COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Tourism Businesses
Home » Learning Hub » Tourism Operators » Marketing Strategy Tourism Operators » COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Tourism Businesses

COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Tourism Businesses

By Rebecca White
Published on March 23, 2020
2

Our hearts are breaking for our Industry at the moment.

On top of Australia's bushfires at the start of the year COVID-19 is bringing the tourism industry to its knees, not just here in Australia, but globally.

While there's plenty of official information from Government and National/State Tourism Organisations on support for industry, here are 4 practical things to help guide your focus right now as a Tourism Business owner, and then 4 more ideas to think about working on in the coming months.

If you work in Destination Marketing, we have a COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for you, as well as aVCOVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Visitor Centres and Visitor Servicing .

We shared our thoughts for Tourism Businesses in a live webinar in partnership with Australian Regional Tourism on Thursday 26th March 2020, which expands on our suggested actions below in further details.

Priority 1: Pivot and Innovate your Experience

If it is possible for your type of business, if you haven't already, how can you adapt and innovate your tourism experience in light of current health and travel restrictions?

We're going to be in this current new normal of only very local travel for at least 6 months (from March 2020), if not longer.

The situation is escalating by the day, however if it is possible, think about what you CAN do with the current restrictions?

If you can, think about how can you adapt your experience to:

  • Deliver an experience people are still happy to spend money on?
  • Support your own local community ride out the Covid crisis?

Local and online communities are going to be a cornerstone for keeping many of your businesses afloat over the coming months.

If your business can, sell your product/experience/service online. Then let your community know about it, as everyone is looking to support local businesses. This includes:

  • Wine and Food
  • Products and Retail
  • Gift Vouchers

For many of you, you may not actually be able to keep the business open over the next few months (many have closed already). Instead, think of ways you can keep in touch with customers over the coming 6 months.

  • Virtual Tours
  • Virtual Experiences/Lessons

For those businesses relying heavily on international visitors, look at how you can innovate + pivot your current business assets to deliver a product/experience for very local travellers? Essential business travellers? Locals stuck at home in lock down?  Profile and Journey Map them and adapt/test products for them.

Great examples we are seeing (and will continue to add to) are listed below.

Food, Beverages, Hospitality

All hospitality/food/wine/cellar doors now have to offer takeaway. Some innovative takes on these include:

Attractions 

Events

Accommodation

  • Mandarin Oriental Boston have a home cleaning,  food delivery and wellness service for their community who are self isolating in their local suburb.
  • In Australia, many accommodation providers have closed for non-essential travellers. However many are now joining the Covid-19 fight, and delivering self-isolation services for returning guests, and also housing Covid-19 patients to relieve the health care system.

We'll keep adding to this list as we see/hear great examples. Please send them through or tag us on Facebook.

 

Priority 2: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Everyone’s hurting right now, and no-one has the answer as to when this crisis will be over.

But what we can do is keep in touch via phone/online meetings (not email).

Reach out and use it as real opportunity to build even better relationships with people around you who are also being affected.

Tip: If you haven't already, get a face to face video meeting software, set up such as a free Zoom account. Paige and I have been running our business online for the last 8 years and we've found Zoom the most easy to use/customer focused video meeting platform. Other options are Google Hangout and Skype.

Keep in touch with staff. Be open, honest and transparent. Share your challenges in keeping the business open and financial (if you haven't already had to close). Get their help with ideas for Priority Area 1 and also ideas further down in this blog. Do what you need to do to look after them mentally as well as financially where you can. Unfortunately for many of you, staff will have to be let go or stood down. Do what you can to keep them on the books and connected with your business until this crisis is over.

Keep in touch with your customers. Use all your channels you have to keep them updated on what's happening, and how you are adapting/evolving and looking after them as best you can. Your customers are really looking to support local businesses, and they are willing to hear from you (see the next point below on Social Media). While heartbreaking, a great update landed in my inbox today from Fat Pig Farm in Tassie.

Keep in touch with businesses in your region/sector. Get on the phone or a Zoom meeting. See how they are going. Brainstorm ideas with them on how you can get through this tough time via product innovation. Be there for each other.

Also keep in touch with your industry colleagues, Visitor Centres, Regional Tourism Organisations, State Tourism Organisations, Tourism Industry Bodies.

  • Tell them what's happening for you. What's the impact it's having on staff/finances/mental health etc? (Some have surveys already to collect this info).
  • Keep them updates on how your business is going/product is evolving/adapting/closure etc.
  • Find out what support they can offer. All State Organisations are pulling together one stop resource pages for grant/stimulus/support available to simplify things, so stay tuned if you haven't seen this already?

Everyone is pulling together and wants to help, so don't be afraid to ask for help.

Trade Partners would also be hurting at the moment. Many are close friends who may have been built over the years at trade shows/sales calls.  Again get on the phone or a Zoom call. See how they are going, and keep them updated on how your business is going/adapting. Hopefully they will be there, ready to send business back to you when travel returns post the crisis.

 

Priority 3: Stay Active on Social

It’s not business as usual, so it's not right to keep posting as if it is.

However, going quiet on social is also not a good plan as your community want to hear from you, especially those of you in small business.

In times of crisis and also this new world of "self-isolation" and "social-distancing", social is actually a great way to keep in touch and also remain top of mind for customers.

