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COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Tourism Businesses

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COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for Tourism Businesses

By Rebecca White
Published on March 19, 2020

Our hearts are breaking for our Industry at the moment.

On top of Australia’s bushfires at the start of the year COVID-19 is bringing the tourism industry to its knees, not just here in Australia, but globally.

While there’s plenty of official information from Government and National/State Tourism Organisations on support for industry, here are 3 practical things to help guide your focus right now, and then 4 more ideas to think about working on in the coming months.

If you work in Destination Marketing, we have a COVID-19 Immediate Response Action Plan for you too. As for Visitor Servicing staff, stay tuned, as we are pulling an article together for you as well in the coming days.


Priority 1: Pivot and Innovate your Experience

If you haven’t already, how can you adapt and innovate your tourism experience in light of current health and travel restrictions?

It looks like we’re going to be in this current new normal for at least 6 months (from March 2020), if not longer.

While it’s changing by the day, think of what you can do with the current restrictions, but also have a plan if we do all move into partial or complete lock down on domestic Australian travel (eg. as Tasmania has announced on March 19th).

How can you adapt your experience to:

  • Keep your staff and customers safe and healthy (based around health requirements by government) with social distancing/social isolation requirements?
  • Still delivery a great experience AND deliver an experience people are still happy to spend money on?

Your residents and nearby communities are going to be a cornerstone for keeping many of your businesses afloat over the coming months.

So, perhaps think about how you can adapt your experience for local communities? Many hospitality businesses such as cafes and pubs are offering phone orders/take away/home deliveries/delivery to their car for example.

If your business can, sell your product/experience/service online. Then let your community know about it, as everyone is looking to support local businesses. This includes:

  • Wine and Food
  • Products and Retail
  • Gift Vouchers

For those businesses relying heavily on international visitors, look at how you can innovate + pivot your current business assets to deliver a product/experience for domestic travellers? People travelling for business? Small group corporate travellers? Families self driving for local trips in school holidays? Couples travelling on their round Australia trip?  Profile and Journey Map them and adapt/test products for them.

Great examples we are seeing (and will continue to add to) are listed below.

 We’ll keep adding to this list as we see/hear great examples.  Please send them through or tag us on Facebook.


Priority 2: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Everyone’s hurting right now, and no-one has the answer as to when this crisis will be over.

But what we can do is keep in touch via phone/online meetings (not email).

Reach out and use it as real opportunity to build even better relationships with people around you who are also being affected.

Keep in touch with staff. Be open, honest and transparent. Share your challenges in keeping the business open and financial. Get their help with ideas for Priority Area 1 and also ideas further down in this blog. Do what you need to do to look after them mentally as well as financially where you can.

Keep in touch with your customers. Use all your channels you have to keep them updated on what’s happening, and how you are adapting/evolving and looking after them as best you can. Discovery Parks sent this good example out recently. Also check in how they are going (lovely example by Golding Wines)

Keep in touch with businesses in your region/sector. Get on the phone or a Zoom meeting.  See how they are going. Brainstorm ideas with them on how you can get through this tough time via product innovation. Be there for each other.

Also keep in touch with your industry colleagues, Visitor Centres, Regional Tourism Organisations, State Tourism Organisations, Tourism Industry Bodies.

  • Tell them what’s happening for you. What’s the impact it’s having on staff/finances/mental health etc? (Some have surveys already to collect this info).
  • Keep them updates on how your business is going/product is evolving/adapting.
  • Find out what support they can offer. Many State Organisations are pulling together one stop resource pages for grant/stimulus/support available to simplify things, so stay tuned if you haven’t seen this already?

Everyone is pulling together and wants to help, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Trade Partners would also be hurting at the moment. Many are close friends who may have been built over the years at trade shows/sales calls.  Again get on the phone or a Zoom call. See how they are going, and keep them updated on how your business is going/adapting. Hopefully they will be there, ready to send business back to you when travel returns post the crisis.


Priority 3: Stay Active on Social

It’s not business as usual, so it’s not right to keep posting as if it is.

However, going quiet on social is also not a good plan as your community want to hear from you.

In times of crisis and also this new world of “self-isolation” and “social-distancing”, social is actually a great way to keep in touch and also remain top of mind for customers.

Many people are stuck at home and spending more time on screens than ever.

Tips for posts include:

  • Keep it real, authentic and stay optimistic.
  • Share how you and your team are going and how you are adapting in the crisis with your experiences.
  • Quality over quantity of posts.
  • Be very sensitive to tone and timing of what’s happening around Covid-19 (health and travel advice), and post accordingly.
  • Inspire, Help and Tell your Everyday Unusual Stories.
  • Adapt as the situation evolves

Great examples we’ve seen this week include:



4 Things To Work On Over The Next Few Months

Here’s a few ideas of what you could work on over the next few months while business is quieter or even closed to customers.


1. Experience Planning

Use this time to plan out new product ideas for recovery and the new-normal once travel resumes.

  • How can you take your current experiences and make them even better for your current customers so they continue to be raving fans of your business in the future?
  • Review all your customer insights (eg Review Websites, Customer Feedback Surveys, Staff insights etc) and see what customers have been asking for.
  • Also, think outside the box. New product ideas may actually emerge from this current crisis. Try new things in the current crisis? Some may stick and stay after the crisis settles (see Priority 1).
  • Brainstorm ideas with staff/colleagues/others in the industry (see Priority 2).
  • Are there new customer segments you previously haven’t catered for that you want to develop/test  new products for?
  • Think about Priorty 1, and make a concious effort to ensure you incorporate local produce/products etc in your experience as much as possible.

A few resources to get you started:


2. Update Customer Touchpoints and Channels.

Get all your customer touch points up to date, and ready for potential customer to find you/book you online once travel patterns resume to normal.

  • Review and get those long planned updates done to your website.
  • Start Blogging or/or get some blogs articles written. Tip: share suggested itineraries for your local town/region that cater for social distancing and who can still travel but want to self isolate.
  • Third party listings – Google My Business, Trip Advisor etc. Get these updated. 
  • Tidy up your email databases. Delete non-engaged subscribers to your email updates. Reach out to those to see who wants to keep hearing from you.
  • Tidy up your social profiles. Up to date photos, contact details etc.


3. Learn, Learn and Learn

Use this time for professional development and learning. Read, watch, listen to credible business/marketing/product innovation/experience development/climate change and any other topics you’ve been meaning to delve into?

Catch up on those saved articles on your phone, books you’ve been wanting to read podcasts you want to listen to.

We share some of our favourite online resources here >


4. Get Responsible Travel Ready

Use this time to have a good look at your business carbon footprint and also wider social and community impacts. Not because customers increasingly expect it (and they do), but also because it’s the right thing to do for the planet.

How can you use this time to work on reducing, neutralising and even giving back to local environment and local communities?


Note. Things are changing by the day, this was last updated on Thursday 19th March 2020, and will continue to be updated, and we will keep updated at things change.

Rebecca White

Rebecca is a tourism marketing specialist and co-director of Tourism eSchool. Rebecca loves working with tourism destinations & operators to create sustainable marketing strategies. Her specialty areas are tourism marketing strategy, visitor servicing, visitor engagement, social media, customer advocacy, customer experience, content marketing & blogging.

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