At some point, I suspect everyone who has run their own business has wished they could hit the reset button. Maybe the business hasn’t evolved in the way you planned; maybe you don’t have the right clients, or you have the right clients but you’re not giving them the right level of service; maybe your team doesn’t have the right dynamic; maybe you picked the wrong tech solutions; maybe you’ve simply abandoned your original ideals in order to make revenue. However, once your business is established, starting afresh is simply unfeasible – you can’t simply dump your clients, get rid of your whole tech stack or fire your entire team, and doing it incrementally takes a lot of time. If only you were able to start again with a blank slate…
Well, now you can. COVID-19 has handed many travel businesses a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a fresh start and be the companies they’ve always wanted to be, rather than the companies they’ve become. Most of your clients are inactive (or no longer exist), and the same goes for your competitors. Your staff are either furloughed, or are no longer working for you. Those that remain are there because they’re key to your business, and are probably as keen on a fresh start as you are. And, with no travellers to handle, there has never been a better time to look at your tech stack and implement some new solutions – the old “We’re too busy to implement new software” excuse is now invalid.
So if you’re a travel company and you’re not only still standing but looking to the future, here are our tips for seizing this unique moment and making the most of the blank slate you’ve been handed…
We’re not suggesting you change your name or make yourselves completely unrecognisable – you’ve spent years building your brand and it’s an essential piece of capital. But maybe it’s time to think about a new corporate identity in terms of logo, colour scheme, web design etc, to freshen up your image and make it clear that you’re still in business and ready for the post-COVID recovery.
Rebranding not only gives customers a fresh look at your business, it also has a positive internal impact too and signals to your staff and stakeholders that you’re taking a new approach and changing the way you do things.
The exciting thing about having a blank slate to work with is that you can totally overhaul your range of products and services, look at what’s working and what isn’t, assessing what you’re good at, and looking at other opportunities you can move into. Think about new destinations, new niches, or new ways to exploit the relationships and partnerships you’ve built over the years.
If you’re a DMC for example, look at those hotel and transportation contracts and think about how you can pivot them to offer domestic packages to travel agents, or teambuilding/corporate retreats for local companies.
COVID has thrown up a lot of new travel trends, and in the months to come products such as domestic travel, insurance, healthy travel, and private trips will become increasingly popular. Watching trends and establishing which ones you’re in a position to capitalise on will be essential when it comes to recovering from the pandemic, and with a blank slate to work from, you can approach new trends unhindered by the “But we’ve always done it that way!” attitude.
Your competitive landscape will have changed considerably in the last year. Here in Thailand for example, a recent government estimate suggests that only 20% of the country’s tourism businesses are currently operational, and it’s probably the same where you are. Your closest competitors may have pivoted or gone out of business altogether, leaving gaps for you to exploit and customers to scoop up. So now is the time to reassess your competitor set, see who’s missing, and move to fill the space.
Your staff numbers will almost certainly have shrunk considerably, and those who are still with you are without doubt the ones you can’t do without. So talk to them, explain that you want to reset the business, and ask them for their ideas. What do they want the workplace to look like? Do they want to continue working from home? What skills do they have to offer that you haven’t previously tapped into? What do they think the company is best at? How do they see the future? If you’re going to keep your best staff through your reset, then they’ll need to feel involved.
Also give some thought to the future. If/when things return to normal, do you need to go back to your old staffing levels, or can technology do the job? Which staff do you want to rehire? What new roles will you need for Your Company 2.0?
Your service levels and processes have probably changed little in the last few years, so now is the perfect opportunity to overhaul them and start offering a much higher service level. Service will become increasingly important as travel recovers and the old ways of doing things – whether it’s online request forms, paper itineraries, or 24hr quotation turnarounds – simply won’t cut it.
Look at implementing an omnichannel approach to service. Think about how you can speed up your quotation process. Introduce online, real time booking. Think about how you can offer better service to your customers while they’re travelling. Your customers are getting more and more used to the instant gratification offered by the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Uber, and they’ll increasingly expect it from you!
We’ve said it many times, but COVID is increasing the pace of digital transformation across all business sectors, tourism included. Partly because it will give companies a competitive edge, but also because the hiatus caused by the pandemic has given companies the opportunity to implement new tech without causing too much disruption to their daily operations.
Now you are no longer too busy to implement a new inventory management solution, a new CRM, or a new online booking platform, so think about which areas of your business you need to improve: do you need to get into digital marketing? Is your old back office solution still up to the job? Can you handle online bookings? Are your systems capable of API and XML connectivity? You will never have a better time to upgrade your tech stack and you’ll also find solution providers more accommodating than ever when it comes to pricing and onboarding!
Opportunities for a genuinely fresh start don’t come along very often, so now is the time to seize the day and reshape your company into the business you want it to be. At eRoam we’re dedicated to helping travel companies survive and thrive in the age of COVID, with our innovative booking platform at the heart of the tourism industry’s digital transformation. To find out how we can help you, please contact us today!