During vTREX, NTA’s online conference in November, WeTravel’s Head of Growth Lucas Ennis shared a recipe for success in a seminar titled “How to Instill Confidence in Your Travel Brand,” sponsored by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. His goal was to help travel companies move forward with a business in a world we share with COVID-19.
“The obvious point is that the world of travel is very different right now. Safety is at top of mind for travelers, but they want change,” he said.
Here are some steps he covered to boost consumer confidence in travel brands and how industry professionals can implement them at work:
Engage your customer base
Keep them informed, and show you’ll do what it takes to keep their business as travel restarts. Send a newsletter, organize virtual events, gather testimonials, and ramp up your social media presence. “Focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t,” said Ennis. “Don’t send a newsletter too often. Share what you’re doing. Make sure it’s meaningful for them.”
He suggested including plans for conducting tours safely in the itineraries you create and deliver to customers. He said to also include plans for your partners, like a transportation company you may be working with, and the safety guidelines for a particular destination.
“If an individual or group is going to travel in the next six to nine months, they’re OK with an elevated level of risk. They know COVID is out there, but they want to travel. Trips can be run safely. When they’re thinking about booking a tour, they’re going to want clear communications for safety practices within the company,” Ennis said.
That transparency and determination will develop customer confidence in your brand, and the more you strengthen its presence, the more your clients will encourage friends and family to book with you. Your customer base will grow over time—and that process will be aided by the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Maintain your online presence
During a time of uncertainty, this is something you can control. Your main objective is to show that you’re open—maybe not running tours, but preparing for travel’s return. Plan to make COVID updates on your website with a banner, drop-down, or pop-in, and be sure the information is relevant and timely.
“It’s very important to point out what’s happening in the world,” Ennis said. If customers see you prioritizing these updates as well as [having] a plan for the future, they’ll trust your tours will run or are running effectively.
He also suggested getting creative on social media; for example, post how your tours run safely—like a PPE-clad staff shot or a graphical representation of your safety plan.
“Those little things you can drip on your followers will impress your customer base as you try to get back movement,” Ennis says. “Everyone has individual decision-making processes for when they want to tour again. And when they decide, your brand will be the right fit for them.”
He also said to encourage prior customers to leave reviews.
“Testimonials will be really powerful right now. And encourage your team to engage on social, too,” he said.
Other ways to utilize digital methods include taking bookings online (coupled with booking flexibility) and finding easy ways to grab the emails of those who visit your website to turn into leads.
Take care of your team
“Teams are different right now; they are unfortunately smaller, and many are down to the owner. Plan for what’s to come,” Ennis said. Regular communication about safety protocols is key (along with keeping them short and sweet with regular referencing), and the team may need new skills, like learning to de-escalate a situation where someone refuses to mask up, and coaching clients in social distancing.
“As humans, we’re used to connecting. We’re used to being with people. It’s not natural to social distance,” Ennis said. “Things will come up unplanned, but just talking about it is important. As your first tours (after shutdown) start to run, talk with staff about what went well and didn’t go well. The first tours out the gate are important to instill confidence. You must make sure they’re executed well. Clients will talk and share stories. And those are stories you can share out on social media to show the tours went off without a hitch. That’s important for building momentum and moving forward.”
It’s also imperative for your team to find purpose. “Travel is movement. We move people. That’s all but stopped right now, so it’s important to find new ways to win or feel like progress is being made,” Ennis said. If tours are currently not part of daily operations, he suggests putting on a virtual fundraiser for organizations like the National Park Foundation or offering a low-cost virtual tour.
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