Outside of her work at Tourism Tribe, business coach and digital strategist Claire also works for the small accommodation provider, Gibson’s Pet Friendly. A couple of months ago, as it became clear how extreme the government restrictions needed to be in order to manage COVID-19, Claire and her manager realised they needed to work out a plan to manage all of the bookings already in place for the next few months. They put their heads together to work out the best approach that would allow them to retain as many bookings as possible and minimise their overall losses.
Here’s Claire’s explanation of what they decided to do and why
As the Covid-19 situation began to escalate, it became apparent that everyone appeared to be frozen in any kind of action. I knew as the fear began to creep into people’s minds that any type of leadership would be received well. We, as a business, had no idea how it was going to pan out but we quickly began to realise that if we were to save any of our bookings, we needed to communicate with our guests and offer them choices.
So my boss and I got together and discussed ideas on how to retain the bookings we had (rather than refund), and see what we could offer our guests as an incentive to save their deposit and booking for another time. One thing was apparent – that we were a (very) small business, and in that there is a great advantage – being that our approach and communication to our guests is very personalised and we don’t have long delays in responses and both of us are quite personable. We also realised that when people plan a holiday or getaway, it’s always something to look forward to, and we wanted to communicate that to our future guests as an incentive to keep their booking – when this is over, it will be something that you can look forward to. We decided that we would also have no problem refunding any of our guests if they needed. We wanted to conduct our business as ‘person to person’ as we were all in this together. As an incentive to help our guests retain their booking, it wasn’t until the end of the conversation that I came up with the idea to add a free night on for them.
We communicated this message through our website and email marketing. We also offered all new bookings (for a time when travel restrictions are lifted) a free night to each booking for more than 3 nights – so that our customers could choose something to look forward to.
Every single booking guest decided to keep their booking for another time. And what blew us away the most was that the support and response we got to our communication with our guests was just so heartwarming! There was one particular guest (a return guest) that said, “We can’t make our booking, AND we don’t want a refund – please keep our deposit for yourselves”. We couldn’t believe it! (We won’t keep it – we will credit her when she comes back next!)
We found that communication during this time was paramount and so well received. In regards to where we are at now – I do believe communication and quick action is still the key. Things are at a stage where (fingers crossed) we will begin to see future bookings rolling in. Encouragement for bookings or any kind of activity is still quiet, but sending messages about what you offer (not hard selling), I believe will be a very powerful and subtle message in this time. Once the green light is on again for travel, consumers are going to be overwhelmed with hard sales trying to get everyone back in the region. Now is the time to send a message to your future and past guests before their inbox is overwhelmed once again.
The importance of clear and easy to find information
If you head to the Gibson’s Pet Friendly website right now you will be greeted with their usual homepage but with an important distinction. At the top of the homepage underneath the menu, there is a bold banner titled: COVID-19 UPDATE.
What follows for those who click the on the link is a statement from the Gibson’s team with a very clear explanation of the business’s coronavirus booking options and their plan for the next few months. The statement also gives the customer a bit of background about the business and gently provides guidance on how guests can support the business if they wish to.
The key takeaways from Claire’s approach to retaining bookings during a crisis:
Share your own experience
To learn more about how you can best manage and develop your tourism business during the coronavirus pandemic you can join our 12-week online course, Upskill for Tourism Recovery. If you’d like to speak to Claire or one of our other tourism business coaches to work on a specific issue you are grappling with in your business you can book in a One on One session.