Unfortunately, the tourism industry is the one that has been most negatively affected by the pandemic, and I am one of the people who work for this industry.
I have been at home for 3 months now and have always wondered how the tourism industry will recover, and how tourism companies can grow again. So that I and my colleagues can, honestly, continue to make a living and live with our passion.
As a tour guide, I have to admit that I have a very little responsibility or impact to help a travel company to recover post coronavirus pandemic. But after some research and attended different tourism-related virtual events, I would like to share what I call, a tourism recovery plan post COVID 19 and so let’s discuss what’s possible.
Over the past few months, I’ve been constantly improving my knowledge by participating in online travel seminars like Get Your Guide (virtual) partner forum, Arabian Travel Market (a.k.a ATM), Arival Virtual Summit, etc.
Because I want to find out what the future of tourism will be like, and how I and other colleagues can adapt to a new future. I learn many useful things and believe in optimism at this time when the world is gradually reopening.
Looking for a positive second half of 2020
First of all, compared with the UNWTO data in April which said that 96% of all tourist destinations in the world are closed, now this number has undoubtedly decreased significantly.
Because many countries around the world have reopened international routes and welcome visitors, such as countries in Europe, UAE, Egypt, Bali, Thailand, …
Whether or not your place of residence is open, as a travel agency, do you have a plan to adapt to the new tourist trends for the second half of 2020?
Governments everywhere have implemented a variety of safety measures to avoid spread, how can you provide future travelers with peace of mind and smooth experience?
Tourists might start planning the next vacation and wonder which places are open, what activities are coronavirus-safe, what travel restrictions are being applied.
I don’t think we should keep sitting and waiting for this situation to be totally over then keep doing what we were doing.
Let’s figure out how should we adapt to the “new normal”!
Refine your goal
I fully understand that your number one goal is to get as much cash flow as possible. But if customers cannot be satisfied with the new situation now, it is very unlikely.
So how much do you understand the new customer persona, especially after the epidemic?
Have you understood the concerns and worries that they have, and what do they need before and during their travel experience?
I think now you need to outline new travel personas, understand their (new) pain points. But how?
Your customers can be on different social media sites, they are asking each other about travel topics. They may be going to groups of destinations where they are planning to travel to search for answers to their concerns. Places like Facebook, Reddit, Travel forums...start getting heat with questions about visa, flight, travel restrictions. Hey! You can go there and be so helpful that they might end up being your customer.
Using data from reliable industry sources can give you a good indicator of where the industry is moving to, what are the travel trends of 2020, what type of visitors that likely to be the first to travel.
Researches from IATA, UWTO help us to understand the big picture. A few months back, I learned some really good statistics and thanks to Arival (through Arabian Travel Market and Arival virtual summit) and Get Your Guide partner forum.
This is an excellent piece of information about how the pandemic will change travel from the Washington post I highly recommend you to read.
After that, your goal could be to increase awareness about the safety of a tourist destination, or how your company can make customers feel secure, spend extra effort on educating tourists what is the “new normal” in your country/city/attractions. It’s an information game that will make you feel like your travel company now working as a media company.
In case you want to know more about how your tourism company can take advantage of any digital platforms, I would like to suggest you read this ebook “How to turn your online lookers into bookers” by Chris, the founder of Tourism Marketing Agency.
Tourism is an ever-changing industry in nature for many reasons, and this time because of a pandemic. But a new goal will keep you motivated and you know what you are going to do.
Recreate a new plan for 2020
Once you have a clear idea of your goals, it’s time to draft a good plan before taking any action.
Recreate a new product, service to match guest’s demands
Now, even though travelers really want to continue exploring, they always have those concerns in mind about the destination, activities. So you need to reassess your products or services, so what changes should meet their needs, their budget and expectation.
From 2020 until 2022, most probably the types of tourists will be domestic and in nearby regions, within 3,4 hours flight as people are not so ready to travel far away. And many studies suggested that big group of tourists will less likely to travel, instead, we should focus on smaller groups, solo, young family types.
