The impact of COVID-19 has been felt around the world, but the travel industry is one of the industries that has been feeling it hardest over the past few months, writes Cameron Holland CEO of Luxury Escapes.
We’ve never seen an impact like this on the travel industry and people’s ability to travel, with significant travel bans, border closures and mandates not to travel taking a huge toll on Australia’s tourism operators. While these restrictions have been crucial to containing and managing the COVID-19 outbreak, as we now begin to see an easing of restrictions across Australia it’s important for travel and tourism businesses – and consumers – to plan for the road ahead.
Prioritising customers during a crisis
At Luxury Escapes and for many of our travel industry colleagues, the first priority was to move quickly to respond to a significant increase in customer enquiries and booking changes. Our team had to quickly go from changing around 1000 bookings a month to over 50,000 since March. To make sure we could work 24/7 to answer calls, emails and social media queries we increased staffing in our contact centre and redeployed and retrained staff from other areas of the business to support during this time.
Supporting customers’ individual needs as the situation changes and evolves is crucial for all industries during this time, but for travel companies this provides an opportunity to keep the conversation going and demonstrate your commitment to helping your customers when the world does return to a more normal state. This is because many customers will want to rebook or organise new dates for their trip once they are able even if that is to a different .
A focus on flexibility
In order to change thousands of customer bookings without our customers having to lose their holidays altogether, we worked with our suppliers across cruise, tours, flights and accommodation to extend travel dates and validity well into 2021. This is a consistent approach across the industry, and we’re calling for customers, where possible, to delay instead of cancelling. For many businesses – particularly the local, small business ground operators who have gone from thriving to no travellers literally overnight – being able to hold onto existing bookings is crucial for surviving through this period.
In the next six-twelve months, as situations continue to change quickly and restrictions vary across Australia and the world, travel companies (and consumers) will need to integrate flexibility into their planning. Travel companies should be prepared to enable booking date changes online and revisit their policies in light of the current state. We re-introduced a ‘Buy Now, Decide Later’ feature, where customers can choose the destination or deal they’d like to book, without having to select dates upfront.
Rediscovering our own backyard
Coming off the Black Summer bushfires, we were already seeing a rise in domestic travel plans and purchases earlier this year. While we may be limited in our movements at the moment, the possibility of international travel bans being extended months into the future and possibly well into 2021 will have all of us scrambling for a local holiday post-isolation.
As intrastate and then interstate opens up again in Australia, we can expect that the security and control of taking a trip in your own vehicle will enjoy a bit of a renaissance. Driving holidays to regional destinations (not just city or beach stays) will be a crucial part of the overall lift in the tourism economy in Australia in the coming months, particularly for areas already affected by the bushfires. We may also see a mixture of fly and drive holidays, where travellers fly to a destination then pick up a campervan to tour locally. What we do know is that Aussies desire to travel and see world won’t disappear and we’ll eventually get back to doing what we love at some point in the future.
Want more? Get the latest coronavirus news and updates straight to your inbox! Follow Kochie’s Business Builders on Facebook, Twitter
Now read this