Word around the world is that some countries are beginning to ease lockdown and border restrictions, while allowing phased reopening of bars, restaurants, shops, and wait for it — some attractions!
You’ve probably been on standby for the green light since, well, the first day of lockdowns, but now is not the time to be overhasty. It’s best to make sure that when you get the official go-ahead, you abide by government guidelines, and have a recovery plan in place to help rebuild and make the most of reopening.
But where do you start? What can you do to get ready for your turn? And how do you go about reopening after coronavirus has brought about a new norm that’s undoubtedly challenging to navigate without looking negligent?
Of course, this pandemic is unfamiliar territory for all of us, and no one knows the right way to run a tour and activity business amid COVID-19. Still, one thing’s for sure — guest and staff safety should be the utmost priority.
By educating yourself on safe business and workplace practices, you can better protect your guests and staff, vulnerable members of your community, and your brand reputation, while helping to stay open until the second wave — if that happens.
We’ve outlined ways to build trust in this anxiety pandemic, but don’t just take our word for it. Make sure that you follow the recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and your local government.
Reassuring guests with low-risk tours and activites
1. Disinfect high-touch surfaces and gear
Make spray bottles, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer your A-team. Frequently touched surfaces in your ticket office should be wiped down regularly — like doorknobs. The same applies to gear and equipment. Clean anything your guests come into contact with to help prevent the spread.
So, now is the time to stock up on cleaning products. Soap and water will remove germs, but disinfectants will kill them. Check your national chemical agency to see a list of approved disinfectant products for use against COVID-19.
Seems a little impractical? Consider implementing these practices to make it a whole lot easier to maintain cleanliness:
- Keep your main door ajar during opening hours for one less door handle to clean
- Greet your guests outside with a friendly “hello” and “would you like a spritz of hand sanitizer?”
- Set up portable hand washing stations in your lobby and other waiting areas and make hand sanitizer easily accessible. Have your guides and staff carry a bottle with them at all times, in case a guest asks for it during the tour or activity. (If you run bus tours, use it before getting back on the bus after each stop)
- Distribute masks and gloves to guests upon arrival. To reduce costs, you can always ask them to bring their own in the booking confirmation email, while still having spares readily available for those who forget or don’t have any.
- Short on staff? It might be okay to enlist the help of guests after using your gear. Many scuba diving operators do this already by having divers rinse off their rentals on-site. So, it’s not unusual to apply a similar disinfecting practice, and most guests will be understanding, as long as you make it quick and easy.
- If you have brochures, display a sign that says, “Take one, but please don’t put back.”
- Install safety glass or set up a makeshift barrier that prevents guests from leaning on the front desk when they check-in.
- Limit the use of paper, clipboards, and pens by ensuring guests fill out required documents ahead of time using Checkfront’s Digital Waivers and Guest Form
- Enable contactless payment with Stripe Terminal or another card reader
2. Create a socially distant experience
Six feet (two metres) is the standard recommendation for social distancing. Of course, this will be the hardest rule to enforce on guests from different households. People often have no spatial awareness when they get caught up in the moment. And if your guides have to shout SIX FEET APART the entire time, it could take away from the overall experience.
So, how do you make sure everyone has a good time while staying in their personal bubble? Here are a few ideas:
- Reduce your capacity: Operate at a limited capacity advised by your local government; don’t forget to include your guides in the head count. By hosting smaller groups at a time, guests will have the space they need to feel comfortable so that they can focus on enjoying the experience. Plus, it will give them the taste of a private tour, and who doesn’t like that?
- Avoid back-to-back bookings: Remember how chaotic it can get in the lobby when guests check-in and out at the same time? Slow down the comings and goings by adding buffers between your time slots. Doing this will also give your staff more time to sterilize everything before the next group arrives.
- Use arrows and signage: Clearly outlining where to walk, wait, or sit will show guests that you’re taking precautions seriously, help prevent confusion, and remind both guests and staff to maintain a safe distance. There are also social distancing beepers on the market now, which would work even better if you can get your hands on a box.
