The new normal created by the novel Coronavirus is starting to settle in, and among worrying about other things it can feel scary to have your business’ doors closed or be running at a much slower pace than you’re used to. A great way to help us all get through this is to focus on what we can do with what we have in abundance: TIME. Take this time to plan for your business’ future, review your operations, and stay connected with your community.
Using this time creatively to revamp your strategies will help you succeed once tourism is back up and running, and it will help you make up for the lost revenue by reaching new and existing customers when they’re ready to travel again. This guide offers a variety of SEO, business, and marketing tips you can implement right now to make your road to recovery easier!
1. Encourage Customers to Purchase a Tour or Activity for the Future
There’s a sharp desire right now to help local businesses and one of the ways to capitalize on this is to make sure you are set up to accept gift cards for future use. We all hope to be able to enjoy the activities we’re longing for right now, and gift card revenue will help keep many businesses afloat in these trying times. Gift certificates work particularly well for people who had to postpone celebrating an important life event, such as a birthday, anniversary or graduation.
Use your website and social media accounts to sell and promote gift cards. Get creative and personal with your gift card messaging and be open about what your business is going through right now — a lot of people can probably relate. If applicable, highlight that one of your goals of selling gift cards is to help support your guides and employees as well.
If you’re still receiving cancellations for later in the year, try to be flexible and encourage a credit for future use or a rebooking instead of a refund – while this is not technically a gift card, it is still revenue you can reasonably expect to collect in the future.
Pro-tip: When issuing gift cards or refunds, ask customers for a review. Travelers know what a difficult time this is for the industry, and they’re likely to be willing to share their positive experience with your company and tell others about your flexibility and hospitality.
2. Use This Time to Build Brand Awareness and Trust
Your brand is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have, as it represents your company’s purpose and mission. Now is the time to think about the long-term benefits of building a smart, effective brand and to reinforce your brand identity. Use some of your current downtime to work on your brand through social media posts, email marketing campaigns and website branding updates, including refreshing elements of your visual identity such as your company logo or brand colors.
Share the story of your business. Create or update the About page on your website – share the tale of how your business came to be and why you’re passionate about the tours or activities you offer. The more you can humanize your brand the better. If you don’t already have a company mission statement or purpose, now is the time to put one together.
3. Stay Engaged Digitally
Don’t stop communicating just because you aren’t currently operational. This is important for your business as well as for your mental and emotional health, as it provides a way to stay in touch with people when we’re all feeling isolated. Digital engagement builds brand trust by showing who is behind your business and demonstrates that you care about staying in touch with your customers. Communicate with inspirational content as well as practical items like updates to various business policies.
Here are some ways you can stay engaged.
- Get creative about fun social media posts, IGTV videos, or live streams on Instagram or Facebook. People are looking for ways to engage their minds and bodies right now, so think about new ways to use your expertise to help people out. Here are just a few examples, but the possibilities are endless.
- If you’re a sailing expert, teach people how to tie a variety of knots using items they can find around the house.
- If you’re a kayak or canoe guide or instructor, share some exercises to build arm strength.
- If you offer crafting classes or activities, do a live tutorial people can follow along at home to create crafts with household items.
- If you offer food tours or cooking classes, do a video on making a great meal with simple pantry staples.
- If you offer hiking tours, share a list of places where people can go for a socially distanced walk in your area.
- Run a social media contest or giveaway where people can win a tour or activity to be redeemed in the future. You can ask people to submit photos or stories and choose the best one, or just have people comment on a post and randomly select the winner. Just be sure to read up on the sweepstakes and promotion laws in your state to ensure you’re in compliance. This article is a good place to start.
- Join Facebook groups in your industry and follow other social media accounts and engage with them to foster a sense of community. Some groups to check out: Tour Operators United and Tour & Activity Owners Worldwide.
- Market your company’s merchandise and encourage people to support you in ways other than booking a tour or activity. You can post pictures of you wearing your swag and encourage customers to do the same to show their support.
Pro-tip: Use your tour guides! Your guides are your greatest asset, allow them to do what they do best and to tell their stories. Consider highlighting your guides and feature their expertise in social media spotlights.
Take a look at your email marketing strategy and how your emails are performing. Take a deep dive into your data, update your email lists, or put together a plan for future emails. You can take this time to learn more about email marketing metrics, brush up on best practices, and more.
If you need to get in touch with your customers to update them on the current situation and the steps your business is taking, check out our email marketing tips for communicating about coronavirus.
4. Try Your Hand at Putting on a Virtual Tour
Virtual tours are a win-win for both businesses looking to bring in new sources of revenue as well as for people stuck at home looking for ways to satisfy their wanderlust and to try something new. Learn more about getting started with a virtual tour or digital class in our recent Compass article. The beauty of creating a virtual tour or digital experience is that you can re-purpose an existing tour to work in a digital format, but you also have the freedom to dream up an entirely new product to add to your portfolio. Better yet, you don’t have to stop running your virtual tours when the travel industry normalizes — this could be an entirely new revenue stream for years to come. If you aren’t ready to offer a full virtual tour experience just yet, try putting together a video that highlights your business.
Pro-tip: This is a time for our industry to come together, so spread the love and share other companies’ virtual tours as well! You can also ask them to share your virtual tours in return, exposing each of you to new audiences.
5. Map Out Your Wildest Dreams
Entrepreneurs and small business owners are full of great ideas, and no doubt you have a laundry list of unique tour ideas that you simply have not had time to explore when you’re busy running your business. Take this time to think through and plan out how to turn your idea into a reality. Need some inspiration?
- Think about how you could expand to a new area, whether it’s adding a new route to your city tours, exploring a new dive site, or even expanding to a new city.
