You don’t need us to tell you, but COVID-19 has absolutely decimated the travel industry. Thousands of businesses have folded, an estimated 100m jobs lost (a third of the global travel industry workforce), billions of dollars lost to the global economy.
But finally, after 18+ months of misery, we are starting to see the green shoots of recovery. Countries are beginning to reopen, domestic travel is booming, planes are beginning to take to the skies again, and travellers are starting to get itchy feet. If you’re a DMC and you’re still standing, first of all – well done! Secondly, you’re in good shape to benefit from the gradual return of travel. Here are eRoam’s five tips for making sure you don’t just survive COVID-19, but thrive in the aftermath…
Be Realistic & Be Prepared
First of all, a reality check. Just because things are starting to return to normal doesn’t mean that travel agents will be bombarding you with enquiries just yet. International travel, specially long haul, will be the last to recover – even those countries that have recovered and reopened domestically are either putting onerous quarantine conditions on foreign visitors or not letting them in at all, whilst the inconvenience of increased airline health & safety measures, and obtaining vaccine passports, is putting off a lot of travellers. So even if you’re in a safe destination, travellers aren’t going to be coming back in big numbers any time soon. Skift’s Recovery Index is a great snapshot of where our industry is at right now.
So use the downtime to make sure you’re ready for when they do. Check your cashflow and make sure you still have enough in the bank to ride out another quiet few months. Check if your regular suppliers are still in existence – it may be that some of your trusted partners haven’t survived the downturn and will need replacing. Check your staff – do you have enough staff for when things get busy again? Do you have too many? Keep up to date with global travel recovery and when your target markets will be travelling again. And make sure you’re fully aware of your destination’s current status and what the entry and quarantine requirements are for foreign visitors – they’ve almost certainly changed since you last checked!
Keep The Conversation Going
Marketing is more important than ever right now. Just because people aren’t travelling and your travel agent clients are twiddling their thumbs doesn’t mean you should let them forget about you, so make sure you keep in touch with them – regular personal emails, chats or phone calls with your key accounts will ensure you’ll be top of mind when they start selling your destination again. And make sure you’re using your blog, newsletter and social media channels to keep your customers up to date with what’s happening in your destination, especially if you’ve beaten the virus and are preparing to reopen.
Now is the perfect time to get creative and start developing new products and itineraries. Think about new destinations you’ve not sold before, new hotels or resorts you’ve not previously worked with, new experiences, new travel themes.
Research what travellers are looking for in your destination using Google Trends. Talk to your suppliers and see if they have any new products. Surveys suggest group and family travel will be a huge opportunity so make sure you have plenty of suitable products. And think about post-COVID traveller sentiment – indicators are that people will be looking for quality not quantity in their future trips, so go beyond the normal tourist packages and offer deeper, longer experiences. Sustainability will be a key driver too so make sure you’re using sustainable partners where possible. If your destination requires quarantine, get creative – a quarantine needn’t mean being stuck in a hotel for two weeks. Here in Thailand, many tourists have quarantined in beach resorts and on golf courses!
And think about selling more multi-country trips by partnering with DMCs in nearby destinations – if you’re part of a ‘travel bubble’, take advantage of this and partner with DMCs in other bubble countries.
Look for New Markets
Don’t assume that the markets you’ve always worked with will be enough to sustain you when travel restarts. If you’ve previously relied on markets that are suffering particularly badly from the virus, then you’re going to have a long wait before they start travelling again.
So think about potential new sources of business, and look at those countries whose citizens are beginning to travel again – if you’re not already selling to China, for example, you should be, as it’s likely to be one of the first countries to see large volumes of overseas travel. Look at different sectors you may not have handled before, such as adventure travel, beach holidays or luxury travel.
Now things are quieter than usual it’s the perfect opportunity to effect your company’s digital transformation. Those companies that survive and thrive after COVID-19 will be the ones who have a digital competitive edge. We’ve already briefly mentioned digital marketing, and having a well-designed, SEO-friendly website supported by a regular blog and social media posts is the bare minimum you should be doing here.
You should also be selling products online via your own website and via other online channels. Using a platform such as eRoam enables you to reach thousands of new travel agents worldwide at very little cost, and also allows your agents to build their own quotes and itineraries online in minutes, instead of waiting a couple of days for you to get back to them with a quote – that business model will soon be a thing of the past and those DMCs who are the most responsive are the ones that will survive. And eRoam gives you access to thousands of hotels and other suppliers in your destination without the need to spend days and weeks doing contracting.
Post-COVID, the DMC landscape will be more competitive than ever with fewer agents and travellers to go around, and only the strongest, the most creative, and the most digitally engaged will survive. At eRoam we are dedicated to helping travel providers find the biggest possible audience for their products and sell more trips at less cost, so please contact us today to discuss how we can help you.