- Conduct a walkthrough: Before reopening, do a run-through of the tour or activity from start to finish, and identify any parts where there might be crowding risk. Jot these down and come up with solutions that will prevent your guests from getting too close to one another. For example, wherever there’s a photo opportunity, consider introducing a turn-taking process.
3. Don’t worry about over-communicating
Transparency is key to earning trust with guests after reopening. The more you share, the more they’ll be okay with putting their safety in your hands for the day. Many still feel a little anxious right now, despite being excited about the relaxation of lockdown restrictions. So if you want bookings in this new normal, you’ll have to ease those worries by publicly posting your coronavirus safety measures.
Hopefully, you’ve already managed to engage your guests during COVID-19. Well, now it’s time to let them know all about your reopening plans and everything you’re doing to keep them safe. When and where should you do that?
Before the experience
Just as you share important details of your tours and activities, you can also highlight your sanitization efforts, social distancing measures, and flexible booking cancellation policy. Put this information on your booking page, on a FAQ page for COVID-19, and in your booking confirmation and reminder emails. That way, guests will know what to expect and feel less anxious about making a booking.
Announcing your reopening on social media or in your email newsletter is another opportunity to talk about your updated safety measures.
During the experience
As soon as guests arrive, it’s a good idea to have someone greet them at the door, ready to tell them where to go and what to do. If they feel confused and uncomfortable right away, it can put a damper on the entire experience, even if everything else goes well.
Then, once everyone has checked-in, your assigned guide (or yourself) can give a briefing on the tour or activity, which includes an explanation of the various safety precautions that you’ve put in place. You can also put up signs in your ticket office with your new Tour Rules.
Note: If your guides have to wear a mask the entire time, make sure they have a megaphone or wireless microphone headset so that guests will be able to hear them. You can also take inspiration from scuba diving operators (again) and use hand signals to get a group’s attention.
After the experience
Online reviews are going to be more important than ever. Potential bookers will be on the lookout to see what other guests are saying about your tour business in regards to coronavirus safety. Although Google temporarily paused reviews to protect local businesses from reputational harm, they too are being released from quarantine.
So, should you continue soliciting reviews in your thank-you emails? The answer is yes. These are uncertain times, and you can build goodwill with your guests by asking for feedback while receiving much-needed public proof that you are abiding by reopening guidelines.
Making it safe for your guides to go back to work
Understandably, your guides might be a little apprehensive about returning to work, especially since they’ll be interacting with guests for extended periods. And they have rights to a safe working environment. Show how much you care about their wellbeing by listening to their concerns and doing whatever you can to ensure their safety.
Here are a few ways you can build employee trust at this time:
- Keep them in the loop: Hopefully, you’ve been doing this already. Host regular, virtual company updates leading up to reopening and fill your staff in on the upcoming practices that you’ll put in place before their first day back.
- Dedicate a day to team training: Only if you have space to accommodate everyone standing or sitting six feet apart. Go over proper cleaning and hand washing techniques, teach them how to use disinfectant products safely, give them a script to follow for guest briefings, and perform a walkthrough so that they know exactly what to do and say to feel confident guiding in these unique circumstances.
- Be smart about scheduling: If you have a larger team, you’ll want to make sure that the same people always work at the same time. Try not to overlap shifts to minimize contact between different households.
- Revisit your sick day policy: Familiarize yourself with new government guidelines regarding paid and unpaid sick leave during the pandemic. Be vigilant about reminding staff to stay home if they feel unwell in any way.
- Prominently display cleaning products: Keeping your disinfectant products in plain view around the ticket office and other areas on-site will give your staff, as well as guests, visual confirmation that sanitization is happening and a high-priority.
- Reassure your team: Let them know how much you appreciate their patience and understanding during this downtime, that you’re always available to answer any questions, and you’ll be by their side as they take on this huge learning curve.
I know that all of this may seem overwhelming right now. But the actions you take to safeguard your business, staff, and guests will go a long way in helping with your road to recovery. Build that trust first, and revenue will follow.