This is part 2 of our Readying Your Travel Business For Restart series. In part 1 we outlined what various industry experts, tourism officials, and government heads expect for the industry in the coming months as and when restrictions begin to ease. The insights indicate that:
- Travel will start close to home
- Hygiene will be a priority
- Tour groups will start small
- More flexible booking policies will be available
- Zero-touch travel will be favored
In this edition, we share some actionable tips to help you plan responsibly for the physical restart of your business. The way of doing things is likely to look very different from what it used to, so preparation is going to be key to successfully getting off the ground.
Readying Your Travel Business For Reopening
As you look forward to reopening your travel or tour operator business, there are several points to consider to ensure kick-off is both smooth and safe.
For a quick overview, refer to this checklist which we expand on in the text below:
Checklist Before Reopening
- Re-evaluate business strategies for the future
- Brief the team on how the business will operate going forward
- Consider whether your travel product is marketable to the health-conscious client
- Check if government regulations allow you to operate
- Regularly look back for updated, day to day advice
- Prepare COVID-19 safety documentation to circulate to your team and clients
- Display the documentation guidelines on your website, social profiles, and email
- Provide team training for renewed interactions with guests
- Establish relationships with local providers to establish a supplier network
- Check their own approaches to health and safety to ensure it meets your standards
- Stock up on cleaning materials, sanitizers, masks, gloves, etc. if needed
- Mark reopening as an occasion and drum up interest
- Setup sanitization stations, mark seating, demarcate queueing distances for safety
- Consider going contactless where possible
1. Have a strategic plan in place
If you haven’t done so already, consider strategic planning for your business as a road map to prepare it for revival and growth going forward.
During your evaluation, discuss with your team the market space you will be greeted by when you open doors and how you can adjust your offering to be relevant in it. You might have to reduce your usual trip capacity, offer locals’ pricing, or focus your product to be closer to home.
You should also set new goals for your business, as well as address strategies related to marketing, technology, and how operations will be carried out by the team.
2. Check local government advice and updates regularly
In many countries, governments are limiting or placing constraints on certain activities and group sizes, only opening specific attractions, and allowing travel under specific conditions. Therefore, before you get started, check in to see what it is you can and can’t offer at the moment.
Depending on the allowances, this can affect how many members of your team you bring back to the office, as well as the number of travelers you host in a group and the number of guides to accompany them.
It can also limit where you select accommodation for any overnight trips, as well as who you can market to in terms of geographical location.
Expect the rules to change day to day, or week to week as most governments are responding to COVID-19 on a risk-based assessment. Keeping up to date on what is happening in your area and responding to it accordingly is, therefore, the responsible thing to do. It will demonstrate that your brand is committed to ensuring the safety of both your team and your customers.
3. Prepare COVID-19 safety documentation
As we know, hygiene and safety are going to be a big concern coming out of the pandemic. If you plan on bringing the team back to the office or accommodating clients as soon as it’s possible to do so, you need to acknowledge these new perceptions and concerns publicly and in writing.
Your website, social media profiles, physical office space, and traveler meeting points should display the precautions you are taking to prevent the spread of the virus. Both your team and your clients are going to want the reassurance of this when they interact with your business.
For your team, ensure that there are cleaning and safety protocols in place. Supply them with a set of operational guidelines to ensure they know how to safely interact in the office, and of the hygiene measures that have to be followed when interacting with guests.
For customers, start by displaying the new safety procedures online. This way, they know from the time they begin researching a trip that you are being proactive. They can rest assured that when they interact with your team, guides, offices, and physical locations that you are doing all you can to ensure their safety. Make this information prominent with a home page banner linking to a landing page.
Also include the link in any email correspondence you send out, as well as share posts on your social media profiles to highlight this information.
In all cases, the information should be presented in an easy to digest format for everyone to understand.
4. Train the team on renewed guest interactions
Your team may need training on how to interact safely in the office, with each other, and with clients as we emerge from the pandemic. To ensure that everyone knows what is expected of them, you should hold a demonstration of everything outlined in the COVID-19 documentation guidelines before opening to the public.
Team members who interact directly with clients also need to know how to communicate the health and safety script to them for extra reassurance.
5. Partner with other local providers
Because the travel focus is expected to be local as restrictions ease, look to secure partnerships with nearby providers if you don’t have these in place yet.
From local accommodation providers, bus or shuttle services, travel agents, rental suppliers, local guides, eateries: it could be a while before international travel picks up again. Therefore, for the time being, these are the industry connections who provide auxiliary or complementary services to your business.
A benefit of building a local network and strong relationships with other businesses in your area is that it will help to boost your local economy during the recovery phase.
As you look to add these partners to your network, speak to them about the safety procedures they have in place too. Your clients might feel let down if they feel the health precautions aren’t consistent throughout.
6. Stock up on cleaning, sanitizing, and safety materials
The demand for PPE including sanitizers, disinfectants, cleaning chemicals, face masks, visors, and gloves has increased greatly since the virus emerged. In some places, the unexpected demand led to shortages.
While may suppliers have managed to increase production to meet demand, you need to ensure that you have ample stock on-hand of required supplies at all times. Any lapse at this stage might mean that you can’t host clients and result in them losing faith in your ability to carry out the tour/trip safely.
7. Make an occasion of reopening
Once regulations allow for reopening and it’s possible to line up a trip or tour, make an occasion of it. Let your audience, followers, clients, and potential clients know through marketing about the expected reopening date and that you are ready to host them safely.
To mark the occasion, you could offer exclusive or limited discounts, as well as mention that any unexpected cancellations can be carried forward to a later date.
Also, show them the physical protection measures you have put in place for added reassurance that they will be in great hands. This could be images showing your sanitization stations, seat block-outs, or a video explaining the health and safety training your team has undergone.
8. Consider going contactless
From paperless check in to payments, you need to consider going contactless in your business. The pandemic has sparked concerns around surfaces and money spreading the virus. As a result, many travelers and businesses wish to reduce the amount of contact they have with these.
You can promote zero-touch travel by offering online payments, scanning email confirmations for check-in, and providing your partners with travelers’ details so that there is no need to repeat check-in.
It will likely be a learning curve when the time comes to reopen your travel business. Take it one day at a time, communicate responsibly, and carry out business being mindful of your team and clients. The agility and compassion you show now will help to position your company for positive outcomes as the industry restarts.