The travel and tourism industry thrives on exploration, collaboration, and networking. The new normal of social distancing brought on by the coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected business in a way that has left small business owners in our sector worried, confused and unsure what to do next.  

In many ways, digital efforts have fallen to the bottom of a long list of tasks necessary to stay solvent during this time. But there are a few “must-do” digital tasks that owners, managers, and leaders in this arena should be sure to keep in mind.

I’ve been working as a travel and tourism marketing consultant for just over four years, but have been in hospitality and marketing for over 20 years. Through that time, I have seen several downturns in our industry and have watched small business operators not only revive their boutique hotels, travel agencies, tour companies, transportation services and more, but flourish. 

My team and I have been working daily with our current clients to determine how to help them through these unprecedented times, and now I want to share some tips to help you protect your business.

So to help you get started, below, I’ve listed some actions you should consider taking to protect your business and keep your audience updated, engaged, and ready to resume business with you once this all passes. 

1. Make a plan and communicate it to customers

Determine what your “going forward” operating strategy is and create a plan to sensitively communicate it to your customers, even as it changes.

  • Update your website and social channels with your new hours and any changes to your operations.
    • Add a simple pop-up to your website and pin a post to the top of your Facebook page so the new information is readily available to people looking. 
    • Make sure your new hours and/or contact information is in multiple, visible spots on your website and social media.  Schedule a few additional posts in the future to keep this top of mind, as well as a few reminder emails to your subscribers.
  • If you need to cancel any commitments to guests, be sure to do it in a personal manner.
    • Try reaching out via phone first, followed by email.  
    • Outline your policies for refunds and rebooking clearly.  Consider offering an incentive for guests rebooking versus canceling – perhaps a special discount code or a future booking credit larger than their original.  

TIP: Need more help coming up with your plan? Constant Contact has shared their Small Business Support Kit, complete with action plans, guidance, and a special offer that includes free website and ecommerce tools for small businesses.

coronavirus tips for small businesses
Here are five ways you should consider updating customers about your coronavirus response immediately.

2. Ensure your web presence is consistent

Next, you’ll want to survey your online presence and ensure it reflects your new business strategy and current operating procedures. This will help create consistent messaging and avoid confusion as this situation progresses.

  • Check your Google My Business profile and make changes as needed.  If you are temporarily closed, make sure your profile reflects that.  New hours? Those can quickly be updated here as well.
  • Update all the listings and review sites
    • Start with your big ones — TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.
    • Next, move on to OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies), if applicable, and smaller directory sites, like the Chamber of Commerce, BING, and anywhere else you know you’re listed. This might take a bit of time, but your future customers will appreciate your transparency. 
  • Review any paid ads that currently may be running for your business and think through next steps.
    •  If you are going to cut back your marketing spend, consider at least keeping Google Ads running, with a new message, perhaps promoting future business with a free cancellation at any time.  

3. Stay connected and engage your customers

Even if your business needs to completely close for now, it’s important to stay relevant in the eyes of your customers and to keep them engaged. 

  • While you may need to cut back on the volume of digital marketing, be sure to not cut it out completely.
    • Try to get at least one or two posts on social media each week.  Keep them lighthearted, positive, and fun – remind your customers of what is waiting for them when they can travel with you again.
  • Think of ways you and your customers can support each other.
    • Promote gift certificates, with a bonus offer so guests are ready to book with you again – Buy $50, get an additional $10!   
  • Make their inbox a happy place!  Send an email that allows your guests to explore with you right from their own homes.

Be ready to help your customers explore

There is no doubt that the current circumstances are placing an exorbitant amount of stress on the travel and tourism industry, but your customers will travel again someday (hopefully soon).  The time you spend now can help position you to be top of mind when they are ready to explore.

TIP: Are you considering reopening as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease? Check out our Marketing Guide for Businesses Reopening After Coronavirus.

And the team at Constant Contact is here to help. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to the customer support team, engage on social media, or chat with fellow small business owners who are also learning to adapt on the Constant Contact Community.

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