Aside from washing our hands, wearing a face mask and keeping personal distance, there are many elements that can be focused upon to keep the momentum. Many businesses in the tourism field have found it necessary to reinvent their operating strategies and pivot their business tactics in order to stay economically afloat. As the world watches with a hopeful perspective, that there is possible light at the end of the tunnel soon due to the Covid-19 vaccination rollout, perhaps new ideas will even be attained for future professional services.
Pivoting with change
Shifting from one method of constructing business to another, small business owner Christine Carter of City Tasting Tours in Memphis, Tennessee pivoted her company, which was based on giving food tours to an online platform. By pairing a specially made meal prepared by a chef along with a 30 minute online tour-link about the meals, options for those food construe that were locked down at home and could not go out on a tour became available. Aimed at supporting local products, Carter found it important to focus on providing a service to clients that was fun and interesting, but also continued to promote her second party stakeholders in which she collaborated with on her tours.
“Virtual Food Tour Experiences” were added to the City Tasting Tours tour menu, where the boxed food would be delivered to customers on a preferred date and time so that their dining and virtual experiences are paired. “Dishes for two from three restaurants could be enjoyed in your home”, along with the food details and stories from the restaurateurs which enhance the foodie experience. Additionally, the e-commerce boutique shop curated collections of black food artisans based in Memphis, to help celebrate the “heritage and tenacity and resilience of the local food scene”, keeping both local craftsmanship and Carter’s culinary food experience alive.
Context Travel also took its business to another level to keep the “conversation” going, by creating its subsidiary Context Learning. The tour operator which normally conducts excursions in over sixty cities across six continents, designed a new concept for their company to help both out of work tour guides and travelers seeking an informative experience while stuck at home.
Context Conversations offers online scholar-led seminars, scholars being the same tour guide specialist who normally conducted the companies in person experience. Customers may choose from such fascinating courses as Roman Hispania- Portugal and Spain during the Age of Rome, The Aperitivo in Venice: History, Traditions to the Perfect Spritz, and The Best English Gardens among many other enjoyable course topics. When travel is not possible the concept still connects travelers to lifelong learning possibilities at home, while generating employment and supporting business relationships with the valuable guides who need paychecks and whom the travel company hopes to retain to guide clients in a real time tourism landscape in the future.
Helping out in critical times
Moving through the waves of the crisis may be easier for some businesses than others, so many operators have set forward giving back campaigns to assist out of work employees and appreciation programs for the medical heroes on the forefront. The feel good stories have spread like the virus in some ways, in that both big and small tourism stakeholders around the world have found ways to demonstrate kindness and gratitude for others.
Conservation Heroes is a covid relief project created by Wilderness Safaris, to raise money for out of work employees in the community so that they can buy food and necessities, in that they have lost their tourism based livelihoods in the pandemic. All donations whether big or small will have a positive effect on the local community in that there “is widespread food insecurity”.
The covid relief project also is crusading for funds to protect wilderness and wildlife due to poaching threats that are more active now, due to decreased law enforcement and tourist presence. Many are turning to “bushmeat as an alternate income and food source” and “others are converting wildlife land to subsistence agriculture” both which are detrimental to the indigenous species of the area. The duo initiatives are aimed at conserving the wildlife species and pristine nature of the area, while socially providing for local communities in the presence of diminished employment opportunities.
Furthermore, Highland Expeditions, a high altitude adventure tour operator, has issued a call to support guides, porters and local staff, who have “lost their livelihoods due to Covid”. The fundraiser Together We Can Overcome aims to support local households whose family members have served guests on numerous climbing and high country adventures, many have been out of work for almost a year now and are on the brink of financial disaster.
Appreciating the heroes
In another manner of supporting those risking their lives to help others are the airlines, hotels, cruise lines, among others. One such example of an airline cheering on those that have been fighting at the front of the Covid pandemic is airways giant, Qatar Airways, who launched the giveaway of 100,000 complimentary tickets to frontline healthcare workers to fly anywhere in the airline’s global network.
Airbnb has helped provide housing to over 100,000 Covid-19 responders. The global program has provided “free or subsidized housing for healthcare professionals, relief workers, and first responders, typically closer to where they are working”. It has been important for these workers to find “safe and convenient places to stay” and Airbnb has made a mission to help out others in these “extraordinary times''. ”
After a successful pilot program in Italy and France which accommodated medical staff was accessed , the program expanded globally. To ensure the health and safety of both guests and staff, Airbnb has worked with leading experts to create “robust preventive practices and stringent safety standards’ ‘that has created a unique approach to address the housing needs of vital healthcare professionals.
Many large chain hotels launched programs to help out and give back as well. Hilton teamed with its partners and donated one million rooms to medical professionals during the covid crisis. And Hyatt announced an initiative, “Hyatt Loves Locals”, to assist local small businesses across the globe. Many small businesses have suffered in the rise of the pandemic, so Hyatt has set up a program to collaborate with these struggling businesses, so that they may continue to operate in various ways.
One such “Hyatt Loves Locals” collaboration included a “woman-owned espresso business that started as a mobile espresso cart, Monorail Espresso”. As the pandemic found its way to Seattle, Washington where the business was based, the small coffee shop “saw sales drop 50%” and even had to temporarily close one of its locations. Hyatt teamed up with the shop and featured their business in the hotel’s lobby where “coffee growlers, beans and swag” could be purchased, the pop up location is named MxM.
Likewise cruises such as Carnival Cruise Line and hotel operators opened their doors, extending an invitation to help out with space issues over occupied hospitals that have faced since the start of the pandemic. Vacant guest rooms which were normally occupied by travelers could be converted and used as temporary hospitals, to take the pressure off the conventional health centers.
Ideas for the future
As the world watches and waits for the global pandemic to regress into more manageable proportions, the historic events the world is facing now will be something that is not forgotten. Lessons learned and practices acquired will grow and likely continue to be evolved or innovated in the future after reasonable tourism activity is reinstated again.
Ideas, such as pivoting, may be something that many tourist operators regularly apply to their practices. As many areas operate on a seasonal basis, alternative forms of business such educational platforms or classes may fill in the gap during the off season and provide continuous employment opportunities or cash generating methods for many tourist industry professionals, after the lessons learned from the pandemic crisis.
Giving back will also likely become even more of a dominating focus, in that awareness has been raised to the basic needs of so many, as well as those many men and women that have put their lives on the line to save others. For most, giving and appreciating others is an act of healing, so even though the world mourns for the loss of so many of its citizens, the generous and kind practices may hopefully aid in the healing process.