Anticipating the Return of Travel: How to Prepare
In the first part of this series, we discussed the waves of travel we expect to see as the industry slowly begins to pick up again. As this happens, there are some steps that tour and activity operators will need to take to make experiences safer and give travelers peace of mind. While we’re all excited for travel to return, we know the industry will look a little different from what we’re used to. This guide will cover the policies and procedures that businesses will need to consider, how to communicate them, and planning ahead to anticipate and address travelers’ questions.
Update Your Policies & Procedures
You’ve probably already started thinking about the policies and procedures your business will need to put in place so you can resume operations safely. This is important for the safety of your employees and customers, and it will also help travelers feel more comfortable when booking a tour or activity.
Health & Cleanliness Considerations
It goes without saying that new standards and expectations around hygiene have emerged in the industry, and they’re likely to stick around for some time to come. New policies around sanitizing equipment, limiting staff and customer numbers, and wearing PPE are becoming standard and will help ensure that you’re not exposing anyone to unnecessary risk. It will also be important to train your staff on any new procedures to ensure they’re enforced correctly. If you haven’t put new guidelines in place yet, you can start by reviewing our checklist for providing safe experiences, which includes policies to consider as well as how to communicate them to staff and customers. You can also review the IAAPA reopening guidance for the attractions industry.
Pro tip: Use digital meeting tools like Google Meet or Zoom to hold a virtual training(s) for your guides so they’re up to speed and ready to go the moment you open your doors again. Take this training time to not only address new policies and procedures but to keep your guides fresh on hot industry topics relevant to your tour or activity.
Payment & Gratuity Procedures
When your doors re-open you might find that the ways people prefer to pay and tip will be a notable change. Taking payments has traditionally been a high-touch scenario as credit cards and cash exchange hands. As we all aim to reduce unnecessary exchanges like these, it’s worth considering whether there are changes you can make to payment processes to help increase health and safety. For example:
- Eliminate in-person payments by encouraging customers to purchase their tickets online in advance.
- Customers who wish to wait to purchase a ticket on-site can do so via their smartphone by booking through your website.
- You will likely need to change the online booking cut-off times in your Dashboard to allow same-day bookings if this feature is not currently enabled.
- If you prefer to continue to accept on-site payments, consider only accepting credit cards (not cash).
- Dedicate a phone or tablet in your office for this purpose – you will need to sanitize it between customers – or better yet, explore touchless payment options.
- Clearly outline your payment policy on your website and explicitly outline your policies to customers who call on the phone to avoid any surprises when they arrive at your location.
- If you or your tour guides accept tips, offer ways customers can do so safely without exchanging cash, such as by using mobile apps like Venmo to tip guides directly, or by adding a gratuity option at the point of sale.
In the first part of this series, we mentioned slot scheduling as a useful tactic that hotels and other shared facilities are using to limit the number of guests in public spaces and ensure that social distancing guidelines are followed. Slot scheduling will be crucial for tours and activities as well, allowing you to control the number of customers using equipment or enjoying an attraction at one time. As a FareHarbor user, you already have the capability to allow customers to book specific time slots in advance online, so you’re one step ahead!
Pro tip: Consider whether you need to change the number of customers who can book into a time slot as well as other factors, such as the amount of time needed between time slots to sanitize equipment or shared spaces before the next group of customers.
Refund & Cancellation Policies
Refunds and cancellations can be tricky for a business — because your goal is to drive revenue — but the reality is that travelers don’t want to feel bound by their bookings in these uncertain times. It’s crucial to have a flexible refund policy that allows customers to cancel their bookings, especially if they fall ill. The last thing you want is for a traveler who is potentially sick to come in contact with your other customers and staff. Additionally, with travel restrictions quickly changing, it will be particularly difficult for travelers to feel certain of their plans, and a flexible cancellation and refund policy will make them feel more confident when booking a tour or activity because they don’t risk losing their money if they are forced to cancel.
