Tips and Motivation to Survive "Vaccine Roll-Out Despondency"
A poem recently popped up in my social feed that triggered the phrase “Vaccine roll-out despondency”.
We are all struggling to cope with waves of intangible frustration and despair over endless lockdowns and restrictions. I hadn’t been able to put a name to it until I read the words in the poem. It was only then that I realised that we are collectively feeling despondent.
The elation over hearing news of the successful development of Covid-19 vaccines has been replaced with, well, not much. Nothing has really changed in our daily recovery-period-pandemic lives.
Vaccine roll-outs continue to be painfully slow in many countries, and even in those that have succeeded in vaccinating millions of their populations, many people continue to live with lockdowns, travel restrictions and closed businesses.
This blog is written from the content of a collection of motivational posts I shared in my Building Tourism Resilience Facebook group over the last week.
No one can change the situation, but we can all bring our own small doses of motivation and support to counteract the desire to surrender to overwhelm and frustration.
As ever my thoughts and words are written with all of you, small, independent, hotel, lodge, b&b and hostel owners out there in mind.
Let’s start with the poem by Donna Ashworth:
You’re not imagining it, nobody seems to want to talk right now.
Messages are brief and replies late.
Talk of catch ups on zoom are perpetually put on hold.
Group chats are no longer pinging all night long.
It’s not you.
We are spent.
We have nothing left to say.
We are tired of saying ‘I miss you’ and ‘I can’t wait for this to end’.
So we mostly say nothing, put our heads down and get through each day.
You’re not imagining it.
This is a state of being like no other we have ever known because we are all going through it together but so very far apart.
Hang in there my friend.
When the mood strikes, send out all those messages and don’t feel you have to apologise for being quiet.
This is hard.
No one is judging.
The essence of the last part of the poem is sharing without judgement. I am a deep believer in the benefits we can build and receive by reaching out, but I am also a passionate advocate that we can only talk about something for so long, before action is required to move forward.
Discovering purpose, relevance and meaning might not be at the top of your to-do list right now when survival is keeping our fight and flight reactions fired up. However, losing sight of the “why” can make it easier to fall into that pit of despair.
I was once severely reprimanded by a Latin teacher for asking “what is the point of learning this?” after stating my view that I was never going to use the language to book a hotel while on holiday.
I have always needed relevance, we all do. We need it so that our decisions make sense.
So, take a moment to remember the “why”.
Why did you choose to build up, run or manage your hotel, lodge, b&b or hostel?
It is ok that we immediately answer, "to earn money so I can support myself and my family". But we all know that the hospitality industry is more than that. We change people’s lives through experience, comfort, rest, and rejuvenation, and you, as an accommodation owner, take great joy from making that happen.
Remember how you felt in the past when a guest is so grateful on check-out for everything you did to make their stay wonderful. Consider also how much more that disconnection will mean once we can travel freely again.
So, thinking leads to action. You probably already know who your target customer is (if you still need to do some work on this then further on you will find an example of how best to approach this research). But have you thought about what they will really need when they come to stay with you?
Maybe they just need rest. Maybe they want to discover something new about a place in their own country they have never visited before. Maybe they are looking for smiles and laughter with their family in a fresh new environment.
How can you show up at your very best for them so that they get what they are in need of? By matching your offer with their needs, you cannot fail to create a meaningful business filled with trust, satisfaction, and positivity.
We know that domestic will drive demand for the foreseeable future. Some countries will cope better than others depending on various pre-Covid travel trend factors. Regardless, this pivot is absolutely critical to survival.
A recent European report from Tourism Economics corroborates this:
“Under our baseline scenario we expect a faster and more stable recovery for domestic travel which will continue to account for an elevated share of total travel. Across Europe as a whole, the domestic share of total overnight arrivals is expected to remain elevated at 51% in 2021, after a jump from 44% to 62% in 2020”.
Tourism Economics: 17 Feb 2021 Travel & Tourism | Research Brief Europe: International travel risks and domestic substitution opportunities
What can you do today?
Research your new domestic target customer profile deeply, not only to understand who they are, but what they really, really need. Put yourself in their shoes.
To help you with this, take a look at the thought progression in this example to gain insights as to how this process can help you to understand your target client’s desired outcome, which in turn gives you the opportunity to truly meet their needs through your offer.
Also, remember that this pivot is by far just a Band-Aid. The world is hardly back on its feet from this crisis, but we all know that we cannot hide from others that will follow, especially those related to climate change and the effects of biodiversity loss. These will of course be felt with more or less impact depending on your geographical location, but the disruption to our supply chains and to travel trends will be felt by all.
Reliance on domestic travel is crucial now, but it is also a really smart long-term business strategy.
“By creating a stronger, more resilient business now, we create businesses that will be more sustainable in the future. We have a chance to build back better”. Sarah Habsburg
Keep this in mind always as you go through the motions of understanding and working out how to successfully market to domestic guests.