- Create a game plan for a brand new tour you’ve been wanting to offer, such as a new private tour.
- Get a new certification that will allow you to bring new offerings to your customers.
- Ask your tour guides what customers have been telling them they want to see and find ways to work that into your business.
- Explore transportation options that would allow you to make tours more convenient for your customers.
6. Think of Ways to Repurpose Your Services
In addition to offering virtual experiences and dreaming up new products, get creative with ways to repurpose your expertise to help your community, and your bottom line, in the current environment.
- Are you a photographer? Take photos of your city or town while streets and popular tourist destinations are experiencing reduced traffic (please follow your current stay-at-home guidelines). These can be sold to newspapers, magazines, or other publications, as well as be used on your own business website and social accounts.
- Do you run a transportation company? Consider using your company’s vehicles to help fulfill local community needs, such as distributing donations, taking masks to health care and grocery workers, and more. You can choose to charge for these services, provide them for free, or offer reduced rates depending on the situation.
- Are you a teacher by nature? Offer a class online to teach people how to make a meal from scratch, make homemade gelato, brew beer their own beer, and more. The possibilities for online classes are endless.
7. Start or Revamp Your Company’s Blog
Flex your creative muscles and stay in touch with your community with a business blog! Whether you’re starting a brand new blog or revamping your existing blog, one of the most common pitfalls of blogging is that people just cannot carve out the time to post when business is booming.
Pro-tip: Just get writing! You can post as you go or use this time to create a backlog of material to pull from in the weeks and months to come when some topics are more appropriate or relevant.
Use your blog to show that you are an expert in your field and to establish brand authority. What sets you apart from the pack? What do you do differently than your competitors? Done well, your blog can be one of the biggest drivers to organic SEO you have at your disposal. It is important to use your blog to be educational and to provide useful information to searchers – do not just use it to be self-promotional.
Depending on your comfort level, share your experiences during this difficult and unusual time dealing with the effects of the Coronavirus. Being open about what your company is going through can emphasize that human touch that future customers can relate to.
8. Focus on SEO
It can be hard to focus on SEO when you’re running all the different aspects of your business and conducting your tours or activities. But SEO is one of the most important technical things you can do to set your business up for success, driving qualified traffic to your website and making your business easy to find online. Now is the time to focus on planning for the future, and improving your SEO should be at the top of this list. In fact, ignoring SEO or simply letting it fall through the cracks in a downturn can hurt your business in the long run, because you are not guaranteed your “spot” on the SERPs – it has to be earned continuously.
Pro-tip: SEO is a zero-sum game. Your losses are someone else’s gains, and vice versa. SERPs are not “aware” of crises like the Coronavirus so this space remains competitive.
Organic SERPs are going to be more competitive than ever when our industry is back up and running, so it’s important to work on your SEO now. This is a good time to do technical SEO audits and content audits, work on your backlink strategy, and more. Explore these great free SEO tools for some ideas on where to get started.
9. Revamp Your Website
Your website often offers the initial introduction and first impression of your business, so it’s important to keep it optimized is set up to drive conversion. Use this time to review your website — looking at elements like headings, metadata, content, images, etc. — and decide which elements you need to work on, such as updating your activity descriptions or improving your booking flow. Use our website UX checklist as a guide to get started.
10. Work on Your Review Management Strategy
We could all use a little positivity right now, and highlighting customer reviews is a great way to showcase what makes your business unique while reminding people of how much fun they’ll have when they’re able to travel again. You can use this time to ask past customers to give you a review, share reviews on social and marketing emails, and think of other ways to leverage reviews to promote your business and give audiences a break from the news. Daydreaming about a future vacation can give us all a little hope!
11. Learn How to Leverage Local Partnerships
The Coronavirus situation has reminded us all about the importance of community. Domestic travel and local activities are likely going to pick up sooner than international travel, and this is the time to partner with local businesses to help bolster the community as a whole.
Learn about the FareHarbor Distribution Network and how local partnerships can help your business and your local tourism community.
12. Streamline Your Operations
There are plenty of general business housekeeping issues that take a back seat due to time constraints when your business is in full swing. You can use this time to focus on your operations and see where you can improve. Here are some things you can do right now.
- Identify inefficiencies you’d like to fix, such as making your check-in process more streamlined, refining your follow-up process with recent customers, and more.
- Analyze your financials and the ROI on your marketing efforts to identify what was working and what wasn’t, and plan how you’ll use your marketing budget in the future.
- Talk to your employees (remotely) to get their point of view on what can be improved and what has been working well in your company.
- Do some maintenance on your equipment so everything is ready to go the second the industry is up and running again.
13. Hone Your Skills
This can be a great time for you to work on those skills that you’ve been meaning to improve but haven’t had the time. Attend a FareHarbor webinar, explore other Compass guides, take an online lesson in your field, learn a new language, strategize with other industry professionals, and more! Make sure you’re focusing some time on yourself, your interests, and your personal and professional goals.
14. Take a Deep Breath
We’re living through a historic moment that is going to change what business looks like for a while. It’s important to take a deep breath and remind yourself that we can face these changes together and learn from them. While this list is full of productive ways to use your downtime, you should also be gentle with yourself and recognize that we all need a little downtime and decompression to deal with all the stressors that we’re facing right now. Make sure you’re taking good care of yourself and keeping a good balance between working to set your business up for success in the future and doing the things that soothe you, like face-timing with your family and friends or taking a meditative walk.
We’re going to get through this together. If you have questions about FareHarbor during the current situation, head over to our COVID-19 Resource Center. You can also check out our actionable resources checklist to make sure you’re doing everything you can to address your customers’ concerns during this time.