Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Redesigning the Tourism Industry

Redesigning the Tourism Industry - What happens next?

The health of the global economy has always been inherently correlated with the hospitality sector; holidays go hand-in-hand with wealth, financial buoyancy, and good times. For tourism businesses who have been celebrating the incessant line of millennials on their doorstep, it is now time to re-evaluate, re-design and re-invent. While occupancy plummets and there is a deluge of cancellations - beyond the duration of current lock-downs, we know that a re-evaluation of the industry is the only option. Strategic investment of operational efficiency, revenue generation and cost saving may be what larger companies need to mitigate the downturn, but is it also time for some soul searching on what our business offer really is?

Some macro economical events are impossible to predict, and the exponential growth of travellers in the past decade meant unprecedented growth performances within the industry were followed by huge amounts of optimism. This rapid growth and fragile market which showed accelerated growth but an unsure footing, meant that at some point, the flooded tourism market and bloated airline and cruise figures (which had also lead to complaints about mass tourism), would soon come to an end. Although, we didn’t know how.
Anyone who remembers trying to negotiate with business forecasts during the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud understands the volatility of tourism predictions. We have, in some ways, been here before. However, whereas the industry was hit by cancellations and flight groundings then, we also had guests who were stranded and filled beds. And, more crucially, no one died. We have never seen contagion on this scale, nor the more threatening spread (for the youth segment) of the psychological side: the Panic Virus.

‘Going viral’ has taken on a new (old) meaning, and pandemics, or specifically COVID-19, have also caused a psychological spread of panic which will last much longer than government lockdowns. The ‘Panic Virus’ has caused alarmist reactions for a real virus that is less deadly than many other pandemics, but likely to leave the longest legacy in our lifetime. Although not to trivialise those affected, ill or loss of life, a global shutdown as a response is more down to mental and moral response than actual catastrophe. Given people’s propensity for sensationalist drama and a negative bias, this obsession with pathogens will be around much longer than business shutdowns.

We are confronted with an evolution of human reaction to disaster and presenting them with a business proposition based on a lot of socialising. We also have to contend with increased xenophobia: a huge psychological challenge to overcome on an individual response basis. In all likelihood, we will be fighting against neurosis, prejudice and racism long after we have all contracted the virus.

After Social Distancing

The absolute opposite to what we have been promoting hard for our businesses; people around the world are now being subjected to social distancing, isolation, and heightened xenophobic and racist reactions. The one thing we can hope for this, is that after the mental burden and stress of being subjected to social distancing; people will be desperate to get out there and see the world and unite. Whether they will have been bankrupted in the meantime remains to be seen; but one crisis at a time. As governments take pre-emptive measures to minimise impacts; so must the industry. Apart from deep cleaning and excessive anxiety: what will be left of our community? Unity. This is a time to take stock of business offers, re-evaluate how you operate and create efficiencies within your business model, re-invent ways to generate more revenue, and unite with your network.

A personal response in the age of Intelligence
As we search for new ways to increase revenue and the efficacy of our operations, we need to also turn to technology. We are transiting from the information age to the intelligence age, that huge amount of data needs to be transformed into insights that can actually be used, to leverage personalisation and to drive revenue. We need actionable results that will create a better guest journey. Despite the fact that this information has been there for a long time (we keep talking about what Millennials and Gen Z want, but who is actually providing that?) now this laggard attitude from the industry means stepping up to react to the behaviour of our demographics. Enabling dynamic individualisation (or to put it simply, creating a personalised user journey) relies on several lead factors, such as technology platforms, goods and services that are likely to convert, and data driven offers. If your business can survive a global pandemic, then every booking will count. The ROI becomes more significant in these times, but incremental revenue generation will be necessary to mitigate the losses.

