Working Through a Pandemic in the Travel and Tourism Industry

We are not in control.

That is what creates the fear that drives panic and hysteria when something like the Coronavirus hits.

We are not in control.

That is true to some extent but I do not buy into that notion 100%. We are not in control of how this virus is spreading from continent to continent, country to country, community to community. Nor are we in control of the health care system that is responding to this outbreak. We are not in control of the financial markets and how they are responding. So, what do we control? Our response, how we show up in the face of adversity.

On my podcast, Destination on the Left, I love to ask my guests to share a story of a time they faced a challenge or adversity and share how they responded to it. I enjoy learning about the creative solutions they came up with to mitigate the challenge. And here we are faced with a challenge that is shared widely by our industry. Conferences and events are cancelling, and people in certain areas are told not to leave their homes. In other areas they are told not to travel internationally or to take cruises. If ever there was a time to think creatively and to find solutions to help mitigate these challenges, it’s now. The following is a collection of four ways that we can help work our way through this travel pandemic.

Stay calm

I am a firm believer that attitude and mindset are the key to success. With so much fear and uncertainty circling the news feeds, that couldn’t be truer in situations like these. Remain calm, adopt a forward-thinking mindset and have a positive attitude. This will help you be open to solutions that you couldn’t see in a state of panic and negativity. Remember to stay calm and solutions will start appearing.

Get educated and use your network

Seek out unbiased and truthful information. If you have a peer to peer network – use them, post in chat groups, read chat threads, find out what others are doing to help you plan for your own approach. Rely on industry associations to help you navigate through the uncertainty. Destinations International held a webinar that covered topics such as modeling options for scenario planning, short-term expectations, legal implications and hotel industry outlook. US Travel has held conference calls on the topic and local Chambers of Commerce have offered insights into the HR implications. You don’t have to figure this out on your own, know that everyone is working through it together.

Prepare to pivot

Armed with this information, you can make plans for different scenarios so you are prepared to pivot when needed.

If you are an event organizer and you are unsure about cancelling or postponing your event, make a contingency plan. We will do X if the spread of the virus is contained. If it continues to snowball and spread we will do Y.

If you are a tour operator or travel agent and your customers are cancelling trips, prepare to handle those cancellations. Understand what trip insurance will and will not cover and remember how you handle this situation can make or break your customer relationships for future business.

If you are a destination marketing organization, consider refocusing your marketing budget to regional or drive-to markets for the short-term. Whatever the scenario, have a plan and be prepared.

Communicate

Never is it more important to communicate than during a time of uncertainty. Even if you don’t have all of the answers yet, communicating to your customers, employees and stakeholders will help ease some of the panic.  I have received countless emails from companies and organizations that I subscribe to with updates on their efforts to mitigate the situation.

Our local grocery store, Wegmans, sent an email letting their customers know while hand sanitizer is out of stock, they expect daily shipments and have instituted a limit of 3 per customer. Airlines have sent emails sharing their cleaning policies for their aircraft and how they are moving to go above and beyond to make sure the planes are clean and sanitized.

Now is the time to show your customers, employees and stakeholders how strong and resilient your organization or community truly can be. We will get through this travel pandemic with creative ways to mitigate the impacts of it. Those will serve us well for the next time we encounter a challenge. Because we most certainly will!