What To Expect – And How to Prepare – 7 Tips For Your First Post-Pandemic Busy Season
Successful vaccine rollouts and the dawn of summer in the northern hemisphere point to an upcoming busy season – the first busy season since the start of the pandemic for many tour operators.
In past years, you may have relied on resources like our checklist on preparing for your busy season to get ready for an influx of tour guests. This year, things might look a bit different. While the pandemic isn’t officially “over,” we are seeing signs that activities like travel (and tours and activities) are picking up again, especially as we approach the busy summer season.
Keep reading for tips on getting ready to welcome tour guests and how to prepare for your busy season (whether it’s this summer or later in the year) with the added challenges of coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Make Important Decisions Regarding Capacity & Check-Ins
Before you can make updates to your operations, website, and SEO/marketing tactics, you need to decide how you will be operating your tours as restrictions and lockdowns ease. Consider these questions:
- Do you need to continue limiting capacity due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns?
- How do you facilitate quick and efficient check-in that allows for as little contact as possible and limits long lines so people aren’t clustered in a single area?
Depending on the guidelines in your country, state, or region, you may be able to operate at full capacity (or closer to it than during the height of the pandemic). Consider what this means for your staff. For example, if you had to lay people off during the pandemic, do you have enough tour guides if you’re booking at full capacity? What will you do if your area imposes new restrictions that limit your capacity? For your first busy season following the pandemic, you may be able to increase your capacity slightly, but be conservative compared to past summers pre-pandemic.
Whether or not you increase capacity, it’s important to continue optimizing your check-in process to allow for social distancing and reduced contact. For example, offer an online check-in option or have guests fill out required safety waivers ahead of time through FareHarbor partners like Wherewolf and SmartWaiver.
Update Your GMB
Once you finalize the changes to your operations, it’s time to update your Google My Business (GMB) listing. If you made changes to your profile during lockdowns or your slow season (particularly for reduced hours of operation or reduced capacity), make the necessary updates for the summer season.
If you make any changes to your hours of operation or capacity announcements on GMB, make sure to update your website and social media accounts to reflect the same information.
Keep in mind that GMB is always adding new features, like the COVID-19 update section of your listing. Visit the GMB Announcements page to stay up to date on similar features and take advantage of them to best promote your business.
Revisit Your Health & Safety Policies
Communicating health and safety policies on your website was a huge responsibility during the pandemic. This will remain true even as lockdowns and restrictions ease. You’ve hopefully already made a health/safety policy page (if not, take a look at this guide). When was the last time you updated those policies? Have you increased the capacity on your tours or relaxed restrictions in any way? Update any of your terms to keep guests in the know.
Pro Tip: Even though restrictions are easing, guests want to know that you’re still taking precautions to keep them safe. Stay stocked up on hand sanitizer and disposable masks, and let guests know what PPE/cleaning items will be available to them during their visit.
Review & Unpause PPC Campaigns
Did you pause your PPC campaigns during the pandemic in an effort to tighten your budget? If so, it might be time to review those campaigns, unpause them, or even start some new ones to advertise for your upcoming busy season. Consider these questions:
- Has your budget changed from the last year or whenever you last ran ads?
- Do you have new tours/activities you want to advertise? For example, maybe you added a private tour option to support social distancing during the pandemic.
Brush up on your PPC knowledge and find the right campaigns for your business with our PPC guides.
Refresh Your SEO Elements
There are some major search-related changes coming up that could play a big role in how potential customers find your business this summer.
- Mobile-first indexing will be active for all websites by April/May. This means Google will crawl and index all sites from their mobile version. If your website is not mobile-friendly before your busy season, it could affect your traffic and rankings at the worst possible time for your business. Don’t worry! We have a guide to get the mobile version of your site up to scratch.
- Core Web Vitals and Page Experience will become a ranking factor starting in May. This means you can get a slight rankings boost if your website is optimized for page experience and uses quality content.
Beyond these two big updates, there are some other important SEO elements you might need to revisit. Make sure your page titles, meta descriptions, and page copy are all updated to match your current offerings. These might contain older copy with outdated hours of operation or COVID-19 information that needs to be removed or updated.
Review Your Software Partners & Third-Party Platforms
Software partners can help maximize efficiency and support your operational needs, which will become much more important as you start filling up your tours and activities during the busy season. Take action now to check pricing and renew necessary memberships – there’s nothing worse than having a membership expire in the middle of your busiest time of year!
While you’re at it, see if there are any new partnerships that might be worthwhile. One of our new partners is Sojern Digital Marketing, an agency that works exclusively with the travel industry and can help with your digital marketing efforts no matter where you are in the world.
Increase Bookings by Joining the FareHarbor Distribution Network
Looking for another way to get out of the lockdown slump? Join the FareHarbor Distribution Network! As you’re bouncing back and looking for more customers, the FHDN is a great way to instantly add new distribution channels and find customers who normally wouldn’t land on your website. Learn more about the FHDN.
The pandemic brought many changes to tour operations, websites, and your digital presence, but we expect our industry to come back stronger than ever – hopefully kicking things off with a great summer season.
Of course, there are some aspects of your business that will be the same as they were pre-pandemic, so it can’t hurt to brush off the cobwebs and get a refresher on additional ways to prepare. Visit our pre-busy season dashboard checklist and marketing/SEO checklist for more tips on how to make this your best season yet.