A huge part of any successful company has always been its ability to work in harmony with the people around it. But now, this idea of community collaboration takes on a higher meaning when we consider the following:
a) Domestic travel trends indicate that there is a growing interest in taking better care of their “own backyards”,
b) Increased awareness that keeping our supply chains as local as possible is the right thing to do for our communities and our planet,
c) Stronger marketing messages can be delivered when created in partnership with other team players from the local community, and
d) Creating a better place to live in is the pillar of responsible tourism practice and is fundamental to offering a more united destination that ultimately succeeds in selling peace of mind.
To further support these ideas, in a 2018 interview with the late Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott Hotel Group, (who sadly lost his battle with pancreatic cancer last week), his passion for improving destinations through community collaboration came through when asked for his thoughts on legacy and success:
“It’s never been about how much money you make or how much stature you have. It’s more about what kind of life you’re leading. It’s about: how are you engaged with each other? How are you engaged in the community? How are you engaged with the people you interact with on a daily basis?"
Let’s not wait for the right moment, just get going with community engagement. Build a group within a community where every angle of tourism is represented. For example, one or two people from a hotelier background, someone who works in activities or excursions, one or two transport providers and restaurant and catering owners, hopefully even someone from the local tourism board or the municipal tourism department.
Work out what is important right now. This can be something as simple as keeping children safer by putting in new cycle lanes or improving car parking for residents; or something more pressing like building a framework that ensures visitor and resident safety in light of Covid.
Whatever you decide to work on, keep the ethos behind responsible tourism in mind, that of creating a better place to live in first, before catering for tourism. Always in that order.
Peace of Mind
We are selling peace of mind more than ever before. Travellers do not travel just to stay in their hotel room. They have chosen your hotel or lodge because you are clear about what you are doing to keep staff and guests safe, but they also want to know that when they go out to eat, or take a local tourism train, that they will be just as well cared for.
Take this opportunity to consider how to create a unified campaign such as the Stay Another Day campaign that I discuss in this previous blog. Encourage the whole community to encourage visitors to stay longer, to spend more money that is so badly needed in the destination, in exchange for a deeper, more meaningful, and more integrated experience for themselves.
So let’s lose that individual feeling that we are all in it for ourselves. The industry will not survive if every business that contributes disappears, car hire, restaurants, ice cream shops, activity providers, they all need each other.
With strong leadership, this example of a unified marketing campaign, or the idea to develop a safety protocol for residents and visitors alike, can be created in a short space of time. There is no time to reinvent the wheel right now. Look at examples of good practice like the original Stay Another Day campaign in Durango, Colorado, or take the safety protocols from the WTTC for example. Use what is out there and make it work for your destination and your community.
Many times, the intent to organise a participatory community group falls at the first hurdle because not everyone wants to get involved. It doesn't matter. To make a difference does not require every business owner in the destination to take part. There will always be someone who wants to go it alone, or who thinks they know better, or who just doesn’t see the point. Go ahead anyway. Even though those businesses will ultimately benefit from your work, so what? It is not worth jeopardising your own livelihood because of the stubbornness of someone else, right?. Just start that conversation.
Also, don’t worry about getting it right the first time. Just keep going!
Have you ever heard of an app called Burbn?
No, neither had I, or anyone I met for that matter. Burbn let users check in at particular locations, make plans for future check-ins, earn points for hanging out with friends, and post pictures of the meetups.
It turned out to be too complex and was completely unsuccessful. The founders could just have ditched the whole idea. Instead, they focused on the analytics that showed what people were actually doing on the app, and that was sharing photos.
And so, Instagram was born.
Think outside the box. Be on the lookout for tools such as this website: Time to Herd
Updated every day, you can check the status of each country in regard to how many days it will take, according to current progress, to vaccinate 70% of the population. You can change the country on the right-hand side.
If you analyse the progress of the countries that were traditionally your strongest “in-bounders”, it can help you to prepare your marketing strategy according to those who perform the best and the fastest in the vaccination drive.
The confidence that a strong vaccination drive brings to the short- and mid-term return of tourism arrivals cannot be underestimated. This is further proven by the TUI’s February 9 statement that it is seeing the first effects of vaccine roll-outs.
In January 2021, the European tour operator received 2.8 million bookings for summer vacations, which is about 50% of 2019 levels. Most of these bookings were made by UK residents, possibly (and probably) bolstered by the successful vaccine drive in their country.
Of course there are still challenges to come, and we still have to work out how being "Covid-safe" post-vaccination will be proven and accepted on an international level, but one thing is for sure, we know a whole lot more than we did this time last year about dealing with global pandemics so we can only grow stronger from here onwards.
Hang on in there.
Don’t let the vaccine roll-out despondency get the better of you. Keep a hold of your purpose and have faith that this too will pass. Embrace the enforced drive to pivot to the domestic market as the smart strategy that it is to build back better and create a more resilient business for the future.
I will leave you now to ponder on this quote from Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor:
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Send me a mail here at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you are interested in learning more about managing a balanced sales and marketing strategy created specifically for small, independent hotel, lodge, b&b and hostel owners in Covid-recovery, just click here to hop on the wait list for my new short course. That way you will be among the first to be invited to join.
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