Tourism in a Covid-19 crisis. What do we do now?

March 16, 2020

 

Covid-19 has unfortunately taken a heavy toll on the tourism industry and the visitor economy across the globe. China, Korea, Japan and most of Europe have borne the early brunt of this devastating downturn. North America may only be 10 days behind these countries in waiting for the full effect to take root. However, the quick reaction of provinces across Canada may help in a quicker recovery. Short term pain for longer term gain. Nevertheless, Canada’s visitor economy is now really starting to feel more drastic effects as well. With some of our primary markets closed off and others soon to be restricted as well, what should Canadian tourism stakeholders being doing? As an industry we are all interconnected and what affects one sector most often has repercussions in other parts of our industry. Our industry is primarily made up of small to medium size single owner companies. An extended stop in their daily business may mean a permanent stop altogether.  FLOOR13 has put together a list of short- and medium-term suggested strategies to think about during this crisis.

 

Short term: Until the number of Covid-19 cases stop rising

 

  • Save your money and stop advertising. There will be no demand for non-essential travel in the short term. Companies have already scaled back on travel and entertainment as never before. Therefore, advertising to your client base will NOT create demand. This applies to International, US and domestic markets.

  • Hotels, do not start a price war. Reducing your rates drastically in hope of creating demand is futile. There is no demand or at least very little of it. Properly managing your costs, closing floors, restaurants, managing staff hours will be the key to weathering the storm.

  • Be flexible with your cancellation policies. We have already seen airlines and car rental companies wave cancellation and rebooking fees. The same approach can be used for hotels, convention centres, tour and travel, cruises and 3rd party agencies. Clients will be looking for this flexibility and partnership when looking to eventually rebook. Trying to stick to your cancellation policies will do greater damage over the long term. Everyone is in the same boat.

  • Try and help small businesses. Pre-pay for services you may plan on using later this year, rebook travel for later in the year, buy gift certificates in restaurants and shops that you can use at a later date. For small businesses this can make all the difference.

 

Medium term: When Covid-19 starts to taper off

 

  • Identify your immediate market opportunities, domestically. The domestic market will be the first to respond. Canadians travelling and meeting in Canada. Regional and inter-provincial travel will ignite first, soon followed by more national travel once confidence is regained.  The US market will come next, mostly based on corporate travel. American leisure travel may take more time to regain its full potential. European travellers are generally more apt to start travelling abroad sooner but may be curtailed by government restrictions yet to be determined.  Asian markets will be slow to recover, either through their own restrictions or those of our government being timely on markets being allowed back into Canada. Make sure that your marketing is well targeted and ramps up as travel recovers.

  • Initiate a recovery plan which includes contacting your clients with new available dates and rates for their programs. Don’t wait for them to call. Take the lead. Your preferred clients should be given priority. Loyalty has its benefits.

  • Work with your local stakeholders on ready-to-deploy offers that can be easily initiated in targeted markets. Ensure to include small businesses who will need that early push.

 

Every cloud has its silver lining. Though tourism and the visitor economy will most likely be one of the hardest hit sectors globally and suffer the greatest losses, the Covid -19 crisis has brought to the forefront the importance of our industry. It’s become apparent to all just how much countries, regions, cities, towns, companies and people rely on the visitor economy to generate wealth and wellbeing across the globe. What effect will this have over the long term is hard to say, but one thing is for sure, tourism will never again be seen as a minor player in the global economy.

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