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Tourism in the Time of Covid-19

When you think about all the planning that goes into a vacation it’s disappointing to have to cancel due to a global pandemic. On the other hand, wasting the preparation that goes into an entire tourism season is far more devastating.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the tourism season is short, but mighty; bringing in more than $1 billion each year in revenues to the provincial government. It’s an essential part of our economy that was hit hard March 15 when the province essentially closed its borders to most of the world.

We work with a number of tourism operators and we know they’re being hit hard by Covid-19 and the fallout that will likely reduce travel for years to come. Tourism operators like B&Bs, restaurants, and attractions operators like boat tours and historical sites can still do plenty to wade through this crisis and come out the other side. Here are our best tips for tourism operators to continue to market their businesses.

1. Be there and be fair

Your customers have called to cancel and now you’ve got to refund a whole lot of cash you were depending on for the year. The first piece of advice we’d offer anyone in this situation is to be kind and compassionate to those customers. It’s how you respond in a crisis which will help them to decide whether to book with you in the future.

If you have a clearly outlined policy around deposits and holding back some administrative fees, that’s fine, but try and keep in mind everyone is having the same financial difficulties right now and whether they rebook in the future will depend on how you treat them now.

2. Stay Active

Show us your property, show us your offerings, take us on a tour of a local tourism hot spot or historic site (safely and at a distance from other people). Share your testimonials from past visits, show us the kinds of events you’ve hosted in the past.

Essentially, use social media strategically and to your advantage to ensure you're highlighting your every advantage to stay top of mind for when travel restrictions are lifted.

3. Giving Back

What are you as a business owner doing to help your community right now? If you aren’t doing something, don’t pressure yourself to get involved if you don’t have the capacity. However, if you’re sewing masks, making donations, allowing people to use your property to self quarantine after essential travel at reduced rates, you should be talking about it. In addition, if you’re not able to participate, share and like posts from those who can, the goodwill will go a long way to producing future partnerships.

4. Feed the Soul

Restaurants are doing a great job of getting delivery and contactless pick-up options out the door and people want to take a break from cooking from time to time. If you can avail of these options, do so. Post your menus online (high res photos please, no one will order if they can’t read it) and try special promotions or menu items to help people avoid ordering old favourites and try something new.

In addition, your kitchen staff can teach via video how to make your most popular dish (as long as you’re not afraid of giving away a secret ingredient!).

5. Change your Focus

More than likely travel restrictions will be lifted slowly, so refocusing on the tourists nearest you will be your best bet this year. Everyone will need a staycation after restrictions start to lift. Instead of going after the international traveller, think about the families who just want a change of scenery or to visit a local attraction for a second look at something they’ve taken for granted in the past. Change up your advertising strategy as well as your posting strategy to reach more locals and slowly grow that circle as global restrictions are lifted.

6. Clean it Up

Our final tip will be something to consider in the future: cleaning. Travellers - whether locally or nationally - will be caring much more about cleanliness and disinfection when eating out, staying in a hotel, or taking tours with operators. Beginning now, start talking about the quality of your cleaning processes and how you plan to keep your visitors safe.

7. Use this Time Wisely

Again, not every business owner will have the same capacity to make changes right now, but if you do, this is a great time to look at what opportunities are available. Can you implement a new booking system on your website? Can you have a photographer safely update the photos of your property or offerings? Can you partner with a local artist to hang new art on the walls or make rugs for the floors?

A Way Forward

This time is challenging for everyone, especially tourism operators. These tips are certainly a band-aid, but they can also help ensure your business is still around when we’re all ready to get out and experience this beautiful place again. If we can help you brainstorm other ways to keep operating, we’d be happy to schedule a meeting. Get in touch and we’ll figure out what Rogue looks like to your tourism business.

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