We know that as a business in tour and activity operation, you’ve taken the brunt of the economic hit from COVID-19. With bookings slowing to a trickle, or even halting altogether, it’s understandable to think prospects look bleak. 

While the climb back to normalcy will not be easy, there are some real, actionable steps you can take now that will help you to not only protect your business in the short term, but set yourself up for success when the rebound comes.

1. Assure customers of a sanitary, safe environment.

Use text to let your guests know not only that their booking is ready, but also that you’re taking safety measures to protect them during their experience. This will reassure them and let them know their safety is your top priority. 

“Your booking is ready. We have [...] for your safety.”

2. Work to make your facility and equipment COVID-Clean.

Yes, there’s an app for this. After performing the tasks on the list to meet standards, consider displaying the “COVID clean” badge throughout your facility, including your website and social media profiles. You can update your website with specific measures you have taken to assure the safety of your customers. This will help customers to feel at ease during their experience with you. 

3. Use your property effectively.

There are probably parts of your facility that you’re not using right now due to current circumstances. Renting these spaces out to other businesses/parties or even temporarily closing them is a great way to cut costs and to simplify the operations of your business during this time. 

4. Waive cancellation fees.

The #1 reason for the current drop in bookings is not actually fear of coronavirusbut fear of cancellation costs. You can mitigate these fears by offering customers cancellation insurance, along with options to postpone their booking, rebook their experience, or apply credits in the future instead of receiving a cash refund.

5. Communicate clearly through messaging.

In a situation like this, it’s vital for your customers to know the status of your operations, how cancellations will be handled, and what you’re doing to keep them safe. Use messaging to contact your customers with these updates, and encourage them to contact you with their questions as well. Consider attaching a brief message of hope and support. This will help you to maintain a strong relationship and let them know you care. 

6. Shift your market.

There is a pandemic going on. And it’s important to acknowledge the change in circumstances on your website, social media profiles, and other advertising and marketing. You should also re-evaluate which advertising channels will be most effective for you during a crisis. Because situations like quarantine might decrease existing demand, consider moving away from advertising channels that rely on existing demand (like Google Adwords) to platforms that create demand, like Facebook, to advertise locally and connect with future customers. Shape your content to show awareness and sympathy for the current situation, and to offer support and resources to your customers.

7. Focus on local tourism.

With current travel bans, more and more people are looking to “staycations” and other locally based experiences to escape and have fun. Try advertising on facebook (see above), as well as other channels like your local radio stations (some are offering free advertising for local businesses right now), newspapers, and even bulletin boards outside of grocery stores—places where people are sure to be. With these channels, you can cater to members of your community with fun, local experiences that they can do on a Saturday afternoon or a weeknight after work. 

If possible, consider shaping some of your experiences to cater specifically to families with children—with school out, many families are getting used to an entirely new dynamic of having everyone at home and are definitely in need of a break. Experiences are still in demand; and as long as the activity in question allows for appropriate social distancing and your area is not in a shelter in place restriction, it is still viable!

8. Offer online tours and seminars.

If you are in the tour industry, consider offering online tours and seminars in place of live tours. Bring in panels of specialists who typically lead your tours—such as historians, chefs, and art experts—to offer a stimulating lecture or discussion that goes deeper than a live tour might. Make sure to leave time for a quick Q&A, and then ask for feedback afterwards to assess the quality of the experience. The fastest and most convenient way to do this is through text. Our research shows that the open rate for text is as high as 98% while email sits around 20%. With the right messaging tools, you can use personalized, automated text to get quick feedback and increase the quality of your experience. 

9. Offer flexibility.

With the tremendous amount of uncertainty about the future and continuously shifting sands, your customers have no idea how things are going to look even a few weeks from now. So they need ultimate flexibility when it comes to booking. Keep your online bookings open as long as you can and increase the long term availability of your tours to give them the confidence they need to make travel plans. 

10. Be a good corporate citizen.  

Right now is the time to build and uphold your public image and reputation. Implement best practices by immediately responding to any calls from the government, your community, or industry. This will go a long way after the crisis is over in distinguishing you as an exemplary business and team player, and will help to keep your community members and guests safe. 

11. Promote gift cards.

If your business has thin margins, try promoting gift cards, even at a discount. Gift cards provide a quick influx of cash for you and promise future business (and engagement) from your customer in the future. In lieu of discounts, you can also offer bonuses to experiences—such as merchandise or a complimentary snack—and travel packages through messaging, providing the incentive and convenience customers may need to engage with you. 

12. Strategize for the rebound.

The good news? According to a recent poll, 40% of companies expect business travel to resume in the next three months. And vacationing is likely to follow. After travel bans are lifted, there will be a new market for your business with many opportunities to win over new customers. Take this time to really dig into how you want to tap into this future market, and work to find ways to improve your operations so that you can come back stronger than ever. Also take time to work on your brand and upgrade your website with high-quality photos, videos, and features such as webchat that allow you to take advantage of in-bound leads through messaging. All of this will ensure that your next campaign is a home run. 

And most of all, stay calm. You can do this, and we’re in it together. Remember that your industry has an amazing survival record. By taking quick action and staying positive, you’ll not only pull through, but also come back even stronger than before. Because after being cooped up in their house for who knows how long, the first thing people are going to want is a vacation. 

Podium is giving small businesses across the country the tools they need to adapt in wake of COVID 19. 

A marketing director of an adventure business in Maui reports on how quickly effective communication and success came with Podium’s messaging tools: “The real shocker was how fast it happened when we installed Podium. It was instant. All of a sudden we were getting messages all day. It was a no-brainer. It was shocking how quickly we could answer questions, and how quickly they’d go straight from that to booking a trip. It was very fluid because most of them were going through the website to text us.” —David Taylor, Kai Kanani

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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