We are in uncharted waters when it comes to the challenges that face the tourism industry today. There really isn’t research or examples to guide us here. When it comes to surviving the devastating effect of Covid-19 on travel and hospitality, we have to apply our minds and we have to discuss our ideas with each other. We might be socially distanced, but we have never before needed each other so much.
Cooperation and consideration were two ideas that stuck with me after this week’s webinars arranged by dynamic tourism management business, Destinate. Hosting experts from across the globe in their sessions, these two concepts resurfaced regardless of whether the topic was target markets or virtual opportunities. Working together and caring about each other – within the industry and outside of the industry – are what will make the difference.
In these uncertain times, we have to ask ourselves some very basic questions as to how the industry, our target markets and our offering will change. Some of my thoughts and outcomes from the Destinate webinars might give some direction when it comes to thinking about the new tourism.
- The Domestic Market
For the immediate future – and possibly even the medium term – tourism globally will have a more domestic approach. South African Tourism’s 5 in 5 plan recognised the importance of local tourism a while ago already, but it is easy to rely on the spending power of international visitors. While it might be necessary to look at more affordable options for those who earn in Rand, I believe that the luxury market is not contained to international tourists. A varied offering has always been important and such an offering should accommodate different price points and interests for South Africans – from luxury break-aways to fun family outings. Cooperation within as well as outside of the tourism industry is going to be essential to ensure we reach local demand. We will have to work together to package exclusive or special offerings and we will have to form clusters of trust – when it comes to the offering as well as health and safety practices.
- A Younger Audience
Those above 60 are considered to be at higher risk and is expected to travel less. While Millennials have already been an important market when it comes to an experience offering, now, even more than before, we also expect our market to be younger. Keeping this in mind when it comes to new offerings and new ways of communicating and marketing, will be essential. Establishing and maintaining a following of younger generations make good business sense in the long term.
With Corona-induced pressure on disposable income, it would be important to consider pricing and more affordable offerings. Many South Africans can afford and want to spend on exclusive experiences, but many want to bring their family for a meal or celebrate a birthday at a wine estate or in a restaurant. They should be able to afford that. I don’t believe we should compromise on quality, but we should focus on a wider variety of offerings with options that would be within the financial reach of local tourists.
It goes without saying that all offerings will have to be adjusted with the new Covid-19 induced state of mind – more than providing hand sanitizer and ensuring staff and premises follow best practice, consider the following:
- Make the most of your space and previously unused open spaces and adapt your offering to embrace those.
- Ensure offerings for intimate groups, implement a system of prior arrangement and bookings in order to manage the number of visitors. Set a maximum number of bookings allowed.
- Ensure that guests feel safe and are confident to come to your establishment. Communicate all your efforts on your website, via digital communication and on booking confirmations.
- Staff has to be exceptionally well trained – in best practice, but also in accommodating nervous guests. Even more than before, it is important to care for staff, to make them feel treasured and secure. Confident and secure staff will do a much better job of looking after guests.
- A New Take on Tourism
It is nothing new, but now, more than ever, it is important to take intimidation out of the wine experience. It has been a focus of us for many years, but when it comes to a more inclusive local market, it is crucial. Regardless of what you offer, there are a few important considerations:
- Be authentic. Less picture perfect, but more real and more transparent.
- Be entertaining, that is what tourism is all about. Be inventive and resourceful to ensure your offering stays entertaining despite all the new protocol.
- Care. Ensure your staff understand that guests might have strange requests or insecurities. Be sure to go the extra mile to accommodate needs and safety requirements.
- Embrace social distancing – it is here to stay for a long time. Make plans to accommodate a need for space and safety. Ensure your offering and facilities cater to smaller or more intimate groups and allow more distance.
- All offerings should keep health and safety in mind and make guests feel comfortable.
- Implement a system of guest feedback in initial months of operation to gauge effectiveness and shortcomings.
- Options are important – when it comes to what to do and what to pay.
- Tailor – be open to adjust offerings to suit customer demand – especially important in the luxury market (customisation).
- Doing it Digitally
Digital marketing will have a more personal face in future and investment in digital is non-negotiable. It is much more than e-commerce, it is about a new way of thinking.
- Online shopping has increased significantly since lockdown, but virtual story telling is what we need in tourism. It has to be clever and engaging and interactive rather than just putting out content.
- We need to touch people with our stories and our communication without having them at the estate. You have to make an effort to engage with them – at their homes.
- It is important to ensure you have your platforms in place. You are only as good as your distribution and that is also true for digital. Collaboration here is also important, especially for smaller businesses or those new to digital platforms.
- Unlock the potential of online cooperation. Influencers might be a contentious subject, but Corona has forced us back to online word of mouth. Make sure you work with reliable and relatable influencers.
- Technology brings you into someone’s personal spaces and as Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold said, it is important to be “top of heart” and not only top of mind. Brands have to endear themselves to their online community. Wine experiences have to connect with their audience in a way that is not only about the sale.
We will have to be very innovative to ensure the survival of our tourism businesses, but if we measure all efforts against whether they’re done in a spirit of caring and whether we are open to collaboration, I think we have a good chance.