COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Visitor Centres and Visitor Services
Published on March 23, 2020
We're living in a very surreal world with the complete halt of our beloved Tourism industry.
Visitors are no longer visiting, many local communities are self isolating themselves from all people, all events are off and many of your staff may be in the vulnerable age groups and need to be at home self-isolating.
For Visitor Servicing teams, now is the time to join the COVID-19 battle to help your local community and local tourism operators through this very tough and uncertain time.
Firstly, if you haven't already, have a read of the tips we have shared on our COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Destinations. This blog shares a few additional tips that are unique to Visitor Centres, that can be done regardless of where your team is working.
Secondly we'd also love to hear your ideas and your actions with us that your Visitor Centre is working on in addition to the below, so we can all work through this together.
1. Communicate how and what services you WILL be delivering
With most face to face visitor servicing via Visitor Centres now ceased, update relevant websites, social media channels and online listings with where/what support you can offer people.
If you haven't offered digital channels to visitors before now, now is the time to do so, these include:
- Live Chat
- Facebook Messenger
- Video Calls (eg Skype)
Some good examples we seen communicating their close of face to face visitor servicing includes:
- District Council of Yankalilla suspending face to face visitor servicing >
- City of Adelaide sharing their online visitor servicing resources
2. Move to Community First Visitor Servicing
How can your Visitor Servicing team help with the COVID-19 crisis? Think about how can you pivot from supporting Visitors to connecting and supporting local tourism businesses and local residents?
Some ideas we've seen include:
- Finding accommodation for stranded visitors who need self isolation accommodation? (Good resource here for accommodation providers hosting self isolating guests)
- Grey Nomads now needing to park and stay in your community for a bit? Connect them to relevant services.
- Vulnerable community members who need help with food/transport to appointments etc? Connect them with Tourism businesses who could help?
How can you play a role to help connect Tourism Operators to wider opportunities to support the local community?
3. Develop a "What’s Open/Online" Resources
Support your local Destination Marketing team with their Industry Communication Plan and Local Advocacy Activities, and bring together an updated, running a list of local businesses who are still open. For the moment, this includes businesses offering home delivery/takeaway/online sales etc.
NOTE: These resources need daily updating as the situation changes. Ideally put them on a website so you can update them from there before sharing out on Social Media.
Locals want to support local businesses, so you have a great opportunity to be the central point of contact to pull this information together.
Good examples we have seen are:
4. Online Volunteer Connection
Many of your volunteers will be in the vulnerable age group, and now self isolating at home. The closure of their work in your VIC is a real social isolation challenge.
Brainstorm ways you can encourage them to keep connected over the coming months? Zoom/Facetime/Skype/What's App Groups?
Come up with a plan to help them connect between themselves, keep in touch with the Centre and checking in on how they are going at home?
The digital adoption by older generations is going to be unprecedented. I've seen a number of older generation family members join + embrace What's App over the past weekend as ways of keeping in touch!
5. Online Industry Connection
While we can’t meet in person to network and have networking drinks etc, it doesn't mean you cant foster and organise digital ones?
I saw a number of virtual Zoom Friday Night drinks happening last week, including Tourism Tribe's Golden Hour.
So how could you use Zoom to keep in touch with Operators? Share training with your staff? Virtual update of what's happening in their business etc? Again, work with your Destination Marketing organisation if relevant or do this for your own Town/Sub-Region.
Tip: Paige and I have been working from home for last 8 years, and find Zoom the easiest online meeting platform to use!
6. Event Closure List
By now, people know all events are cancelled or postponed.
So, instead of taking them all of your website, consider having a general statement staying everything is off for the moment. No one is travelling anyway, so save yourself the short term stress of trying to get them all removed or updated.
As dust settles over the coming months and you find out what will or wont be back on, then work out what needs to be deleted/updated on ATDW and other listing sites?
We know all the work it takes to get an event listed on Australian Tourism Data Warehouse, so it may only need a change of date.
7. Use Social Media to take your region into peoples homes
The facts are you don't want to be encouraging people to be out and about in our destinations.
People need to be staying at home.
However, that doesn’t stop you from posting on social media if you do manage social media channels, as this is where people are going to be spending increasing time.
Be very mindful of tone and timing.
You have the opportunity to still keep in touch with your communities on Social Media. Share great photos of what there is to see/do for post COVID-19 travel!
- Visit Ballarat are sharing local art exhibitions online >
- Tourism Australia's recent social media post >
Want us to come on your Recovery Journey?
We've opened registrations of interest for our overhauled Visitor Servicing + Destination Marketing Bootcamp - which is due to start August 2020.