The breakout of COVID-19 in the beginning of Q1 of 2020 has plunged our country and the whole world into the worst recession since the 1929 Great Depression. Every sector of the economy has been negatively affected and travel and tourism sector, in particular, has been the worst hit with little to no profitability over the past few months.
Even in Level 3, all domestic and international travel remains prohibited as well as interprovincial movement, except in exceptional circumstances. All hotels and establishments must remain closed unless they’re accommodating international tourists who remain in South Africa, are appointed as quarantine facilities, or are providing accommodation for essential services people.
With this massive loss of income as a result of travel prohibitions, the travel industry is facing a really tough time with no real indication of when business goes back to usual for them. If your establishment falls within the hospitality sector you might want to read this article first.
In this guide we will unpack how you can adjust your travel or tourism business to these challenging times with a step by step, actionable guide. We’ll show you what you can do today, to ensure business profitability during the COVID 19 outbreak and long afterwards.
Enlist a professional
As the lockdown stages 4 and 5 have been lifted, search queries have perked up in terms of looking for international and domestic travel, as well as travel after lockdown. This indicates a market in the research phase; researching specials, looking to purchase honeymoon plans that now need to be postponed, holidays and more to enjoy post-lockdown.
This research phase is exactly when you need to capitalise on the market searching for travel flights, accommodation, activities and more. An experienced marketing agency will help you act fast when the market is ripe and assist interested buyers to find your website early on in their research phase. To help your travel and tourism business strike while the iron is hot, an experienced marketer will easily segment your audience into interested December holiday goers, honeymooners, travel enthusiasts and more- furthermore re-marketing to interested shoppers who haven’t yet checked out.
Cut the number of suppliers you use
In the interest of keeping costs and overheads low during these times of reduced demand, it’s important to cut the number of suppliers you have. Work more closely with a smaller number, with which you can negotiate better payment terms or trading terms within the future. The more fixed assets a level of the travel chain has, such as vehicles, accommodation, overseas sales offices, the more they will be suffering. For example, hoteliers will be desperate to fill rooms and will/should offer lower rates or higher commissions. Make sure your business benefits and that this is included in the terms and conditions for cancellation.
The larger, regional/major chains will be doing their own thing. This might be the time to strengthen relationships with the partners you can work with for a sustainable future. Develop a meaningful commercial relationship for the future. Don’t spread your business too thin by working with too many suppliers.
This is also an ideal time to survey your destination and think seriously about working with other SMEs in your tourism industry. These could be accommodation suppliers, local or regional tour operators in another part of your destination, or someone else that provides an interesting experience that you can include to add greater value to your clients. Think about local attractions and offerings that can enhance your current offer. One thing is for sure- people are looking for far more experiential tourism features to their holidays. The global lockdowns will increase this.
As SMEs, you can and should be able to deliver specialist experiences. By working together, you can match the larger national or regional tourism players and go-to markets with new and exciting ideas and packages. Some ideas can even just be re-worked old ideas with a new and exciting twist. Plus, by partnering up with SMEs as apposed to massive corporations, you’ll help sustain the lifeblood of the economy.
Understand the current clientele and adapt to the changing landscape after lockdown
Business travel, national and international travel may all be still off the cards, however it’s not all doom and gloom. You’re allowed to market your establishment to essential workers, so shift your entire marketing strategy to cater for this market and their specific needs. A few ways to do this include upgrading your internet connection to provide faster Wi-Fi, accepting few guests so that any communal areas are kept sparsely populated and ensuring the strictest hygiene principals are carried out. Don’t forget to make this information very visible, so guests’ minds can be put at ease- this should be carried out via social media channels, e-mailers and in-room marketing materials.
Post-lockdown, we anticipate an increase in all the Digital Nomads so in order to cater for this market, offer facilities for smaller, quieter Zoom/Teams meetings as an alternative to bigger conferences and team building offers. Offer smaller, private wedding and special event packages with a limited amount of guests allowed.
Choose where you spend your marketing money wisely
Even though business isn’t back to normal for your sector just yet, this doesn’t mean you can’t make money and be profitable during lockdown. You can absolutely still market your business, you just need to pick where exactly you’ll allocate your marketing spend wisely.
Now is a great time to cut back on your large offline marketing costs such as TV, Radio, Newspaper, leaflets, brochures and only market digitally (unless it specifically addresses COVID-19 safety measures and can’t be placed online). Adjust your marketing spend to speak to smaller, specific groups of people such as:
- Essential workers needing accommodation now or in the very near future.
- Future travellers looking to purchase vouchers now to be redeemed later on.
- Digital Nomads looking to travel post-lockdown and looking for somewhere quiet with excellent internet connection.
- Event travellers such as weddings, and special celebration travellers.
Focus your efforts on such specific groups instead of mass-market messaging that speaks to no one. Each of these selected audience sets require different, tailored messaging and will increase your chances of obtaining any new sales.
Know where to invest
Utilise this time to upgrade your website with a fresh look, update any outdated photos, and add more relevant content about your business, COVID-19 measures and any new, improved offerings. Enhance the customer experience with added extras such as discounts and competitions. Catapult these through social media and newsletters to help build brand awareness and brand love. If your establishment doesn’t already have one, consider getting a blog to be used as a sales and marketing tool. Article titles can vary- think along the lines of “The 5 best places to visit in Turkey”, “What travel looks like in 2021” or “10 ways your favourite local airline is ensuring your safety post lockdown”.
Be frank with your customers
The travel and tourism sector has undoubtedly been one of the hardest hit, with little to no income, so utilise this story to offer your clients travel vouchers that are discounted and can be redeemed later on within a timeframe after the travel ban is lifted. After lockdown has lifted, everyone is looking forward to a change of scenery so this is mutually beneficial for both parties. Know that demand is slower, fewer and more sparse right now. That’s why you need to ensure you respond to so each lead you get in a timely manner, offer more value and go out of your way to convert interest into sales, as each sale really doesn’t count toward the bigger picture.
Re-adjust your business post lockdown
Once all stages have been lifted, your business should be good to still provide business as usual for the most part. You’ll need to use all your saved-up marketing spend during this time to really give your business that needed push. Your marketing agency can work out a strategy for which channels should be promoted first, to start bringing in more business.
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