Survival of the fittest leads to cannibalism, evolution leads to dead ends.
Covid-19 has devastated most tourism companies. Business was literally brought to a stand-still in what felt like an instant. What a fragile game we have been playing.
We do now have a choice, we can try and carry on and act like nothing happened or, we can use this opportunity to trim the fat and fix what was broken.
We can’t count on the big players to do the right thing for the market. What is good for them isn’t necessarily good for the majority of operators and their customers.
All this talk of bailouts for existing businesses has me wound up. Many of those badly affected by the current crisis are dinosaurs who don’t deserve outside help and won’t benefit from external financial support as they won’t change.
The tourism industry has generally been performing badly for the last 2 years, particularly in Australia and particularly in the part of the market I have been most involved in – adventure and youth.
Right now, we have a huge opportunity to clear out the deadwood and change for the better. Some things have crept into our ecosystem that we need to stamp out or at least control better.
Distribution platforms messing with the market
We value simplicity and a ‘guaranteed’ way to get our money from numerous sellers. We don’t want unrealistic rules, to be pressured for increasingly greater commission, platforms pushing their products or even – and this seems unthinkable – using operators’ money and withholding payments. With new platforms and payment technologies we have options, we need to adopt them and make them work for our businesses.
Travel agents who don’t add value (OTA’s and traditional)
I’m all for paying a reasonable commission to agents who add value to the distribution chain. For many retail stores the high commissions are wasted on unsustainable business models with limited unique customer reach. I choke when a cashed up OTA demands high commission then competes with our business in an online space.
Governments ignoring infrastructure requirements for visitors
Travellers in our market make the most impact on regions away from the cities. Yes, this is both positive and negative. It certainly helps regional economies as well as the national one. Governments can’t ignore the responsibility for infrastructure associated with this – more recycling bins and toilet blocks for example, otherwise it leads to local pushback. Don’t get me started about ‘bus parking’. The cost shouldn’t just be borne by the local communities who can least afford it, it is a national issue. Done correctly, these industry touch points can be become a positive part of our story rather than an eyesore.
Seriously, just because in some cultures they set aside a day to celebrate their god doesn’t mean that businesses should be forced to pay staff at rates which make their products unviable. Travellers don’t care what day of the week it is, they’re on holiday and we can’t expect them to pay 50%+ more if they want to travel on a Sunday. These rates result in fewer services, a poor customer experience and consequently less people employed. We need to go back to the time when every day in tourism was the same – a great day.
Visitors need to be getting off the main tourist routes. This benefits everyone. There are a number of factors which resist this but my pet hate is homogenised bundles for the East Coast which aim to tick boxes rather than give visitors the best experience. These lead to poor word of mouth and ultimately fewer customers. We need to be serving truly engaging authentic local experiences. These are almost invariably off the beaten track.
Backpacker travel shops
Some do a wonderful job but many are staffed by travellers who harass passersby, with very little knowledge about what is best for visitors to this country. Hustlers who don’t care about the individual and only recommend what best lines their business owners’ and their own pockets.
I sincerely hope that we get to a point where, unless they are properly qualified, no one takes them seriously.
The customers aren’t always right
Face it, some customers are just bad people. No matter what you do they will complain. Unfortunately, they have one sided forums available to voice themselves. These need to be given less air – or at the very least – we need a right of reply ‘this person is a wanker, you shouldn’t listen to them’. Google, TripAdvisor and associates, we need to work to the AirBnB or Uber model where we can rate our customers as well.
Big fancy offices, full of staff, miles from the action, are a thing of the past. Embrace technology, automate your processes where-ever possible. Focus on having your human resource adding value to customer experience rather than doing menial tasks. It will allow you to enhance your product and shockproof your business for the future.
Sales people running the show
I’m not sure when this became a thing (and maybe it’s a bit rich coming from me) but there seem to be many businesses run by people whose main experience is in sales, they have little product knowledge or focus. When they come up with an innovation it is rarely more than the same old dog with a new hat. Surely as an industry built upon the best of human experiences, we can do better.
This term has been hijacked over the years. Yes, removing plastic bags is important but we need structural change to ensure the longevity of our industry. We can achieve this by allocating resources better and eliminating business models that waste precious tourism dollars or export to foreign entities. We need to spend less on facilitating transactions and more on supporting the markets that host our customers. Our future as a destination depends on industry and government working together to provide an ecosystem that recycles revenue domestically and reinvests in the businesses that foster our long-term growth.
Lastly and most importantly (and related to the above) – Drive your business forward with customer-focused innovation.
If you invent a new bungy jump, people really will beat a path to your door – believe me I saw it happen first-hand.
We are lucky that we live in a time when it is possible to cost-effectively make significant and beneficial changes to tourism businesses. We need to embrace digital technology to enhance our businesses, to create new or enhanced experiences and to cost effectively access customers. We need to automate our processes, to get closer to the customers, to earn more revenue from our existing clients, and to improve their experience with unique offerings.
Post-corona virus it’s going to be a whole new world, and I’m bloody excited.
With all of this in mind, who and what should we be getting behind?
Comments most welcome….
Written by Neil Geddes
Sourced by Mike Barrow