Many people are stuck at home and spending more time on screens than ever.

Tips for posts include:

  • Keep it real and authentic and don't be afraid to be human and share your vulnerabilities in this crazy time.
  • Share how you and your team are going and how you are adapting in the crisis with your experiences. (Sadly, I've seen a number of hospitality and tourism businesses pausing trade as of end of this past week {as at March 26th})
  • Be very sensitive to tone and timing of what’s happening around Covid-19 (health and travel advice), and post accordingly.
  • Even if your businesses is closed, consider sharing inspiring, helpful and everyday photos/videos of how you/your business has bunkered down to ride through the home isolation or helping with the Covid fight in your part of the world.
  • Have a play with Facebook Live and share what is still happening in your tourism experience.

Some of the best posts we seen on social the last few days have been:

 

Priority 4. Self Care

In a very short space of time, life as we know it has changed. Not just in your business, but every other aspect of live.

  • In addition to your own business/work, worry for your colleagues in the industry, watching their businesses and livelihood potentially disappear overnight.
  • Concern about your vulnerable family and friends catching Covid-19 plus the social isolation of older family members who suddenly can't see/be near grandkids.
  • Changes to home/working conditions, such as suddenly sharing office/home with working partner, and also the kids (pending school shut downs).
  • Dealing with unhappy kids due to changes of routine. Eg loss of extra curricular activities/isolation from friends/ potentially no school/complete lockdown etc.
  • Other impacts in your life. Eg we're nearing the end of a major house renovation so hoping we get that finished before businesses shutdown/building supplies dry up.

So please give yourself permission to look after yourself.

What small things do you need to do more of every day to look after yourself?

What do you need to do less of each day?

This is a very personal thing, so I can't tell you what that may look like for you.

For myself a few things are...

Do more of

  • Move. Do what ever you can. I find I have to get outside and walk/cycle/hike. Taking the kids to our local oval (social distancing of course) to kick the footy is our new normal in due to cancellation of all school sports.
  • Clean/tidy/organise something small around the house. It's something I can actually control! Plus my house is tidier.  
  • Time on a creative outlet or hobby. For me this is gardening, cooking, reading.
  • Connecting with loved ones/local community (via Zoom/phone). Checking into see how everyone is faring in this crazy time.
  • Regular bedtime. Enough sleep makes everything so much more manageable!
  • List writing. If there is a lot going on in life, I need to write things down, to get them out my head!

Do less off

  • Mindless media consumption. It's all pretty gloomy out there at the moment. I need to be really conscious of not checking media updates too much though-out the day at the moment.
  • Eating food/drinks that doesn't make you feel good. (Chocolate is my nemesis!)
  • Comparison. It's very easy to look at highlight reels of how other people are handling the crisis.

Again, please give yourself permission to do what you need to do.

 

 

4 Things To Work On Over The Next Few Months

Here's a few ideas of what you could work on over the next few months while business is quieter or even closed to customers.

 

1. Experience Planning

Use this time to plan out new product ideas for recovery and the new-normal once travel resumes.

  • How can you take your current experiences and make them even better for your current customers so they continue to be raving fans of your business in the future?
  • Review all your customer insights (eg Review Websites, Customer Feedback Surveys, Staff insights etc) and see what customers have been asking for.
  • Also, think outside the box. New product ideas may actually emerge from this current crisis. Try new things in the current crisis? Some may stick and stay after the crisis settles (see Priority 1).
  • Brainstorm ideas with staff/colleagues/others in the industry (see Priority 2).
  • Are there new customer segments you previously haven't catered for that you want to develop/test  new products for?
  • Think about Priorty 1, and make a conscious effort to ensure you incorporate local produce/products etc in your experience as much as possible.

A few resources to get you started:

 

2. Update Customer Touchpoints and Channels.

Get all your customer touch points up to date, and ready for potential customer to find you/book you online once travel patterns resume to normal.

  • Review and get those long planned updates done to your website.
  • Start Blogging or/or get some blogs articles written. Tip: share suggested itineraries for your local town/region that cater for social distancing and who can still travel but want to self isolate.
  • Third party listings – Google My Business, Trip Advisor etc. Get these updated. 
  • Tidy up your email databases. Delete non-engaged subscribers to your email updates. Reach out to those to see who wants to keep hearing from you.
  • Tidy up your social profiles. Up to date photos, contact details etc.

 

3. Learn, Learn and Learn

Use this time for professional development and learning. Read, watch, listen to credible business/marketing/product innovation/experience development/climate change and any other topics you've been meaning to delve into?

Catch up on those saved articles on your phone, books you've been wanting to read podcasts you want to listen to.

We share some of our favourite online resources here >

 

4. Get Responsible Travel Ready

Use this time to have a good look at your business carbon footprint and also wider social and community impacts. Not because customers increasingly expect it (and they do), but also because it's the right thing to do for the planet.

How can you use this time to work on reducing, neutralising and even giving back to local environment and local communities?

 

Note. As things are changing by the day, this was last updated Friday 3rd April 2020. We will continue to update it as the situation changes.

Rebecca White

Rebecca is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. Rebecca loves working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies. Her specialty areas are tourism marketing strategy, visitor servicing, visitor engagement, social media, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing & blogging.
Home » Learning Hub » Tourism Operators » Marketing Strategy Tourism Operators » COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Tourism Businesses