The bottom line is: we don’t know when we can open our doors again, but we know that what we will be faced with will be different from before. As we unite to come out of these dark times, we must look at the renaissance that is possible. After all, one thing we have in common with the virus, is this is all a journey of evolution. With a Darwinian philosophy applied, we have to pursue the line that only the best will survive; and strive to be that.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

Keeping your Business Healthy

Keeping Your Business as Healthy as You Can

In times of crisis it is essential to look at the positives: every disaster creates opportunities. Although it may be hard to see those now with costs mounting and revenue sinking to zero, there are some practical steps to take now we are sitting on our hands, for both your online presence and your recovery.

Your Team

For hostels that are closed: many of you still have paid staff still on your books (although they may be trapped at home in isolation). This is a great time to task them with being creative - ideas, opportunities and to contribute to your social media. All the tasks that no one every has time to have: now is the time. Get them to make videos for 'meet the staff' talking about their favourite places in your destination, researching the best online travel blogs to share, and answering all your reviews. Not only are your guests along with everyone else now sitting on social media all day - they are also looking for positive news stories. This is the time to get to know your customers, and get social with them online, try to keep customer relations up, let's call it keeping in touch.

Virtual Tasks

With Real Life on hold and in crisis management phase, it could be a good time to do all those virtual tasks such as updating web content, checking SEO, editing your third party sites, adding new photos to Google Business, checking on your Tripadvisor. This is the time to spring clean your online presence and get more social. Delete all those old pictures, check for broken links, update your foursquare, everything that gets left to the bottom of the list. Think of it as a time for customer relationship management, and an investment in lead generation for the future.

For physical tasks I'm sure you're all busy bleaching your whole building, but it's also a great time to get things ready for receiving guests again with a clean and shiny hostel. Take down all those old posters, add a lick of paint, or fix those squeaky doors. Some things can be done without adding any more costs - so focus on those first. 

Some ideas of online activities to keep your audience engaged or things you can do when you open again:

  • Take people on a virtual tour of your hostel (for those of you open) or re-share old content to when things were more fun (Throwback posts)
  • Run a competition to win free nights stay when you open again!
  • Do you have video guides for virtual tours of your city that you can share? Many museums and galleries have them. Here is an example of a bunch of the world's best. There are also free concerts online worldwide, and theatre.
  • Meet the staff video interviews (staff can film these at home themselves - a couple of minutes about the best things to do in the city, why they love it etc. These don't necessarily have to be lockdown videos! Unless you have some great ideas to be funny)
  • Host an 'Ask Me Anything' #AMA on social so potential guests can ask questions about you and you will actually have time to respond. This should generate leads to bookings in the future
  • Communicate with your customers on social media - reply to comments etc (be social!), ask guests to write reviews so you can add some good ones
  • Try doing a 'secret city' where every day you post a less known tourist place in your city and get people guessing / tell people about it (to create intrigue to come visit later)
  • Get creative, look at ideas for new packages etc to encourage groups later (family and friends reunions?) The Hangover from Corona party will be massive.
  • If you have a loyalty programme, think of an incentives you could run (afterwards)
  • Do you have gift cards or a voucher? People could buy now (before they run out of money) and claim their discount or bed later in the year.
  • Decorate. Invite a local artist to paint a mural on a wall to make you selfie-tastic (if you are allowed out still)
  • Think of 'experiences' you can add to your business later - you have plenty of time for ideas
  • Promote your destination - work with local tourism boards. It looks like less people will be travelling when this all quietens down, and competition will be tough.
  • If you have budget, set up a PPC advertising campaign to run in the future (so when people start travelling again, your pay per click starts to run)
  • Offer stays to bloggers to get you promoted once they start moving around
  • Host events at your hostel - people will be desperate to interact socially
  • Create packages that include local activities to support businesses
  • Keep posting on Instagram! Everyone is sitting at home bored
For a look at the future of the travel industry after this crisis, check out article here.

We hope these tips can help you keep your business busy and inspire you to get creative. Let's try to look at the positives!

For help or advice for your business, contact us at hello@hosteldoctor.com and we will try to help you keep your hostel business healthy.