The tourism industry has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, with borders closed, travel restrictions in place, and tourism businesses shuttered. However, the situation is changing, and tourism businesses need to start planning for the rebound now. This was the focus of a recent webinar I attended along with 800 others, which outlined some key points to help tourism businesses prepare for the rebound.
Firstly, while international travel will rebound, it is uncertain when this will happen. Developing a vaccine is critical, along with lifting lockdowns and opening borders. However, re-infestation could be a major issue. In the meantime, internal travel, probably regional and then national, will be the first travel pattern to emerge.
China travel is rebounding, with outbound travel slow as most destinations are still closed. Revenge traveling (cancelled trips) will motivate many people to look at traveling, and over half of those interviewed in China would rebook their cancelled trip. China's hotel occupancy is up to 30%, with New Zealand in the top 10 destinations of those Chinese interviewed.
Therefore, the key is the need to be “first off the mark” in the rebound. To achieve this, planning is essential. A survey done during the webinar highlighted that 34% of participants have experienced a slow increase in renewed bookings, and 32% have a relaunch plan in place. A possible plan could follow these steps: March-May – social media redevelopment/website improvement, June-July – launching and testing, After – optimizing.
To prepare for the rebound, there are several things tourism businesses should consider. Updating the database, forecasting, and preparing advertising copy are all important. Analyzing marketing channels is vital, as is protecting Google and Trip Advisor rankings. SEO is a critical component, as is re-evaluating the value of all online booking sites. Google My Business listings should be checked and improved, and the website should have a message of staying safe and feeling good.
The website should be mobile suitable with good page speed when loading. It should inspire people to travel and not just book. Sustainable travel will probably be a new focus, so highlighting what a business does on its website could connect with the “new” tourist. Highlighting Community Social Responsibility (CSR) may also influence customer decisions. Safety and hygiene should also be highlighted, and it should be made clear that the business is open.
Changing and evolving customer/travel behavior is a certainty. Businesses should keep up to date with this and evolve their Unique Selling Points (USPs) to meet these changes. People may base themselves in one area a little longer, so developing packages that cater to this could be beneficial. Travel distance for markets should be looked at, and businesses could modify their operation to suit “locals” or regional customers.
Insurance, cancellation policies, and feedback analysis should also be considered. Policies should be made more flexible, with cancellation policies changed to 100% refundable. Feedback should be analyzed to identify areas that need attention, and communication with industry partners and staff is essential.
In conclusion, planning for the rebound is essential for tourism businesses. Digital creativity is key, and businesses should use Vouchers as a source of income. The focus should be on inspiring people to travel, highlighting sustainable travel, and keeping the customer safe. With the right planning, tourism businesses can be ahead of the competition when the rebound happens.