Tourism business as usual? Marketing dilemma during the Coronavirus Outbreak.
Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has paralysed life in Europe and tourism is apparently one of the most severely hit industries. How tour providers and other players in the travel business should respond? Question with not a straightforward answer, as a little look into the reactions on social media shows.
We are experiencing one of the largest challenges in the travel industry in recent times. Situation is changing rapidly every day. In Slovakia, schools were closed and all sport and cultural events were cancelled. Since March 13th, borders were closed for foreigners, all international traffic (air, trains, buses) was stopped.
A small incoming tour provider as Authentic Slovakia team is almost 100% dependent on international arrivals. Before the closure of the borders, our team was dedicated to provide private guided city tours as a safer alternative to larger sightseeing groups. After the gates were locked, we realised that we have to cancel all our tours for the next weeks or months.
Our dilemma, whether to risk and continue in business as usual or to accept the state of emergency, was solved by the decision of the Slovak government. And the decision was right, of course.
Yes, social media in travel business is about scenic images and emotional slogans. But we think that in this special situation it is also a duty of the tour providers to use their social channels to say that people should behave responsibly and cancel/reschedule their travel plans.
Despite all the sport and cultural events in Slovakia were forbidden, some commercial cinemas continued to screen movies. Many ski resorts and water parks remained opened. Families, with kids who were unable to attend the school due to the restrictions, enjoyed skiing and splashing in crowds until the Slovak government enforced closure of these facilities.
Some of the OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), bigger players, sent newsletters to the smaller tour providers with recommendations how to keep business running. Some of the advice were to reduce cut-off time to catch the last minute bookings, focus on travellers from neighbouring countries, etc. All this during the pandemic of unprecedented reach in the globalised world.
Travel industry is in trouble now. How long its recovery will last, depends on the communication and policy of the travel business as well. Now it is time to slow down and to give up immediate profit.
Written from home-and-orchard-office by: Brano Chrenka, March 13th 2020