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Coronavirus: A Hidden Opportunity for Global Tour Operators

March 17, 2020

It is the biggest setback experienced by the global tourism and travel industry after the slump post 9/11 terrorist attack and the SARS outbreak of 2000. The notorious Coronavirus has consumed the minds and thoughts of those associated with the travel sector. Most of us are anxiously awaiting the update.

No doubt, this has damaged the travel community’s very spirits. MICE, as well as outbound operators, have been the worst affected, thanks to a slew of cancellations and the cloud of uncertainty about the future looming large. With the panic and hysteria about to culminate, the general question in everyone’s mind is clear: what’s next? What will happen now?

Reducing the cost may only be a short-term remedy. But then what happens later? It is not the threat of the deadly virus stain that we discuss here; we are talking about the challenges faced by traditional tour operators who have yet to adapt to the changed travel scenario.

It is the information technology era where online self-booking systems and direct to client distribution channels are the order of the day. Thinking short-term will not suffice in satiating the needs of the exposed and smart travelers of the contemporary world. Getting ready for the impending risk of stagnancy is crucial.

Contrary to the common belief that price is the only factor that differentiates, it is essential that tour operators go a step ahead and think beyond conversion. Product innovation and retention must be their main focus. Developing an effective strategy that facilitates a great experience and improves the internal processes to create loyalty is essential to move ahead.

We have discussed the various ways through which tour operators may leverage technology and get up-to-date and in line with the needs of modern travelers who make use of digital devices. These are the ways forward to enhance retention rates and become future-ready while reducing overheads as well:

  1. Build your own website: The first step to attract the attention of users is to create a quality website. Modern users judge you by your website. Keep the content constantly updated too, thus reflecting seriousness.
    Tip: An exclusive testimonial section on the site will help portray what customers feel while speaking for your business.
  2. Take an active part in social media: There’s nothing more effective than maintaining active pages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, among other channels. Having high-quality content and being creative will help earn still more credibility.
    Tip: Hiring freelancers to manage the site and run SEO will help save costs. Providing a ‘share your experience’ section that allows customers to post their testimonials goes a long way in achieving credibility.
  3. Having a strong back-office process in place is imperative: Staying process-oriented saves you from missing leads during surge periods while ensuring the team’s productivity. This, in turn, keeps overheads at optimal levels.
    Tip: Track your executives’ performance by investing in a good lead management system and avoid wasting leads.
  4. Make use of lead management system: Manual follow-ups are passé. Recording leads, updating interactions, scheduling alerts, and ensuring follow-ups using an effective lead management system enable the team to make the best use of their time.
    Tip: Travel-management software helps to automate repetitive processes, thus facilitating the team to better focus on follow-ups. Check the features of the software before you finalize it.
  5. Keeps tabs on turnaround time: Attention span keeps diminishing and so is patience. It is imperative to be succinct and prompt so that you may achieve responses quickly.
    Tip: Making use of CRM helps to track turnaround time.
  6. Present your quotation attractively: The quotation is mostly your first contact point with travelers. Make sure that it pleases the eyes and enhances the appeal with images and pre-defined templates. This will be viewed as a token of professionalism by customers.
    Tip: Existing travel itinerary builders can be used, or customized ones may be used.
  7. Data-driven decision making is essential: Data never lies. Get the support of relevant data while replying to questions.
    Tip: A quality travel management system with MIS reports will help significantly.
  8. Profitability analysis must be automated: A user-friendly accounting system that integrates with your sales and operations team enables them to collaborate seamlessly. Incentive structures may be linked to individuals’ contributions in creating value for the business.
    Tip: A solution that tracks the financial health of the business in real-time may be adopted – this facilitates arriving at better business decisions and measure the ROI.
  9. Customer experience is the core of business: It is evident that customers today are willing to pay a premium for a better experience. A superior customer experience increases loyalty appreciably.
    Tip: Customer communication may be standardized and a workflow that eliminates the team from skipping any steps may be achieved, when an effective solution is adopted.
  10. Understand customer needs and preferences: In order to create a healthy customer r4laitionship, you need to first understand your customers and build customer experience around that.
    Tip: Investing in dedicated CRM meant for travel business will help maintain relevant customer data.
  11. Gather feedback and act upon it: Having a brilliant mechanism for collecting feedback allows assessing customers’ responses to your services. It facilitates resolving issues as well. More than 70% of customers will likely do business with you when you resolve complaints fast.
    Tip: Customer feedback may best be collated during their travel itself, as it reflects their original view.
  12. A retention strategy is crucial: An increase in customer retention by 5% will help increase profits by many times. By offering great service and staying on customers’ minds results in increasing customer retention.
    Tip: Collecting customer data such as anniversaries and birthdays and wishing them on these occasions goes a long way in building a favorable image.
  13. Keep up-skilling the team: Inspecting team members’ performance and addressing related issues is important. Keep the team up-to-date with the necessary knowledge and talents.
    Tip: Arrange regular training and development sessions that make your team updated and online.

Technology solutions will potentially help in achieving your business objectives ranging from travel CRM, lead management systems, and post-booking agenda APPs. Effort and time must be spent on analyzing factors related to your specific business. This will directly impact the sustainability and longevity of your business.