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2021 is a Year of Hope for Tourism and Hospitality Small Businesses. Here’s How to Benefit.
2020 is the year we will remember as the year travel stopped. The convenience and safety of traveling to see family, friends, business partners, and just randomly exploring the world from one pole to the next in a matter of 24 hrs — this convenience we once took for granted, is something we’ll be re-learning to appreciate, in baby steps, in the following years.
But more than consumer convenience, the 2020 travel apocalypse hit small businesses in the travel and hospitality industries the hardest.
Just in the first 5 months of the pandemic, 80,000 businesses shut down in the U.S. 60,000 of them were small businesses. However, 2021 is now promising hope for those smaller tourism and hospitality companies that halted business during the pandemic.
The tourism and hospitality industry felt the most impact from COVID-19, with an immense number of small companies shutting down permanently. At a time when airlines went bankrupt, this is more than understandable.
Fortunately, a survey commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) is promising hope for the tourism and hospitality sector in 2021.
56% of Americans have travel plans for 2021
Fair enough, the number of Americans willing to travel in 2021 is still not what it used to be (normal stats range around 70%) but there’s a substantial glimmer of hope for the travel industry.
Over a third of AHLA survey respondents (36%) said they’re expecting more travel in 2021 compared to last year. 48% say their travel plans will depend largely on vaccine rollout.
For small businesses in the travel and hospitality industry, this means a slow return to life against the (hopeful) backdrop of vaccine rollout.
2021 travelers make decisions based on safety
It’s no longer just about 5 stars and all-inclusive hot deals. For travelers, some of the most important aspects of the tourism and hospitality business are now sanitary concerns.
52% of hotel guests will prioritize sanitary measures when choosing a hotel for business or personal travel in 2021
What does the above information mean for small businesses in the hospitality and travel sectors?
First of all, you’ve got to make sanitary measures your top priority. This means that all your staff has to be educated on special COVID-related safety practices and adhere to them rigidly.
None of us wants to check into a hotel that talks about safety and then see a maid sans mask coughing over their room as she vacuums it. Sure enough, it may be just a seasonal cold. But apart from being unprofessional and unsanitary, good luck proving that to your Booking.com reviewers.
How to stand out from your competitors
Travel in 2021 won’t be the same as usual. It will not be leisure in the sense as we know it. It will be family and business travel first.
This year, some people will travel because they have been without their family for long and didn’t have a chance to visit distant and older relatives; others because they have important business partnerships to attend to; others still will be exploring safer and more healthy locales for moving.
For all of these potential customers, you need to get the word out about your safety measures, so when those 56% of people do travel, they make it to your business and not a competitor’s.
- Regularly update the sanitary information (specific list of things you’re doing to keep visitors safe) on Booking.com and similar booking sites, your website, and inside the lodgings.
- Send business text messages to former clients, with brief information on your safety measures. You can do this for free via a business phone system like MightyCall or WhatsApp Business.
- Regularly show what you’re doing about safety on social media. (Hello, Instagram!) As wisemen say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Also see: Full guide to business texting etiquette
What you can do as a small business in travel and hospitality, is get the message about the measures you’re taking right now to COVID-proof your business. Know the needs — and fears — of your clients and make the sanitary norms you’re taking known to your clients. Talk and show that your business is safety-first.
Will 2021 be the year we can publically take masks off and breathe with a breeze hovering around our faces? Most likely not. But 2021 will be the year when we grow gradually comfortable with traveling.
As the numbers show, people are slowly opening up to family and business-oriented travel in 2021. But they need the reassurance that they’re in safe hands.
Be that reassurance to your clients.
More resources on how to survive COVID as a small business:
- Business in times of COVID: 8 success stories of growth during a pandemic
- The future of business after COVID: experts on what to expect