Tourism is arguably one of the most negatively impacted sectors of the economy under the global coronavirus pandemic. There will be inevitable impacts on travel and tourism in a post Covid 19 World and it's likely these changes will be felt for a very long time. But this also represents an opportunity for tourism industry role players, especially smaller SMME's to position themselves well and benefit from the recovery in the medium term. In terms of trends, this is what we are expecting and advising our clients to prepare for:
More domestic travel:
In the short to medium term, the market will be held up by domestic travellers and even more so from local (within their home province) travel. Consumer's tight budgets will reinforce local, shorter distance travel. Create opportunities to market and attract local visitors from your home province, focus your recovery plan on clients close to home.
Less International travel:
The bad news, no matter how you look at it, international travellers will be spooked, and for the foreseeable future there is likely to be some level of travel restrictions in place for international travellers. We unfortunately don't expect this to change in the short to medium term. It could very well become the norm, we just don't know.
More family breaks & younger travellers:
Covid 19 has already started changing people's values, we're seeing this play out daily. Expect a lot more family breaks as people seek quality time and experiences, and more young travellers. The dominant “baby boomer” international recreational travel market will shrink as older people travel less due to perceived health risks. Find ways to focus in on younger travellers, families and focus on rich experiences.
Less complex itineraries, small groups:
The financial recovery will be slow for domestic and international travellers, this will likely result in shorter breaks and less logistically cumbersome itineraries with a preference for travel in small groups. Tourists will not want to travel in big groups with strangers, we suspect the "social distancing" thinking will become a new norm in this regard. Tourists are going want to feel in control of their travel plans, especially if the uncertainty around travel restrictions remains in place to some degree. People will want the flexibility to change itineraries at short notice. Keep your terms as flexible as possible.
More leisure, less business:
Businesses have learned that doing business via video calling is possible and rather effective. Expect less conferences, large meetings and reps in favour of more leisure and seasonal tourists, who will be more activity and “things to do” focused. Sadly for many B&B's and city based accommodation, this could really dent mid week clientele.
New Unique Selling Propositions:
Aspects such as hygiene, affordability, connecting with family and nature, less crowded spaces, easy access, supporting small businesses, authenticity, niche markets, will all become more important selling points. Think hard around your business can start leveraging these and standing out from the crowds. Authenticity in particular has been a growing trend, something personal, unique, real and engaging, this is what tourists are going to want. Tell YOUR stories!
Post Covid 19, we’re likely to see highly competitive pricing as tourism businesses push for survival. The positive of this is that travel in South Africa could again become viewed as more affordable and a more competitive destination globally, especially with our weakened rand. This, if we are lucky, may offset the general, expected drop in international travellers.
What can you do now?
- Don't go underground.....businesses need to be extra active on social media, people are expecting businesses to close and when it comes time for travel and booking again, you don’t want people to “assume you’re not there” – make sure you’re in the front of people’s minds, active, ready to go. Put yourself in the best possible position to start ticking over again when the recovery comes.
- Tell your story ....people, especially local travellers will want to support local businesses. Be open, share your experiences, your business challenges, but also be positive and let people know what they are missing. Make it personal. People buy from people more than they buy from "businesses."
- Focus locally ....start preparing your local marketing campaigns now, start pushing these now. Your single best chance at recovery will be local travel, find a way to leverage this.
- Take a very critical and risk averse look at your value chains, is there a travel agent or tour operator you have traditionally relied on for a bulk of your business? How are they doing, can you still rely on them for future bookings? Start preparing plan B, C and D. Be more self reliant and find the strong links in your value chain to leverage, start conversations with your tourism partners, CTO,s etc.... now on how you can work together. Reach out and start building good industry relationships, it's always a solid strategy no matter what.
- Trust and reputation will be more valuable than ever in the industry, get to work on those social media profiles, those TripAdvisor reviews. Your online image and presence needs to be shiny shiny shiny!
- Instead of trimming your rates, find ways to improve on your value. A price war in the tourism industry is a massive risk which no one will win. People will always pay for value. What value do you give? Think beyond just the tourist experience, the value to your local community, to your staff, the value you provide through awareness, education, nature experiences, stories? Talk about these values, shout about them. These are things people will want to support.
Sadly many small businesses won't make it through this crash simply because they have a zero cash flow. It's tough times but as the old Chinese proverb says “The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” ....use this time to polish your gems. Improvise, Adapt, Overcome.
Use this time to get yourself ahead of the pack and we really wish you the best of luck in these very strange times, anyway we can help, please reach out to us anytime, even if it's just to brainstorm some ideas or get an outsiders opinion. We're always there to help and advise where we can!