Tourism SMMEs have been hard hit by the pandemic, and the longer lockdown continues, the harder it becomes. Survival depends on post-COVID-19 readiness, in other words, when travel opens up you must be 100% ready to meet it.
A recent survey by Advantage Travel Partnership (May 2020) shows that 86% of Brits are still willing to travel abroad despite the presence of COVID-19. And four out of five (80%) are still hoping to travel this year if restrictions are lifted.
While this is good news, health and safety is going to remain a primary driver – especially when it comes to choosing hotels and holidays destinations. Travellers need to feel safe, and tourism establishments will need to ensure that they can guarantee a worry-free stay or experience.
Spend the next few weeks wisely – and become an expert on post-COVID-19 preparations, requirements and standards.
Here are just a few post-COVID-19 reality checks and steps to keep in mind:
1. Less pace, more space
COVID-19 has moved us from a fast-paced, busy world into one where people will be seeking open spaces, national parks, small villages – and less crowded spaces.
If you’re lucky enough to be able offer more space, take advantage! Consider outside eating spaces, al fresco spa facilities and small group activities (for example, private game drives or walking safaris).
Although it is going to feel strange, social distancing will become increasingly important. For example, new recommendations state that restaurant tables should a minimum distance of one meter apart. Buffets are a no-no.
2. Re-imagining the guest journey
As COVID-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, so will it impact every ‘touch point’ or facet of the guest journey. You might need to reconsider:
- check-in and check-out procedures (keeping it as hands-off as possible)
- payment options (for example EFTs instead of handheld devices)
- eliminating queues, e.g. anything from buffet tables to shuttle stops and ticket offices
- Hygiene standards around swimming pools, spas and public spaces
- Daily cleaning – opt for a deep clean before each new guest and avoid daily cleaning (i.e. daily forays into a guest’s space)
3. Hygiene and infection control to be post-COVID-19 ready
This is probably going to be the most important consideration of them all. Tourism establishments will need to have strict health and safety protocols in place. This includes:
- Ongoing health checks for staff
- Clear and consistent guidelines for staff around health and safety standards – with training
- Regular food safety and room hygiene audits
Familiarise yourself with the World Health Organization’s recommendations, paying particular attention to the cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces like door handles, furniture, the buttons of the lift, light switches and remote controls – all must be carefully sanitised, while sheets and linen must be machine washed at 70 ° C or more.
Make sure that you have spare masks available for guests if they request them – and tons of hand sanitiser dotted around your establishment for staff and guests to use.
4. Cancellation policies
Another post-COVID-19 reality check is around cancellation policies. Although travellers seem keen to travel again, they are wary of sudden lockdowns, travel bans and a general air of uncertainty. No one wants to lose money on their next trip.
Take the time to revaluate your cancellation policy, building in extra flexibility if you can.
It’s important to keep in touch with your target audience.
Let them know how you are spending lockdown (for example, share recipes, photographs and a little armchair inspiration).
Let them know what you are doing to get post-COVID-19 ready.
Take the time now to investigate your options, beef up your health, safety and hygiene standards, become an expert on what is required – so that you are ready to throw open your doors when the time comes.