Nature, outdoor, adventurous activities will likely more attractive than indoor attractions as it’s less crowded. It is important to create products and services that fit the current situation, but it is even more important for tourists to know about it.
Educate visitor with latest travel news
You just want to tell future visitors that it’s ok to travel, but on the other hand, they might know it’s safe to travel but all the information is confusing.
Now, you can make sure that you always deliver the latest travel update about the destination or your company policies.
Information such as what travel restrictions are being applied, do they need a negative certificate before traveling, is airport open, do they need or how many days do they need to quarantine when arrive can be really useful and save them tons of research time.
Of course, there should be enough information about what is “new normal” in the destination, is mask and gloves are required to be worn at all time? And it’s not okay NOT to wear a mask when roaming around the city.
What do they need to know before visit any attractions? Signages? Hand sanitizer? Is e-ticket a must? Contactless? Cashless? Corona-free? How long can they spend at a location or how long should they book in advance…so much more.
Consistent messages throughout different platforms
To bridge the gap between the expectation, or confusion of tourists and the information you have, it’s better the information should be provided consistently and continuously across different platforms such as on your website, social channels, Google maps, TripAdvisor,…
Know customers’ digital touchpoints, pay attention and promote to little things like how hygiene is the tour guide, transport, how convenient it is to find sanitizer…will build a good impression in post COVID era. The guests need a good reason why they should book with you and not anyone else.
This is the time that every information, travel regulations are changing fast, even within in 24 hours, so much overwhelming and confusing news can cause frustration. Make sure you highlight enough in your website, or other important channels so guests will be aware.
Trendy and creative news is the key, visualized information is easier to be digested.
Flexible booking and cancellation policy
Flexible booking experience here means you can encourage early explorers with some offer, discount, and even there should be a flexible cancellation policy to boost their confidence.
Many airlines now make sure their passengers need to be negative with COVID-19 before boarding, their travel plan can be disrupted anytime if they found positive. And this could happen in the next 2 or more years as the virus still stay here with us for god knows how long.
In this time of uncertainty, the only certain thing you can give to customers is the flexibility.
Continue with online virtual tours
Encouraging people to…stay home? As you can see everything I said above is all about putting people first. Despite many countries are reopening, but there are many people who are traumatized with the virus, and they are not so ready to travel internationally.
From February, when the World started the lockdown one after one, many tour operators, tour guides started doing virtual tour experiences. It’s July, I believe it’s not too late to start a virtual tour if you haven’t.
You can start with pre-recording video or interactive ones to let everyone can virtually discover their desired destination. At the same time, you can provide useful information about how your company will make sure they will have a seamless experience when they come.
You can choose either to monetize your content on your own or through some platforms or distribute it for free.
Time to take action
There is a lot of things to discuss within the planning stage which can get you super overwhelmed. And it’s exhausting to keep looking at depressing stat about the number of COVID cases worldwide.
We are already in the second half of 2020 and let’s get the momentum started. If you are still not so sure how, let’s start you have all the accurate updates to distribute. Polish the website to make sure all important information is reachable to everyone.
Take advantage of digital technology to give future visitors an amazing user experience (UX).
There are some technologies for you to automatically do customer service for you, such as chatbot (Facebook Messenger).
Got a huge email list? Many followers on Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, or Twitter? Good to share some updates mixed with some inspiring photos, videos about attractions. You can always make an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on social platforms (Reddit, Facebook, Quora…) to help people who started planning to answer their questions.
But…don’t be salesy! It’s not the right time to push everyone to buy your product in a salesy way.
When you don’t try to sell and just try to be helpful, they will think about you first whenever they are ready to go.
With a goal in mind, and a good action plan and without doing anything your plan will be dead.
Observe from others, watch your competitors, or tourism board see how are they doing they can provide other useful strategies.
Hope you will have some quick win with domestic and regional visitors.
Finally, a good case study on how China overcome this global challenge, and there is lots of good information that we can learn from it that I partly mentioned above. You can find in this McKinsey’s survey.
Did you have a tourism recovery plan post COVID 19? if you would like to discuss more about this plan, feel free to leave a comment below.