My heart breaks for you. As each day goes by, the number of coronavirus cases worldwide continues to rise while your booking volume does the opposite. Cancellation after cancellation, you might be staring at an empty calendar, worried that your cash reserves will soon be empty, too.
Although there’s been talk about when we can expect bookings to pick back up again, none of us know for sure. And by now, you’re probably fighting to keep your business in good shape — which goes to show that travel and tourism can make it through this stronger than ever. We are a resilient community. Over and over again, we beat the odds, from destructive hurricanes to unstoppable bushfires.
But I understand how quickly burnout can happen, especially when you feel like you’re up against an unwinnable battle. That’s why I also want to give you words of encouragement, amongst all of the crisis management, marketing, and recovery tips circling the in-destination industry.
Don’t worry; I’m not about to serve you platitudes like “everything happens for a reason” and “take lemons and make lemonade.” Nor am I going to make any promises on how to get bookings again. If anything, I hope this article lights the fire within you to persevere.
1. Focus on what you can control
Everything probably seems out of your control. With travel bans, lockdowns, and forced closure, what can you even do at this point? Well, you might be able to do more than you think. Already, I’m seeing operators take action, make plans and adjustments, and learn new skills.
And this kind of motivated response goes along with a particular school of Hellenistic philosophy — Stoicism. Initially, I was going to write an entire post on How to be a Stoic Tour Operator in Times of Crisis. Perhaps I still will, but for now, I want to share the most critical practice with you.
“The chief task in life is simply this: to identify and separate matters so that I can say clearly to myself which are externals not under my control, and which have to do with the choices I actually control. Where then do I look for good and evil? Not to uncontrollable externals, but within myself to the choices that are my own…”
Epictetus, Discourses, 2.5.4–5
The founder of Stoicism, Zeno of Citium, overcame adversity himself by building mental strength. After suffering a shipwreck and losing all of his riches, he turned to great philosophers like Socrates and Crates for guidance, which eventually led him to overhaul his life and mindset.
Like Zeno, you can’t control, let alone prepare for every disaster that comes. While I hope you don’t experience the same misfortune as a result of this global pandemic, I do believe you can take a page out of the book of Stoicism to help you navigate through this storm.
For instance, you can’t stop booking cancellations from coming in the next few months, but you can offer creative solutions, like issuing gift cards. As for travel restrictions, you can’t do anything about them, but you can come up with strategies to target the local market for when social isolation loosens in your region.
By making a list of everything, big and small, you can do to stay afloat, along with every positive emotion you can harness for the road ahead, like gratitude, you might start feeling a little more in control.
2. Trust yourself; you can get through this
When faced with an overwhelming challenge, it’s often natural to seek advice from others, especially experts. Of course, this is what you should be doing at this time, looking at Government information, joining Arival’s free webinars, and checking out recovery plans on Tourmageddon.
But don’t forget you are a resource yourself. Already, you have the know-how, maybe not specifically for this doomsday scenario, but for running a business, through the ups and downs, high seasons and low seasons. With years of experience, you’re capable of making the right decisions right now.
Just think — you’ve done what most people can’t. You built a business from the ground up, in one of the most unpredictable industries. You’re an entrepreneur, or as our friend, Shane Whaley calls it, a Tourpreneur. You saw an opportunity, a new way to experience your destination, and ultimately created so many meaningful memories for so many travelers.
So while it’s a good idea to get help in unfamiliar areas, like website optimization or digital marketing, remember also to trust your skills, trust your knowledge, trust your instinct. Others can give you direction, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, you have it in you to make the best choices for your business.
3. Keep marketing through thick and thin
At this time, promoting your tours and activities probably seems counterintuitive, as no one is currently traveling and might be hesitant to book flights, even after bans and lockdowns lift. Travel is an emotional topic right now, especially for those mourning over cancelled vacations.
But while there’s a feeling of fear, there’s also one of sentiment. Since travelers are stuck at home, many are reminiscing about past places they’ve been. Even I’m finding myself scrolling through photos of previous trips way more than usual. The love of travel doesn’t go just away.
And once life returns to some version of normal, a lot of travelers might be eager to scratch their itchy feet. Of course, they will likely start by booking staycations or local things to do with family and friends, considering they haven’t had much social interaction lately, except for online.
So, if you’re a little unsure about marketing, whether it’s something as simple as what to post on social media, take comfort in knowing that it might be a welcome sight. That said, you will want to switch your focus from driving booking conversions to brand awareness for the time being.
For example, instead of creating a sense of urgency with copy such as “join us for an unforgettable whale watching tour,” try taking more of a throwback approach, like “looking back on when we spotted a newborn baby orca.” And rather than directing viewers to your booking page, link to the full story on your blog. Now is a great time to build your content anyways.
4. Put your core values to practice
In a crisis, values matter the most. While strategic planning and tactical preparation are still of the utmost importance, so is staying true to who you are as a tour and activity company. What you stand for should live in everything you do, not just on your About Us page.
Already, operators everywhere are stepping up to help — whether that’s using a fleet of vehicles to deliver groceries to the elderly or volunteering their expertise to others in the tourism community, like on the Tourpreneur Facebook Group or here on Tourmageddon. Here at Checkfront, we’ve been so inspired by everyone.
So, what can you be doing to positively impact the world during the coronavirus pandemic? It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose; even the smallest of actions can make a big difference. Can you support your local food bank? What about giving your staff paid time-off to self-isolate?
Speaking of which, you might have to lay-off some employees, but you can still show compassion to them by communicating proactively and considering their needs. Perhaps, you can also think of creative ways to keep them on as long as possible, like reducing their hours or adapting their roles.
All of that is to say
We want to help as much as we can. For the foreseeable future, we’ll continue to publish content that’s most relevant to you, including local marketing strategies, website optimization tricks, and developing your own skill set. You can stay updated by subscribing below or finding more information on our COVID-19 Resources page.