No one came out of 2020 doing things exactly the same as when the year began, and group travel professionals are no exception.
We live in a post-COVID world now, meaning the world as we previously knew it has undoubtedly been changed forever. Naturally, your approach to marketing your business and services should, too. But the path forward might not be so clear. You may now find yourself pondering, "Where do I even go from here?"
For advice on exactly how to elevate and adapt your strategies for future success, we talked with tourism industry expert Sally Davis Berry, who has decades of experience in travel. Here are her tips!
"Start the drumbeat now."
It's a great time to start talking about what's going to be available. Talk about exciting potential destinations now to plant the seeds, whether you're using e-newsletters, social media, or blog posts.
A lot of people won't be ready to travel right away, and that's OK. Rather than pushing hard for people to set out the moment they're vaccinated, use this time to build connections. Make your business known, so people turn to you when they are ready. For example, it's always nice to showcase your employees and their interests, so travelers see the faces and names behind the scenes.
Don't overlook video software.
There are lots of ways to use services like Zoom, and you'd be surprised how many people have become familiar with it over the past year—even demographics that used to avoid technology. Bundle in an activity like a free virtual cooking class featuring cuisine from their destination, giving clients more value and making them excited for travel before they even leave the house.
We're not going "back to normal."
Much like 9/11, this pandemic will likely change nearly every aspect of travel in some way. So instead of wishing things would go back to how they used to be, focus on the future. Frame the situation in terms of, "Do you miss meeting new people, places and cultures?" We want to go forward, not back.
Be even more flexible than you think you need to be.
If there's one thing keeping people from making plans right now, it's uncertainty. You can assuage those fears by being understanding and lenient. This is especially true for suppliers—if you want to get people in the door, you may need to ask for deposits later, and reduce your group minimums, etc. "I think tour operators will remember you when you are like that," Berry said.
Your photography should reflect the new reality.
When people see an ad with a group of people standing close together with no masks, we notice—and not in a good way. Your marketing should also capture the diversity of our country, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because you want every potential client to feel welcome. Consider taking some new photos and knocking out both birds with one stone.
Expect a proficiency gap.
Across the economy, experienced workers have been laid off in order to keep businesses afloat. This means some places, like hotels, are promoting inexperienced workers to higher positions. It's going to take time for a front desk worker to learn how to be a great salesperson, for instance. If you're a tour operator, be patient and do what you can to help them. If you're a destination, Berry says this is "an opportunity to provide service to their partners by offering training for sales skills and understanding the group tour industry."
All advice comes from Sally Davis Berry, tourism industry expert. Berry provides consulting services and marketing expertise, and runs Tourism Pro Academy, which has online courses and free resources for tourism professionals.
Written by Josh Veal, Contributing Writer for Groups Today.
This article originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 2021 issue of Groups Today.