By Vanessa Fagard on 3/13/20 10:25 AM
The COVID-19 is forcing all of us to react, and that in a prompt and responsible manner. No matter which industry or which actor, we all start to come closer to experiencing the impacts as the virus keeps being a justified headline to every news channel.
But how to react if you do not clearly know what to react to?
The media is full of information about the humanitarian and economic impacts of the Coronavirus in all areas but also specifically the travel and leisure industry.
While we believe it is smart to leave it up to the experts in each field to talk about how this impacts health but also revenue, distribution, and economic measures, we summed up a couple of points that might help you to react in a reasonable and impactful manner.
Yes, it might be time to prepare yourself for multiple scenarios - but it is not yet the time to believe business in 2020 will be lost. Below we used insights about practices we saw to be working for some of our partners within the leisure industry who try to handle the current situation responsibly.
React accordingly - here is some actionable advice:
If you are part of the leisure industry you have, just as we did, experienced this a lot lately. The ITB 2020 in Berlin, an event of industry giants, one we never thought would be canceled, did not take place. And “according to a recent Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) survey, 65% reported that they had canceled meetings or events due to the coronavirus.”
Cancellations seem to be especially now, at the start of the more major outbreak, one of the most pressing topics to handle. However, it is essential to see that a lot of these events and bookings are only momentarily canceled, meaning that in many cases they are rescheduled.
> Your task is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to reschedule with you.
They booked with you for a reason, they were excited to come to you, and they will appreciate it if you enable them to postpone this enjoyment until they feel more secure again.
> Make it possible to buy undated tickets.
This will give your customers a sense of security and control over their visits, despite possible developments.
If you cancel offline, it doesn't mean you cannot connect online. Here at Convious we were 100% prepared for the ITB; we had a stand, we had some networking meetings scheduled, and even some talks we wanted to attend to. What did we do when the ITB was canceled? We created a digital booth and rescheduled our meetings; some of them even took place online. The ITB itself also started gathering and creating digital on-demand and live keynotes and discussions for everyone to tune in to online.
2. Panic & Hysteria
As the World Health Organization now officially declaring COVID-19, a pandemic, the rising numbers of infected people and the growing number of lost lives are creating panic. Especially the media contributes to this hysteria.
We therefore highly advise you to read up on this topic on a reliable source to not buy into the artificially created hysteria of some unreliable channels and poorly founded word-of-mouth out there. At the bottom of this blog post, you will find a list of sources we recommend. Maybe also attach this to your website and make it available to your visitors to ensure we are all updated accurately.
As for actors within the leisure industry, expert statements such as the virus possibly being “the worst travel crisis since the September 11 terrorist attacks,” and the apparent financial repercussions are starting to shake the ground we are standing on - but try to keep your feet steady! We are not giving up just yet. Yes, indeed, all of us will have to slow down for a while, as some venues might have to stay closed longer than expected, but we will help each other speed up again once the conditions allow it.
> Don’t forget that there are people on the other side of the spectrum.
Also see that there are many people “It is a bad virus, I understand that! I will be cautious, but I will not stop living my life because of it.”
> Care for those who have concerns - secure them, take their worries by responding to their questions.
Concerns should be taken seriously at all times.
Show them that you acknowledge them by responding to questions and inquiries.
However, you should show what reality is like at your venue - most likely, they have frightful expectations connected to the fear of getting ill at your venue. By presenting a clear and real picture of the situation, you may reduce their perception and the image they created out of worry.
One way to do that is by providing them with facts on the current situation at your venue, and clear standpoints on how you handle and incorporate precaution measures.
> Take measures to avoid unnecessary crowds and gatherings at your venue the best way possible and clearly communicate that with your customers. A good tool here is managing visitor spread to ensure your venue is not as crowded anymore. As an example, you can set lower maximum capacity limits.
It will show you take this topic seriously and try your best to ensure their safety at all times. If they see that coming to you does not involve getting lost in a sea of people - it will probably reduce their concerns and fears on whether to go or not.
3. Unusual requests
Insecurity and maybe even fear will cause and already causes customers to ask and request information and actions of you that might not be within your daily practice.
> Be open, be ready, be adaptable.
This counts for your communication and for your practices - use your contingency plans but also train your employees to act responsibly in non-expected situations. Accept that you might have to move away from formerly successful procedures and make space for reactive actions.
> In the spirit of adaptability: Consider a Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) policy.
We know that adding this policy might only add extra insecurity to your business operations at first glance. But try to see it from a different perspective - people want to book with you for the future but are worried about getting ill, or losing money without going. Then they see they can cancel in case of emergency - so they book because they feel safer: now, if it gets worse, then they will most likely cancel. And yes, in that case, you lose a customer. But that is an if scenario with two possible outcomes: a new customer or no new customer.
Someone who wants to book but is worried about the developments and sees that there is no way to cancel with you will probably not book at all - leaving one single scenario: no new customer. Do you see the difference?
And not to forget! As mentioned before, there is always a way to engage a customer in rescheduling before the final cancellation.
> Be flexible in pricing options.
This one will give some security to not only your customers in having the opportunity to get different deals, but it will also allow you to redistribute sales based on your current situation and help out with the capacity limit we mentioned before. How can you do that successfully without crunching numbers all night and day? The answer is dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing reacts to any in demand or market conditions, and there are many forms this pricing strategy can take - starting from simple to highly advanced.
What it comes down to
One theme that seems to be continuous within everything we and other media outlets and organizations seem to point out is this: even if it is difficult to keep your calm, stay updated, and be ready for changes, but do not fear them.
Yes, the COVID-19 will most likely continue to have economic and societal impacts. If we act on facts and work together: we will adapt and find a way.
As a company with close partnerships within leisure, carrying a deep passion for this industry, we feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to help to minimize the impacts and losses of our partners, the industry, and society in general.
We try to live up to the advice we just gave you and decided to be more flexible towards our partners and change our approach and policies.
We are dedicated to helping you where we can in saving your season.
After all, we're in this together.