Travel companies: Maintaining your client base throughout the pandemic*

This is a tough time for the travel industry, as one challenge after another has prevented a return to “business as usual.” The most recent blow came when the EU released a list of countries whose citizens are deemed “safe” visitors. Not surprisingly, Americans did not make the cut. Given the recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases, this probably did not come as a great surprise to anyone in the travel industry, but it certainly became yet another obstacle for them to overcome.

Without a timeline or proposed reopening date, companies that arrange group travel programs are currently stuck. They’re offering refunds and vouchers and booking new trips for an adventurous and optimistic few, but the big question (or one of the many big questions) remains – how can they retain their loyal clients and attract new ones, when people are hesitant to travel, many key destinations are closed to them, and no one knows what comes next, including when travel restrictions will end or if major trips will even be on anyone’s wish lists for 2020, 2021 or even 2022.

AAA Travel predicted that Americans would take 700 million vacations this summer, with 97 percent opting for domestic travel, specifically road trips. It’s estimated that air travel will fall by about 73 percent (and with the news that several airlines will sell middle seats again as of July 1, fewer travelers will feel safe and may be even less likely to fly). Train travel, cruise ships and bus travel are also predicted to fall this summer by as much as 86 percent.  So, what can companies do to stay viable – maybe even until there’s a vaccine or a proven cure?

  1. Communication is Key – Stay in touch with clients via webinars, email and newsletters to help people keep up with rapidly changing domestic and international guidelines. Provide information on topics such as cleaning procedures for hotels, car rentals and even public restrooms along the highways.

  2. Deliver the Data – Contact a range of hotels to determine how they’re keeping their guests safe. Check in with popular restaurants in major cities and state parks. Currently, every state has their own rules and restrictions. Help your clients get the details.

  3. Go the Extra Mile – This kind of information gathering may be outside your usual modus operandi – but especially now – it’s a good strategy to position your company as the “go-to experts” on all things travel-related. This will engender loyalty among your existing clients and can introduce your services to new travelers.

  4. Go Live – Set-up and promote a Facebook event to help inform your clients about travel options for now and the foreseeable future.

  5. Be Media Savvy – Contact local TV and radio stations and offer your CEO as a spokesperson for interviews on the future of travel. Keeping your company in the public eye will help bring clients back when the all-clear bell rings – whenever that might be.