospitality has introduced a series of virtual classes and experiences that connect guests to the brand. Some of its online offerings include live-streamed cooking demonstrations and mixology classes. The Halyard, a Sightline Hospitality restaurant at Sound View Greenport in New York, has a live-streamed series on Instagram Live with classes ranging from French cuisine cooking to mixology through which the food and beverage team shares insider tips.
During this time, hospitality brands might consider offering unconventional content, like exercises or wellness classes, to attract consumers who might not have considered participating in hospitality-branded live streams. Versin says that using “the power of social media and partnerships” can bring some variety to the offerings. “For example, in addition to the live-streamed mixology classes being offered by Sound View of Sightline Hospitality, the restaurant is also offering meditation and yoga classes, as well as live piano karaoke, where viewers can tune in and submit their song requests via Instagram,” she explains.
“We want to maintain a connection with consumers even through difficult and uncertain times; we want to be a source of distraction, daydreaming, inspiration, and hope.”
These virtual offerings not only provide mental distractions during isolation—they also forge connections. “Brands that stay engaged will be the first to benefit during the rebound. People will remember those who were still there with them during the tough times,” Versin says. “At its core, hospitality means creating lasting memories, delivering great service, and making people happy. We want to maintain a connection with consumers even through difficult and uncertain times; we want to be a source of distraction, daydreaming, inspiration, and hope.”
Launching virtual offerings during a crisis can be difficult for hotel companies that haven’t done this before. Choosing the right streaming provider, finding the correct content to stream, and acquiring viewers can be confusing when just beginning to roll-out virtual classes, experiences, and events. Versin offers some advice for companies considering launching these services: “Now is the time to be solutions-oriented and do things differently based on what you already do for your consumers normally or have knowledge about. Select only a few activities that you want to ‘master’ and offer them regularly. Tap into the skillsets and interests of your personnel. Maintain a schedule of upcoming events on your social media channels and website to keep consumers engaged and looking forward to the next event.”