There’s a lot going on in the world at the moment, with many already feeling severe effects, or waiting for the worst to come. Your socials and news publications have been feeding through an inundation of everything from fact and fiction about COVID-19, creating more questions that are going unanswered. It’s becoming apparent that this could last upwards of at least 5 months, so, what do we do in the meantime?
While we cannot determine the magnitude of impact from the virus, we can come together to make informed decisions.
In the second part of our blog on COVID-19 Crisis Mitigation Tips for Property Owners, we’ve scoped out some of the best tips from industry professionals for our readers, to encourage where your attention should be focused.
Irrational business decisions based on fear rather than facts could cause unanticipated long term damage to your business. The tourism industry is currently facing a harsh impact from COVID-19, however, the months of the unknown are not to be used for panic and short-term solutions. When the industry returns to boom, decisions that are made now will affect the length of your bounce-back time in the future. A short-term band-aid can ultimately prolong your business’ recovery.
The issue we are faced with is not room pricing, but the ability and/or desire to travel. While everyone loves a bargain, it’s important to remember the core purpose of why you would be doing this.
Would you be covering your expenses by slashing prices to get guests in your rooms?
Discounts and limited-time offers are better saved for use in a targeted strategy, rather than a reaction to a general market imbalance. Organisations such as STR are coming out with useful data to help drive insights to business decisions during this uncomfortable time. We encourage hospitality operators to hold a rational data-driven focus rather than utilising revenue management alternatives.
It’s important to note that while the tourism economy as a whole is under strain, certain regions are going to be affected more than others. Pay attention to the data that is relevant to your region and make your decisions based on those insights relevant to your regions.
Seeing as travel plans have been put on hold for consumers around the world, now is the time to think outside the box. Our clients, Nick and Cathy from Mackay’s Blue Pacific Resort, have opted to allow for 3-month leasing. This brings revenue through the doors in addition to being a perfect solution for tenants who can only commit to a shorter rental agreement period due to one of many COVID-19 reasons. If your accommodation business can do this or similar, why not give it a try?
It’s also a stressful time for both employers and employees. Every business is different, so it may not be a blanket solution; but before jumping to decisions, try being adaptive instead of reactive. Optimise the usage of all employees and get creative in your revenue streams. Where else can you make money? What else do you have to offer? Make it clear that duties may be spread across the board and in order to remain an asset to the business, job descriptions may get blurred and staff buy in is critical right now.
Bookings may be slow, and you’re now facing punters wanting to cancel future reservations. It’s a stressful time for everyone, so please, remember to be empathetic, even if you have a no cancellation policy. Receiving calls to cancel future bookings is tough, however, it isn’t an excuse to give up on those bookings, it’s a time to try and salvage them for a later date. As an alternative for cancelling, try and offer a credit to their account for 12 months as a safe bet for the future, this way the customer is still exchanging for an experience and you keep a forward income.
Every region and area have an active Chamber of Commerce or association with the purpose of driving tourism and supporting local businesses. With the recent economic struggles, councils are banding together to market and increase exposure to cross-industry audiences, as well as keep locals in the know with the latest news.
For example, Tourism Noosa have created dedicated teams for different areas within the industry, as well as landing pages containing up-to-date information and links and tips so locals can easily view regional information about COVID-19 and what tourism bodies are doing to manage the situation.
As part of the bushfire recovery efforts, Tourism Australia launched the #HolidayHereThisYear campaign. The team have also created a downloadable toolkit to enable Australian tour operators to integrate the campaign into their marketing strategy at a grassroots level. Tourism Queensland has even gone a step further and leveraged the national campaign on a state level. Here is Queensland’s toolkit featuring elements and examples so local operators can take the campaign into their own hands. Each state tourism body will usually have a campaign running that allows individual business owners to get involved in the bigger picture, just take a look on their corporate websites. Although travel restrictions are currently in place, they will be lifted eventually. It’s important to work hard now and plant the seeds to consumers, so when they are ready to travel, you’re on the list.
There are also some really great opportunities to use the time during this downturn really productively. Consider doing an online course that would set you up with new skills to really take advantage of the bounce-back when it comes. For example, Tourism Tribe has launched a 12-week Digital Marketing Upskill course for tourism businesses. As well as developing new digital marketing skills, you would be interacting online with a trainer and other people in tourism who are in the exact same situation as you.
This isn’t going to last forever. We must remember that just like SARS, we will bounce back from this challenging period in time. When that time comes, it’s important to be ready and on track. A strategic marketing plan will help with exposure to the masses, especially with investments in the digital realm. Start working on new ways to reach your audience, utilise tour operators and create experiences like no other through unique collaborations.
While Australian’s might not be participating in lengthy domestic holidays, we are travelling more frequently. Which according to the Tourism Research of Australia’s 2018-2019 State of the Industry report, has become more valuable, as the average number of nights on domestic travel has increased up to 20 from just 15 a decade ago. This presents the opportunity to re-target your domestic travellers with fresh collaborations in a bid to win their return trip back to your property.
In fact, the ‘staycation’ segment may be the first to present itself as an opportunity when the restrictions begin to be relaxed. So many Australians will be ready to get away for a long weekend when they next have the opportunity. Start developing a plan now as to how you can win a piece of this market and be ahead of the game when things start bouncing back.
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