Tips & Tricks in Travel & Tourism We held our second educational webinar about communications during this time of uncertainty. This session, we had a powerhouse team of women to talk about what travel and tourism brands can do when nobody is allowed to travel and how to survive as an industry. In this session, you’ll get advice from Meg Coffey, Natasha Mahar and Sonia Beckwith. Catch the video replay of the entire session at the bottom of this post. Here are the questions and key takeaways that we learned: Q1 : Give us a little bit more background on your business and how you’ve been impacted by the Coronavirus. “Devastating. Our entire season is gone.” – Sonia “Our busy season is March to October, but we earn our coin from April to July. We opened our business on March 18th and closed it on March 23rd. ” – Sonia All operators are affected, not just whale and whale shark operators – it’s all the businesses in the region. It’s just a matter of figuring out a way to hang on during this time. Our operators just came out of a wet season, we’ve essentially had 18 months without any cash flow at this time. “It’s our job to market the whole region, and instead we’re telling people to stay home, which is the opposite of what we want to say.” – Natasha It’s already a vulnerable community due to the extensive aboriginal population, so the borders have be closed. Try and help and advocate for each other. Be buoyed by everyone’s willingness to survive and hang on. “It’s jarring to hear or elected officials say ‘Stop, don’t come!’ – It’s a really jarring message to hear.” – Meg Q2: How have your brand communications changed at the moment? More of them? Less? Have you stopped all together? Why have you taken this approach? It’s a unique opportunity to tune in to your audience. Your messaging has to be incredibly subtle. Use phrasing like “We can’t wait to welcome you back, when it’s safe.” Make sure that your destination or business is top of mind, but in a subtle way. The ‘new normal’ will be led by intrastate travel, then interstate and THEN international. There’s an opportunity to market to people ‘in their own back yard’ – people will feel safer to travel a shorter distance from home at first, as things start to open up. Be empathetic, tune in and talk to your customers openly and honestly. Communicate more but more gently. “I’ve been sending more newsletters than I ever have in my life, to keep our customers informed.” – Sonia Use your communications to shore up recovery. It’s an opportunity, if you’re smart. “Don’t be below or above begging.” – Sonia Offer to postpone, to give gift cards. Communicate to customers that “We need you.” Stay away from sales ‘ads’ if you can help it – customers don’t necessarily want to be sold right now. Choose messaging and images that appeal and make customers feel good. “Advertising costs on social are lower than they’ve ever been. If you can afford it, it’s something to try at this time. It’s a great way to get your message out to a huge audience at a great price right now. |The trick is – finding the right message.” – Meg If you do use ads, they should be about messaging your brand and not a sales pitch. Q3: How soon is too soon to return to business as usual when it comes to sales Will there be a BAU to return to? “Right now, it isn’t a time to sell. It’s a time to dream, it’s a time to plan. It’s a time to all come together and help each other out. – Natasha The current moment is about survival and planning, creating a strategy. Nobody knows when business as usual will happen – obviously the sooner the better. Planning 18 – 24 months out. “Every time I get a retail email that says 20, 50, 70% off – I’m cringing. And I can’t start selling, until I quit cringing.” – Sonia Focus your energy on building foundational pieces – all the things you’ve been meaning to do. All the ‘not sexy’ things that need to get done to prepare you for when it is the right time to market. It may never be business as usual – travel patterns may change for quite some time, and we need to be prepared for that. Stop sending the ‘our approach to COVID’ emails – especially those that haven’t engaged with the product for a long time. Be authentic to your brand. Don’t change or start ‘panic’ selling. Q4: How far ahead are you planning your comms at the moment? Have you re-forecasted things yet? Have you given thought to how your KPIs will change? “Yes we’ve got to be empathetic, yes we’ve got to be authentic. How am I going to tell my board? How am I going to organize my staff? How am I going to sort out my members? It’s an hour-by-hour and day-by-day approach.” – Natasha Bring it down to basics and think about how you can help everyone get through this “Take a deep breath and do what we can and try not to overcomplicate things.” – Natasha “Sell the recovery and keep track of the recovery.” – Sonia Track when customers booked originally, when they cancelled and what the tour date was, if they got a gift card, or rebooked, lost sales to forecast % of recovery predictions moving forward. Compare the posts that you’re doing now with your best posts ever to see signs of people feeling more comfortable in the marketing space. Q5: What’s your one piece of advice for brand communications at the moment? “It’s important to understand everything has changed. Whatever you thought you needed, you need to reevaluate that. Find out how long you can hold on for. Things will change, it’s just a matter of time. So get in depth with all of your numbers.” – Sonia “Be bold and brave and zig when other people are zagging. Be your true self and authentic and I think that will reflect in all of your comms.” – Natasha Be adaptable. Q&A Q: Working in the travel industry, which is very touch and go right now, how do you position social media in a place of value and make it indispensable to your company at a time like this? “This is your chance to reach the world.” – Meg Provide quality content and show people how you can help. Take the time to update your website. Get on track with newsletters and collect email addresses so you can communicate directly with customers. Q: How do we rebuild the travel fantasy dream and when is it safe to start promoting that dream? “I think we can build the travel fantasy and say “we’re here when you’re ready but we just don’t know when that will be yet.” -Meg Q: How do we get our locals to stay and explore their own backyard? Come up with clever, creative, fun campaigns. People are going to be wary of traveling so we need to figure out what people want to feel and experience. People might be fearful to travel far and might not have the income to do so, so show them that you have everything they need right there. Q: How are the comms/relationships with your trade contacts going? “I’ve had some great things happen and I will never ever forget those people.” -Sonia Communications with trade affiliates has gone up. “It’s shown me who I want to partner with in the future based on the communication I’ve been having with them and shown a light on the bright stars that are out there.” – Sonia “This is an opportunity. People will remember how you acted. Some people have shown kindness and humanness and will come out really well on the other side of this.” – Natasha Video recording of the webinar Click here to watch the full recording of this session: Upcoming Webinars To register for our upcoming webinars, click here.