Will there be some abuse of your flexible policy? It’s possible. But is it worth it to keep everyone safe and encourage bookings now? We think it is. Find tips on how to prepare for refunds and cancellations on our actionable resources checklist.
Communicate Your New Procedures and Current Offerings
Once you’ve done the hard work of thinking through your new policies and procedures, you’ll need to communicate these changes to your customers — existing and future — to make sure they know they can safely book a tour or activity with you.
Update Your Website
Your website is the first logical place to outline your safety and cleanliness standards. Read up on how to update your website accordingly. Additionally, the FareHarbor Dashboard has a brand-new feature that allows you to add new policies to the book form so customers have it readily available as they’re booking their activity. You can learn more about how to manage your Health & Safety Policies on your Dashboard at our Help Center.
Use Email Marketing and Social Media
Email and social media marketing will prove to be a great way to get in touch with past customers and others interested in your offerings as they get ready to travel again – keep your customers informed about what your business is doing to adapt and the safe (and fun!) experiences you have to offer. Find more tips on communicating through these platforms on our safe experiences checklist.
Update Your PPC Ads or Create New Ones
With new travel priorities come new search queries that customers will use to find safe experiences. Some travelers may only search for private tours and activities, or they might be focused on predominantly outdoor experiences. Search trends have been changing rapidly, and while certain keywords worked well a few months ago, odds are your PPC ads could use a refresh. If you’re currently running PPC ads – or plan to resume your ads after having paused them – take the time to review your ad structure and consider whether the keywords you’re targeting line up with what searchers are looking for.
Our checklist on optimizing your PPC ads is a great place to start!
Pro tip: Determine if you need to change the geotargeting of your ads to focus on local travelers, as local travel and drive-to locations are part of the first wave of travel to return. Geotargeting allows you to specify the locations you want your ad to show – and you can optimize the ad copy by location.
Consider Using Web Chat
Travelers will have a lot of questions as they plan their next trip, and being available to answer these questions in a timely manner will be important. Consider whether it makes sense to add web chat to your website so you can quickly address customers’ questions and special requests, making it easier for them to decide to make a booking with you. Learn more about this option on our web chat guide and check out our Software Partnerships page on Compass to learn more about companies FareHarbor partners with.
Planning & Logistics
The pandemic has made it abundantly clear that, while no one wants to think a crisis is coming, it’s important to prepare for one nonetheless. Planning for travel will be more thorough than it was before, as people need to think about a variety of new factors when deciding where to go, where to stay, and what to do – so anything you can do to quell customers’ concerns will help you in the long run. Anticipating travelers’ questions and answering them on your website, in email communications, and beyond will go a long way in putting their fears at ease and creating trust in your company.
A great benefit of increased traveler planning is that advanced bookings should increase over last-minute bookings! Additionally, it will give you as a business owner peace of mind to know you’re prepared and have contingencies in place for all kinds of situations that may arise. As we mentioned earlier, be flexible with your cancellation policy and be prepared for changes. Think through the following scenarios:
- What would you do if someone — staff or customer — doesn’t follow your protocols?
- What would you do if an illness is traced to your facility?
- Do you need to reprint any of your marketing materials to reflect any changes you’ve made?
- Do you need to put up new signage to make adherence to your policies easier?
- Can you replace in-tour physical handouts with digital ones, or can you use an app that customers would need to download?
- Are you responding to reviews and social media posts? This is more important now than ever!
- Do you need new equipment or supplies or to modify existing equipment? (E.g. touchless check-in, removing seats to reduce capacity, etc.)
Be sure to think through every possibility to ensure that reopening your business will go as smoothly as possible. Of course, you’ll learn a lot along the way, but being prepared will give you a solid start.
All this preparation will better position your business to accommodate travelers who have a new set of concerns but are still eager to explore. Resiliency and flexibility will give businesses a better chance of coming back stronger than ever. Doing the work in advance of the return of travel will give you a leg up when it comes to making your customers feel safe so they can put their worries aside and just enjoy the experiences you have to offer. For more on how our industry is adapting, check out our industry insights guides.