It’s finally possible to travel again. But the pandemic and subsequent economic conditions have caused a lot of upheaval in the tourism industry, so the process of planning and promoting trips for your organization is probably going to be different than you remember it.
Travel planners who have already begun restarting their programs have reported numerous unanticipated challenges that are affecting their ability to do business. From hotel room inventory restrictions to service industry labor shortages and staff turnover at tour companies and convention and visitors bureaus, many issues are complicating the group travel business in 2021.
Fortunately, these problems all have solutions, especially if you’re willing to employ a little creativity. Here are some ideas for overcoming the obstacles facing your travel program in the post-pandemic era.
Knowing When To Go
Many people have been conditioned to believe COVID-19 lurks around every corner. But thanks to the marvel of modern vaccines, you don’t have to worry about that danger anymore. With a mountain of evidence showing that vaccinated individuals are unlikely to contract or spread COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cleared vaccinated individuals to return to normal in most facets of everyday life. Many states and municipalities have dropped their mask mandates and capacity restrictions. If you and your travelers are vaccinated, there’s no threat.
Knowing Who To Call
Many professionals at tour companies, hotels, destinations and attractions were furloughed or laid off at the beginning of the pandemic, which made it difficult for travel planners to know who to call for information. Thankfully, though, many of those workers are back at their desks, having been rehired as tourism organizations prepared to rebound. Other companies have assigned other team members to fill those rolls. So there should be people in place to assist you — it may just take some asking around before you find the right person.
Knowing Where To Stay
In many popular destinations, hotels have gone from nearly empty to nearly full, it seems overnight. A flood of pent-up demand has hit the market, and ongoing labor shortages have left some hoteliers unable to hire workers, leading them to hold back a portion of their rooms because they can’t service them. For the time being, groups should get creative about their accommodations, looking for rooms farther away from the places they visit. Trendy hotels in popular tourism hot spots and city centers may be booked, but there’s a good chance that midmarket properties in nearby towns will be available.
Knowing What To Eat
Restaurants are feeling the effects of the labor shortage more than almost any other businesses, which means that some people are hesitant to book group reservations. Fortunately, though, there are numerous ways to feed people well on tour. Some restaurants that can’t seat a group right now can provide boxed meals to go, especially if travelers place their orders ahead of time. Others might be willing to serve groups during off-peak hours. Consider taking your group to a public market where they can buy their own meals from the vendors of their choice. Or book a food truck to come to your hotel or an attraction you’re visiting.
Knowing How To Price
Some of your travelers are anxious to hit the road; others aren’t ready yet. Under these circumstances, you may have a hard time finding enough passengers to fill a motorcoach, which will affect your trip pricing and profit margins. But customers that are ready to travel now might be willing to pay more than normal, especially since they’ve been at home for a year; so you could perhaps still afford a full coach with a fair number of empty seats. If that’s not an option, consider working with another organization or travel company in your area to combine trips.