At last week’s “Connect with Tour Operators Virtual Roundtable, viewers and listeners were treated to a lively dialogue covering what changes and adaptations they’re making in the midst of the current environment for doing business in the travel and tourism. The group discussion included: Marina Petrova, Founder, places.events; Tereza Reis, president, Personal RGE Tours; Dave Falsetti, regional director-Americas, musement; and moderator,Shari Bailey, vice president, Connect Travel, and general manager, Connect Travel Events.
There was a decided emphasis in much of the webinar on customer preference, facilitated in part by Marina Petrova’s presentation that was based primarily on Google analytics.
#1. Both the research as well as anecdotal accounts from tour operators tell us that customers are searching for attractions and activities that are “near me.”
#2. Travelers are bored. Scores of inquires going to Google show that travelers are asking “What to do when they are bored.”
#3. With travelers becoming more interactive in their online searches, it is important to have the conversation with them have as many touch points as possible.
#4. Tour operators, destinations and travel sellers of all kinds are hearing that the need for flexible cancellation policies; what suppliers are going about sanitizing and cleaning their locations and facilities.
#5. Because travelers are looking for new options, tour operators are building new contracts, and are eager to hear from DMOs and travel suppliers. So, please, they should send them information on re-starts, changes, safety protocols and additions to their product inventories. Now!
Maria Petrova: “We now live in a world of data. There is so much information that we can tap into like Google search queries or data from social media platforms, and it’s not as if we are not crossing any privacy boundaries because it’s aggregate data and it still allows us getting the information about what’s out there.”
Dave Falsetti: “Although there are re-bookings, I think people are waiting, still, to see kind of what happens with next year because the demand is there, and everyone’s ready to jump into it. So, maybe they’re not looking for 2022 because they want to come—still next year. That’s what we’re seeing from the tour operator side.”
Shari Bailey: “As we go through these conversations week after week, the number one thing that we’re hearing is that people want to travel, but they want to feel safe, and they’ll travel when they feel safe.”
Tereza Reis: (On her company’s weekly training webinars) “Well, in the beginning when we started in March, we thought we were going to do those webinars until maybe June or July. Well, we’re still doing it. We had one yesterday. We have them every Wednesday.”
Tereza Reis: “We just do international markets. They need to get the getaways into the U.S. and the major cities. So, when they come from Europe or Latin America, they need to come to one of the main destinations. But what we’ve been seeing lately is …they are asking for more destinations close by the main destination. Let’s say, if they’re going to New York, well now they’re talking about exploring the Hudson Valley, the Finder Lakes.”
Marina Petrova: “What we see now is exactly what Tereza was saying: I think one of the reasons for that is, also, because people want to stay busy. They want to explore—but there are so many things that are closed now; that’s why they are looking at “What else I can do near me?’ “
Dave Falsetti: “You need to offer more product in these secondary and tertiary markets …I saw there was a 50 increase in the Corn Palace! So, people are going to places that, historically, probably aren’t the destination that you would assume that people are going to, but you never know what people are looking at.”
Tereza Reis: “With a vaccine so close to becoming a reality, people are now bringing back whatever they had for 2022 to 2021, which is good news. I think we’re starting to see the light in the end of the tunnel. I think we still have a few months ahead. They’re going to be challenging, but at least now we can see the light. So, we need to keep going, to keep doing whatever we’re doing.”
Maria Petrova: “If people are bored, offer them something—some things to do—and get them to your attraction—if you’re open.”
Click here to listen to and/or watch the webinar.