Written by: Hadleigh Ford
The unprecedented COVID-19 crisis has had a major impact on the travel and tourism industry, shutting down thousands of hotels, tourist destinations and flights around the world. Since travel and tourism are cash-heavy industries dependent on small margins, many companies will face great hardship, from laying off long-term staff to foregoing upgrades or repairs. Although many unknowns remain, here are seven things you should take into account if you are operating in the travel and tourism industry during the global pandemic.
1. Have Sympathy for Your Customers
While sympathy is key when dealing with customers, it is now more important than ever to be understanding and to listen and connect with your customers. With unemployment rising, your customers may be calling to halt additional automatic payments due to losing their jobs, or unable to travel because a family member has fallen ill with COVID-19.
During this challenging time, all customer-facing staff should be proactive and ensure their customers feel supported in all interactions. Showing empathy in the short-term like providing flexibility, allowing for postponement, or even providing refunds where possible, can lead to a positive connection with lasting benefits. A memorable interaction for a customer can have significant benefits to your organization in the long-term like increased brand loyalty and positive online reviews.
2. Reduce Your Rates For Better Cash Flow
If your country is opening up after an extended period of lock-down, you may consider reducing your rates. Temporarily reducing your rates is a great way to improve a tough cash flow situation as domestic tourism begins opening up again. We recommend providing special deals, discounts, and perks to entice returning and attract new customers.
To further improve your cash flow situation, you might also consider closing sections of your hotel and cutting costs by running a smaller operation.
3. Screen Visitors Entering the Premises
If your business has visitors entering the facilities, you will need to screen everyone coming through. The simplest way to keep track of incoming and outgoing visitors is with a visitor management system (VMS).
A VMS can double as a visitor screening and contact tracing tool in the workplace. A VMS can be used to ask appropriate questions to record visitor names, dates, and times of entry and departure, and to determine whether the guest is a safety risk to your business. You can also include a coronavirus policy for your visitors to read and sign before they can enter.
4. Keep in Touch with Your Customers
According to FEMA, 40 percent of businesses do not reopen following a natural disaster, while over 90 percent of companies fail within two years. That is why it is pivotal to keep in touch with your consumers.
If you are one of the luckier businesses that are still open, let your customers know. If you have had to temporarily shut down, reach out to tell your customers when you expect to be up and running again. Send emails, post on social media, and make sure your customers are updated during this difficult circumstance. Communication is vital for retaining loyal customers.
5. Plan Recovery Scenarios
While many organizations do not have a strategy for the current COVID-19 global pandemic, it is important you begin planning recovery scenarios to establish resilience and stability for your organization.
First, define what recovery looks like for your organization. Going back to normal may not be a viable option. You will need to evaluate your current strategy and be open to forming new strategies instead. Although there is a lot of uncertainty, we recommend you create a recovery plan now, so you will be prepared when the pandemic is over.
6. Maintain Your Public Image
According to risk management expert Nicholas Bahr, it is vital to maintain your public image and invest in external communications: “During a crisis, your biggest commodity is trust,” he says.
Remember to connect with your audience, keep things positive, and regularly post high-quality content. Consistency is key.
A major factor affecting your public image is the way your organization is handling cancellations during the pandemic. We understand you do not want to lose current business, especially since the business will slow down in the next few weeks and months, but you must think long-term.
According to Microsoft, 96 percent of consumers say customer service is a critical factor in their loyalty to a brand. That is why you should prioritize being empathetic and generous. This will help you earn long-term loyal customers, which can help your organization get back on its feet once the global pandemic is over.
7. Adjust Profit Forecasts and Rates to Reflect the Situation
Do not panic and make hasty decisions. One of the first things you should do is accept the current situation and re-forecast your finances and operations for the upcoming weeks and months. Take the time to assess the situation with critical parts of your business in mind like pricing, staffing, and cash flow.
There is no denying that the travel and tourism industries are among the hardest-hit sectors during the coronavirus global pandemic. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, a trade group that represents major global trade companies, there will be a global loss of 75 million jobs and $1.2 trillion in revenue.
In fact, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, stated: “The impact on travel is six or seven times greater than the 9/11 attacks.”
While the circumstances sound grim, there are things you can do to help your organization remain afloat. You can boost customer support and loyalty by sympathizing for your customers, plan recovery scenarios for the better times ahead, maintain your public image, adjust your profit forecasts, and protect existing staff members and guests by implementing a visitor management and contact tracing tool. These activities can help your organization get through the global coronavirus pandemic, retain loyal customers, and encourage a prosperous business future.