I attended (along with 800 others) a webinar this week. The topic, How to be open when you’re closed focused on how tourism businesses could use this close-down period profitably. Here are some key points plus a few observations of mine.
There is no doubt, tourism as we know it is and will undergo huge changes. What the new landscape will be like is a key question in all our minds. Anyway, here are some points that may be of help to you at present.
Background.
1. China travel is rebounding.
# Outbound travel will be slow as most destinations closed.
# Revenge travelling (cancelled trips) will motivate many people to look at travelling. (Over half those interviewed in China would rebook their cancelled trip but will destinations allow them to?)
# China -Hotels occupancy is up to 30% with the uplift taking place in the last 2 weeks.
# NZ is in the top 10 destinations of those Chinese interviewed.
2. International travel will rebound but when?
# Developing a Vaccine is critical for this to happen along with Lockdown lifting and opening of other country boarders.
# However re-infestation could be a major issue (China at present???)
3. We all realise that internal travel (probably regional and then national) will be the first travel pattern to emerge.
So
1. The key is the need to be “first off the mark” in the rebound. This was the focus of the webinar.
2. This means Planning for the rebound.
# A survey done during this webinar highlighted the following…
^ 34% of webinar participants have experienced a slow increase in renewed bookings. (This has improved in the last 2 weeks, probably due to the slower rate of spreading.)
^ 32% have a Relaunch Plan in place.
3. A possible plan could follow these steps
^ March-May…..social media redevelopment / website etc.
^ June-July…launching and testing
^ After ? …optimising
4. So the key message is to get planning and working now so as to put you ahead of others when we emerge. All businesses will be fighting for a small market…..very competitive……Probably everyone will be opening at the same time

What can you do and what should you consider?
1. Update your data base.
2. Forecasting important although difficult. Do Best and Worst case scenarios.
3. Prepare advertising copy. We are now open, these are the changes, deals etc.
4. Analyse your marketing channels. Look at what was working for you and remember to focus on the long term.
# Where will your customers be…on which channels or social media platforms will they be on?
# Protect Google and Trip Advisor rankings
5. SEO
6. Re-evaluate the value of all your Online booking sites ….OTAs will be very important …….use them smartly.
7. Check your Google My Business listing…can you update and improve it?
8. Website….
a. Put a Stay safe / feel good message on your website…..”we are closed but we will be here for you when the restrictions lift”….”Our home is your home.” “We are waiting for your return.”
b. Is it Mobile suitable? Do you have good page speed when loading?
c. Does it hook into those who are dreaming of a trip? Does it inspire them? It is not necessary to get them to book. The focus is to just get the information about your operation to them, to motivate them. Create content for planning not buying.
# Try not to push water uphill…..if people are not travelling then just get them interested….do not focus on bookings. focus on the “dreamers.”
# When do you change from awareness to calls to book????? A difficult question to answer.
d. Compare your website to other ones that offer similar business….what are they doing better?…benchmarking.
e. Sustainable travel will probably be a new focus. Highlight what you do on your website as this may connect with the “new” tourist.
f. Highlight your Community Social Responsibility (CSR)……This may well influence customer decisions. Show you are helping the local community….social responsibility pays dividends
g. Highlight safety and hygiene on your site.
h. Are you open? Make sure this is obvious.
i. Change FAQs to reflect the new order….
j. Ensure some photos are showing “social distancing” (This could last for 12 months) also don’t high light buffet style food options
k. The importance of images on websites is well known…check yours.
l. Add Live Chat to the website
9. Changing and evolving customer/travel behaviour is a certainty. Keep up to date with this.
# Evolve your USPs (Unique Selling Points) to meet these changes
# People may base themselves in one area a little longer…what can they do / develop packages etc.?
# Look at travel distance for markets…..car/motorhome travel may be seen as being safer than flying with a crowd.
# Modify your operation to suit “locals” or regional customers.
10. Check your Insurance, Cancellation policies etc. Perhaps change cancellation policies to 100% refundable.
11. Analyse Feedback…What areas were identified as needing some attention on say Trip Advisor? Work on these.
12. Keep in touch with industry partners / staff /….Communication is so important. It is important to give industry partners a call….how are they feeling? Keep in touch!!!!
13. Digital creativity is key at the moment…everyone is on the internet at present.
14. Sales…. Perhaps use Vouchers…..Customers buy now and they are valid for 3 years. = income source now.
15. Set up an Email programme/newsletters…costs nothing but time. Agents, past customers etc.
16. Maintain Brand Presence…..people want to travel….keep your business in their mind.
# If your business is an attraction, set up programmes for those on line….eg feeding the fish or birds, local webcam…great for kids and parents. Digital Wine tastings…not for the kids!!!
17. Do not use Covit 19 as an excuse.