If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that disaster can strike when you least expect it.
As we collectively emerge from the pandemic and begin thinking about the future of travel, everyone in the tourism community will have a new perspective on emergencies. Unplanned challenges have always been a possibility for travelers. But with health, safety and government regulations at the front of everyone’s minds, a travel organization’s ability to adapt quickly and overcome obstacles will become more critical than ever.
If you usually work with tour companies or cruise lines to arrange your group’s trips, you probably rely on their expertise to navigate sticky situations with your travelers. But even when there are professionals by your side to act in the most difficult moments, how you handle difficulties and emergencies when they happen will set the tone for how your travelers react.
As you look forward to returning your group to the road in 2021 and beyond, here are some important steps you can take to handle the emergencies and challenges you don’t yet know are coming.
Prepare for the Predictable
Though it’s impossible to anticipate every emergency that may occur while you have a group on tour, most emergencies fall into predictable categories. From time to time, someone will get sick or injured while traveling with you. Prepare a crisis plan ahead of time so that you and your travelers will understand what happens in the case of a health emergency. Travel insurance companies often have dedicated personnel who take care of all the details when a client has a health issue on the road, so you should package insurance into all your tours.
Build It Into the Budget
Some travel emergencies are not only stressful but also potentially expensive. A canceled meal, an overbooked hotel or an unexpected interruption in service could leave you and dozens of your travelers stranded, hungry or unsure of how you’ll get home. If these things happen, you should spend the money necessary to keep your customers safe and get them home. Build some emergency funds into the budget for each trip you run. And make sure your organization is prepared for you to make some discretionary spending decisions should the need arise. You can sort out the financial details once everyone is home safely.
Have Help On Hand
You can overcome many obstacles on the road with some quick thinking, a smartphone and a positive attitude. But from time to time, you might encounter issues that are too complex for you to solve on the go or on your own. For those, you need to have a reliable helper back home who can provide support and help with legwork while you manage the situation on the ground. Before each departure, arrange for someone from your organization to be on call to assist in case emergencies come up. Then lean on that person to help you through difficult moments.
When unexpected problems come up during a trip, your travelers want to know that everything’s going to be OK, and they’re going to look to you for reassurance. So even though you may be freaking out on the inside, do your best to project an air of positivity and calm to the people depending on you. A smile and an upbeat attitude can make even the most difficult situation more manageable. If you can manage the situation with calm and positivity, you’ll win the admiration of your travelers. Some of them may be even more likely to trust you with their future trips.
Count on Creativity
Most tours follow easily identified patterns, and it’s generally good that your travelers know what to expect when they come on a trip with you. But when a crisis emerges, “the way we’ve always done it” might not be the best approach to handling the situation. Instead of spinning your wheels trying to keep the trip as normal as possible, tap into your creativity to find successful ways through the challenges. Be willing to sleep in and eat at or visit a place that wouldn’t normally be on your itinerary. And engage your travelers in the decision making so they don’t feel powerless.