Mike Tyson famously said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Well, Covid-19 has been as strong of a right hook as the travel industry is likely to experience in a generation.
If you are reading this it suggests you have survived the blow. You may be staggering, or on your knees, but you are still in the game.
So here are some suggestions to help you recover. The good news is that maximising your bookings and staying safe in summer 2020 need not be mutually exclusive.
We are fighting your corner (final boxing metaphor!) and are here to help you every bit of the way. If you are not yet signed up to SpeedyBooker, you can find out more here and we hope you will join.
What’s going to happen to bookings in 2020?
With some countries allowing international tourism (e.g. Italy), others discouraging it, some imposing quarantine (e.g. New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, UK and the US), and others even banning certain nationalities (e.g. Cyprus banning Swedes), the situation is fluid and complex.
It takes two to tango and even if your country is accommodating to visitors, they may struggle to get back into their home country.
VisitBritain’s most recent (23rd April) central forecast for UK tourism in 2020, was for a decline of 54% in international visits, and 24% for domestic tourism (with overnight stays down 32%).
Since April we have heard the news that UK visitor/holiday accommodation is to remain closed until 4th July at the earliest, and that from 8th June there will be a 14 day isolation period / quarantine (at a private residence) for all international arrivals except for truck drivers, seasonal farm workers, government officials, medical personnel and anyone arriving from Ireland.
In a recent survey of 500 UK “travel enthusiasts” (likely to be more pro-travel than the average) 41% said they would travel less for leisure, 58% less for business.
A poll by National Geographic and Morning Consult dated 16th May found that just 2 percent of 2,200 Americans said they’d jump on a plane now, and only another 8 percent would consider it later in the summer.
We therefore believe the actual figures will be worse than the VisitBritain forecasts, with international visitors down over 80% this year. International visitors will likely not book trips until the 14 day quarantine is lifted, and even then, not in meaningful numbers until there’s a vaccine.
The timing of quarantine relaxation is uncertain: the government is actively considering quarantine-free air bridges, although this is unlikely before July.
And even if both home and destination country are accommodating, perhaps via a travel bubble, people aren’t going to want to fly unless they have already had COVID-19 or a vaccine. How fun is a holiday if you are always worrying about getting ill?
So it’s reasonable to assume a dramatic reduction in international tourism this year, globally.
Domestic overnight tourism will recover slowly from when accommodation can reopen (hopefully from July in the UK), but will remain below 2019 levels.
Self-catering will recover faster and more strongly than hotels and B&Bs, perhaps even exceeding last year’s occupancy levels from when reopening occurs.
Rural areas will fare better than urban locations.
Day trips and visitor attractions will be down by less than accommodation.
Older travellers will not travel until a vaccine is widespread (hopefully by the autumn).
Large indoor events will continue to be postponed until the risks are very low and/or a vaccine is widespread (hopefully by the autumn).
What’s going to happen next year?
There are two main factors that will impact next year
Whether there’s a vaccine.
If not, whether there’s a second spike in cases.
The news so far on both fronts seems to be positive, so it’s reasonable to assume a major recovery next year. It could even exceed pre-corona levels as there will be people who have had to postpone trips and events and who are desperate to get out and travel. This will partially be off-set by those who remain nervous. There are a lot of uncertainties, but right now the outlook for next year looks positive.
How you can prepare now:
There are lots you can be doing now to ensure measures are in place to best take advantage of a post-Covid 19 recovery.
1) Health and cleanliness measures
We have consolidated below the best cleanliness measures being taken by 25 of the top hotel chains globally. Hopefully many of these ideas will be helpful if you are a visitor attraction as well.
Regular sanitising of common areas. For busy hotels, we recommend disinfecting touch points such as door handles, light switches, stair rails and lift buttons in the busiest parts of your property (e.g. reception) once an hour. This could be less often if you aren’t busy or in quieter parts of your property.
When bedrooms are cleaned, ensure that light switches, telephones, thermostats, TV controls, cupboard/wardrobe handles/knobs are all disinfected. Then place notices on bedroom door handles informing guests that their room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned.
Hand sanitizer dispensers at hotel entrances, front desks, lifts, and meeting spaces.
Reception: set up protective screens, offer sanitary wipes at check in for guests to carry with them, and if the receptionist is handing over a key or anything else, place it on the desk with a sanitary wipe next to it so the guest can disinfect it before picking it up.
Ask all your staff to use PPE including wearing face masks and/or gloves.
Measures to maintain social distancing, particularly around the reception, the dining room, and shared facilities (especially loos and gyms) where numbers should be limited.
Policies for checking staff members and guests for symptoms (and asking them to report symptoms), and procedures should anyone have symptoms. Some hotel groups are planning to check all guests’ and staff members’ temperatures on arrival. Consider stickers for employees who have been health checked.
If you don’t yet offer contactless payments, upgrade as soon as possible.
Produce a Guests Responsibilities checklist regarding social distancing and what to do if they feel unwell, and ask all guests on arrival to read and agree to it.
Where possible, provide a served, pre-plated, or “grab and go” breakfast and other meals to minimize guest contact with food, beverages, utensils, jugs, and surfaces. Alternatively provide staffed buffets where customers can point to what they want from behind a screen.
Training procedures for staff on all the above.
Consider making some (but perhaps not all) of the additional measures permanent, as customers will remain nervous and expect higher cleanliness well into the future.
2) Communicate the measures you are taking
Guests are going to look for detailed information on your health and safety measures both before booking, and again at check-in. Your communication of your measures is important to secure bookings.
Place a temporary message at the top of your profile (via the text page on the admin system) and your website, listing the measures you are taking to reassure customers that you have procedures in place to protect their health.
Place the same messages around your reception area.
Not being afraid to adjust your prices to factor in higher cleaning costs, but only where you can justify the increase. Overall, cleanliness is going to be more important than a small surcharge, but you must communicate the reasons to give reassurance and make it into a positive selling point.
3) Consider adjusting your cancellation terms or booking terms
React quickly to government announcements allowing the opening of the accommodation market by loading availability. Consider allowing late notice bookings or removing minimum nights for short-notice bookings.
Look at your competitors and flex your prices depending on your occupancy levels and marginal costs.
Via your admin system > Settings you could consider offering more lenient cancellation terms for the remainder of 2020.
Or via Rate Plans you could offer “fully refundable” rates.
If you are closed or not able to accept guests safely, you can cancel bookings via the admin system by clicking on the booking and going to the Actions tab, but must communicate your reasons to the guest directly. You might consider full refunds for all bookings, or just those who booked before a certain date.
4) Adjust your cost base
You need to prepare for 2020 being less busy than normal, in terms of your cost base and resources. This will enable you to be efficient with your pricing and may enable you to have a marketing budget to maximise your bookings.