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This presentation was originally shown at ITB Asia and will be featured at Travel Revive.

The travel industry came to a screeching halt in the early months of 2020, as the COVID-19 outbreak stretched across the globe. Now, nearly nine months into a pandemic that is far from over, tour operators and other travel professionals are trying to figure out a way forward in this new normal. 

In order to rebuild, the experiences industry needs to remain flexible, particularly as many destinations are still being significantly impacted by the COVID-19 virus. While the pandemic is sure to have a long-term impact on the industry, it’s important to remember that recovery strategies can help tour operators be in the best position possible as everyone emerges from this unprecedented challenge. 

The best thing for anyone in the travel industry to do is to remain positive and begin putting plans into place that will help their business recover. When creating recovery strategies for your tour and activity business, you need to prioritize:

The Customer Experience

As an ‘experience’ expert, you know that everything starts and ends with the customer however you need to approach the customer experience slightly differently now. Here is what you need to do as you create a recovery strategy for your business:

  • Reassure your customers that you are going above and beyond to ensure their health and safety without compromising their enjoyment of the experience. One of the best ways you can do this is to update your website and social profiles to showcase the precautions you are taking, for example, operating at a reduced capacity and maintaining social distance. This’ll demonstrate your operations ability to keep your customers safe while still maintaining a form of normalcy during travel. Also, emphasize that some of the changes are very positive, such as customers enjoying a more intimate and private tour because of capacity limits. 
  • Provide a seamless, simple booking experience. More people than ever before are interested in virtual, contactless transactions. By offering online booking with live availability and secure payment options, you will give your customers the confidence they need to book with you. 
  • Offer flexible booking terms that eliminate the risks of booking one of your tours and activities in advance. Allowing your customers to cancel or postpone to another date for free is proving to be a particularly powerful policy during this time. When possible, suggest to postpone rather than cancel, as this’ll help keep your cash flow healthy.

Your Marketing Strategies and Available Products

Your recovery strategy is going to need a revamped marketing strategy that incorporates different types of products into your business and potentially a focus on local customers rather than international ones. You will need to:

  • Pivot your marketing. In all likelihood, your target market segment has changed significantly since the onset of the pandemic. At one time, your tour company may have been dependent on a steady influx of international travelers. Today, you may be relying almost exclusively on local residents and domestic travelers. It’s important that you pivot your marketing strategy to attract to your current target audience, while simultaneously staying connected to your previous customers who are still dreaming about traveling in the future.
  • Make sure that your products fit in the post-COVID-19 environment. The products that you offer have to be appealing to your current target market segment. As you adjust your products, you may uncover some very successful new options that you may keep for the long-term.
  • Consider your margins. This is particularly important if you are now using new channels as part of your revised distribution strategy. The high-margin products of 2019 may no longer be your most valuable products. Monitor your margins and do what you need to do to keep your business operating as lean as possible during this time.

Your General Business Planning

As you create these strategies for your business, you need to be thinking about tomorrow as well as ten years from now. When you focus on general business planning, you should:

  • Re-evaluate everything. Take these slower moments to consider every aspect of your business, and adapt as necessary to fit into this current climate – nothing is above change!
  • Adopt new technology. There has never been a better time to invest in an online booking solution that will streamline your administrative tasks and allow you to boost your bookings through your website or through resellers.
  • Be patient and adapt when necessary. There will be short-term and long-term changes, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As you adapt, you can try new things and figure out what works best for your tour and activity business.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Every travel provider across the globe is facing similar challenges so reach out & join communities that are going through the same as you. We will recover, and the industry will be stronger as a result. 

 

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