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How to position your business for success during an economic downturn

With travel restrictions slowing planned trips, travel advisors have an opportunity to focus on other areas of the business. Here’s what travel advisors are doing to prepare for the future.
Written by Emily Schwab

COVID-19 leaves travel agencies and small businesses everywhere feeling strapped -- it's a high hurdle, but it's one the entire small business community is jumping together. For more advice from other small business owners on staying adaptive and coming out of this strange time on top, subscribe to LACRM's new newsletter just for small business community tips!

Businesses everywhere have slowed due to the impact of COVID-19, and with shelter in place orders travel has come to halt. These changes impact businesses across the globe, but the slowdown also gives companies an opportunity to spend time on areas they may not usually be able to. It’s important to leverage this extra time into positioning your business for success in the future.

Continue marketing efforts to stay front of mind, even when clients aren’t currently buying.

Though it may be tempting to cut the marketing budget since no one is buying, now is a great time to build relationships with your clients. You can stay front of mind with marketing campaigns, so when clients are ready to book, you’re the first person that comes to mind.

“My #1 tip is to pivot your business. Stay front of mind with your current clients and continue to stay relevant. While no one can travel now, the desire for travel is not gone and will come back with a vengeance when we all move about again. Post inspirational photos and virtual trips on social media and in communications to clients. When they're ready to book, they'll remember you and call you first. I think many people have learned the lesson that using an experienced travel professional is paramount!”
-Karan Morrow, Where 2 Next Travel

You can also use this time to try new marketing strategies to get in front of more potential clients. You can leverage existing tools on social media into marketing avenues for a wider audience. Caroline Joyner of Not Just Travel has a few marketing tips to share:

“I would mainly be calling firstly all clients who have a holiday booked this year regularly, and then I would be finding a reason to call all other clients even if they don’t have something booked. I would tell them that if they are thinking about 2021 now is a great time to book as all the tour operators are offering amazing flexible terms.


Secondly I would be publishing lots of “escapism” blogs about destinations to inspire people and also daily inspirational facebook posts to keep my audience hot.

Thirdly I would be doing facebook live Travel Clinics where people can ask questions about any holiday booked – not just through me.”

Remember, clients may not be buying now, but you can build and solidify your relationships even without sales. Those relationships can be used later to book more trips, and get referrals to find new clients.

For more marketing tips check out our small business tips on must-follow marketing rules.

Thoroughly review current systems and products with an eye on potential improvements.

Business isn’t often slow when you have clients traveling around the world, and this temporary lull provides an opportunity to re-approach the systems and products you use. This is also a great time to scope out the competition, and see what changes you can make to gain an edge. As Inc. explains,

“Instead of maintaining current systems and drumming your fingers, think about which features would help your product sell more or create a better user experience. This may be the only artificial lull your company sees, so don't waste the opportunity by taking a partial vacation while other products make yours obsolete.”

You can also use this time to improve business processes and focus on training. Is there a program you have that you know has more capabilities than what you use? Take this time to learn about those additional functionalities! Do you have employees that you keep telling “I’ll show you that later” to get things done quicker? Now is the time to teach them, and make sure everyone on your team is fully up to speed.

“[Take] the opportunity to look at all the stuff you normally don’t get time to do – costs,..business processes, training. Once cancelled/postponed bookings and clients stuck around the world sorted!”
-Penny Gray, Gilchrist & Gray Tailored Travel

Audit every program you use to make sure you have the most updated information for your clients.

Having the most updated information on your clients is essential for every business. But, sometimes even with the best intentions your data can end up outdated. Now is the perfect time to catch up on all of those things that sometimes slip through the cracks. Review any notes you may have written down, and work to get those into your online systems (and while you’re at it, take this time to purge those extra papers on your desk!).

Jan Stogner of Pacific Dive Vacations recommends:

“...[W]ork on their busy work type things, administrative things we always push to the side. There tons of productive things we can do, like load all our old client files onto LA CRM! Develop ad campaigns or promotions, figure out new forms for internal use. Updating website. I know as a 1-person shop I have many things that get pushed aside that I have the time to do now.”

With clients staying put for the time being, you can make sure you have all of their information down correctly so it’s easily accessible when you start booking trips again. And if you’re not sure you have the most updated information, you can give clients a quick call to check on how they’re doing, and see if that address is still good.

Educate yourself on recent changes to policies and investigate new travel destinations. Invest in education for yourself and your team.

The travel industry has been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many travel companies have changed their policies. Some of those changes are temporary and some more permanent; now is a great time to research those changes to make sure you understand exactly what has changed, and for how long.

If you have employees, take this time to make sure they build their skills as well. Inc. recommends,

“Organize training sessions to help employees learn new skills from others within the company. Create mentorship opportunities for greener workers to see how more seasoned colleagues handle themselves. Let employees attend virtual conferences to sharpen their skills and potentially make important online connections.”

This is also a time to expand your knowledge on additional destinations and options for your clients. You may not be able to use that information for bookings right now, but that knowledge will certainly come in helpful when you start booking again. Clients rely on you to be the expert, and by taking this time to do some additional research you can solidify your position as the professional to go to on all things travel related.

“My number one tip would be to stay in touch with all of your clients. For those who have upcoming trips, keep them informed on their options. For others, just check in to see how they are doing during this difficult time. The other things I am doing is taking advantage of online educational opportunities for different locations, suppliers, cruise lines, etc."
-Susan Moore, Moore Memorable Travel

Some companies may also offer benefits for future bookings that you can take advantage of now. For more specific tips on how to start planning for 2021 travel, read our blog post here.

Business may have slowed down for the time being with shelter in place orders, but it certainly won’t stay that way for long. While you do have the extra time available, invest in improving your business. When clients are ready to travel again, you’ll be able to show them exactly why you’ve always been the best choice for booking.

COVID-19 leaves travel agencies and small businesses everywhere feeling strapped -- it's a high hurdle, but it's one the entire small business community is jumping together. For more advice from other small business owners on staying adaptive and coming out of this strange time on top, subscribe to LACRM's new newsletter just for small business community tips!

Posted on May 5, 2020
Filed under Small Business Tips
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