There is little doubt that the tourism industry has been hit hardest during the pandemic. With lockdown and travel restrictions crippling the sector, it takes a canny operator to thrive.
Boutique tourism business Bunnik Tours was one company facing the brunt of COVID-19. Fortunately, experience, superior systems and an agile mindset allowed the business to get customers home safe during the thick of the pandemic and stay on the front foot as the crisis continued.
Chief Marketing Officer Catherine Kelly said when you tour to 80 countries around the world, assessing and managing risk is part of your everyday. She told Small Business First (SBF) this allowed the business to be savvy with its strategy and response to COVID-19. This ensured the best outcome for both Bunnik and its customers.
Real-time data and a proactive approach
“Being proactive is key to keeping the customer experience paramount, no matter what’s going on,” said Kelly. “So when the COVID-19 pandemic started to emerge, we had the systems in place to move fast. We cancelled our China tours very early on, followed soon by Japan and South Korea.”
Cancelling tours is one thing; however, getting customers home safe and sound during an escalating crisis kept the business on its toes. Having access to real-time data made all the difference.
“Our first priority was to get our clients home safely, and we worked hard to do exactly that. Our dashboard provides an immediate, real-time picture of where all our customers are at any given time, which meant we could work fast to return them to Australia.”
It’s not the first time the business used real-time data to support clients. Kelly says Bunnik relied upon Salesforce solutions to keep them up to date during the Sri Lankan Easter attacks of 2019.
“It has proved again to be critical not just in day-to-day operations, but in times of crisis.”
Clear communication builds trust
As the pandemic escalated and millions of people around the world were affected by the virus, Kelly says Bunnik’s customers became increasingly anxious. For many of Bunnik’s clients, trips of a lifetime were suddenly in jeopardy. With tours running into thousands of dollars, managing customer tension surrounding refunds was essential.
“Refunds in the travel industry are very complicated – we could be retrieving refunds from up to 40 different businesses in any destination, including airlines, hotels and ground operators. Taking the time to communicate that to our customers meant we could mitigate their understandable worry, reassure them and help maintain their trust in Bunnik Tours. One change we might see come out of this is a standardised set of terms and conditions for the travel industry,” commented Kelly.
With a variety of communication channels open to customers, Bunnik turned to Salesforce CRM to ensure customer records and conversations were up to date.
“Our CRM allows us to see the record of any previous conversations immediately. So we can respond consistently and appropriately, letting them know that we are taking care of them.”
Reinventing travel when borders are closed
As travel restrictions increased and nations around the globe closed their borders, Bunnik Tours faced the decision of repositioning the business to navigate the crisis. Rather than frame the situation as an obstacle, Kelly said the company looked for the opportunities.
“By using our existing resources in different ways, we could keep delivering unique and valuable experiences and services to our customers,” she explained.
While much of the industry was struggling with the seismic shift brought on by the pandemic, the Bunnik team launched an ambitious campaign to keep their clients engaged.
“By March 25 we had launched the ‘Still dreaming? Still, Bunnik Tours’ campaign to let our customers know that we are always here for them and we will still be here when we come out the other end of all of this.
Kelly told SBF she wanted Bunnik customers to continue to write bucket lists and dream of exotic locations.
“[For us] It’s not about selling a product, but about reassuring them that we, as a company, are not going anywhere. And when the time is right, we can take them everywhere. So in the meantime, they can keep dreaming.”
With borders opening across Australia, Bunnik again turned to their CRM and Marketing Cloud to tailor EDMs for customers touting their range of domestic tours. Kelly says this is where the Salesforce CRM’s segmenting tools paid dividends.
“By segmenting our databases, we could make sure our customers only received relevant and appropriate information. We never want to compound a client’s disappointment at a trip cut short or cancelled by sending them information on a product they can’t even access. Our CRM allows us to meet our customers’ hunger for content without jeopardising their faith in Bunnik Tours to do right by them.
Taking a social approach to marketing
Kelly told SBF Bunnik stopped print campaigns and instead switched gears to focus on using their existing resources differently. The aim: to deliver unique and inspirational content for their customers. Where the marketing team had previously focused on pumping out daily posts, Kelly now fine tuned Bunnik’s position as a valued expert.
“Marketing has adopted Social Studio to listen, publish and engage with audiences across the group’s different social channels. It streamlines planning and reporting and helps the team stay on top of what people are saying about the company and its competitors.
“We started posting less but with greater consideration for what our customers want at this time and have seen improved feedback and engagement as a result. Instead of listing the dozens of locations, we tour to; we now focus on one destination a week. We use multiple channels and make it come alive with deep dives into local food and webinars on amazing cultures. This way, we can maintain our reputation as experts in our field and stay closely engaged with our customers.”
This post originally appeared on Small Business First. You can read it here.
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