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Perspective & Priorities: Reopening New York

Jun 2, 2020

NYSTIA Vice Chair Josiah Brown and I have recently collaborated on webinars with several TPA's to help provide insight for their local businesses. We're grateful for the opportunity to support reopening efforts and wanted to share some of the perspectives, priorities, strategies and statistics we've been tracking with the aid of our partners at U.S. Travel and our many talented NYSTIA colleagues.

PERSPECTIVE: COVID-19 has been a 'tsunami event':The 'Tsunami of Change' analogy refers to situations where the scale of change in the business environment delivers game-changing, potentially devastating impact. If you're on the beach when you witness the signs that something big is coming, how do you react and how does that shape your future?

There are three basic categories of response to 'tsunami of change' events in the business world:

  • The Ostrich Mentality: Some bury their heads in the sand - deny the reality in front of them and pretend nothing is happening. They continue to do what they've always done. Obviously, this is not recommended as a response to threats in your business environment. Not making any adjustments to reflect the challenging and changing environment is a formula for failure (or worse).
  • Hunker in Your Bunker: Another common response to a challenging business environment is to settle in, cut budgets and do your best to minimize risk and survive until better times return. While this is better than ignoring the situation, it is a survival tactic, not a winning strategy. It is reactive, not proactive. You will lose ground to competitors who mount a more aggressive, innovative and strategic response.
  • Ride the Wave of Change: The most successful marketers in any industry will be those who grab their proverbial surfboards, paddle out and ride the wave of change. They don't deny it or hide from it. They do their best to understand it and position themselves to use whatever data, tools or strategies they have at hand to sustain and possibly even gain momentum and market share coming out of the situation. I recommend our members consider how they can 'ride the wave'.

PRIORITIES: How can you ride the wave?

  1. Get Out in Front, Be the First to Communicate:
    1. Lead with health and safety: As you reopen, don't wait for travelers, consumers and colleagues to ask you what you're doing to address their concerns about COVID-19 safety. Research clearly indicates that's their first priority! Be proactive. Use email, home page and social media posts to reassure them that you are on top of the situation and implementing all the appropriate protocols and precautions. Anticipate and answer their questions preemptively (love those faq's!). Anecdotally, I have family that planned to travel recently on Southwest Airlines. They were contemplating canceling their flight (and driving 6 hours) until Southwest sent them a preemptive email that outlined all of the additional measures that had already been implemented to ensure passenger health and safety. They followed through with their plans to fly and were pleased with the airport and onboard experience.
    2. Let them know what to expect: Research also tells us that travelers worry that they will travel to a destination where they will be asked to quarantine for 14 days; and they don't want to arrive and find out that all of the attractions and experiences you promoted aren't open or have already been booked to capacity. Promote the experience(s) you can deliver NOW and provide consumers with the advice they need to get the most out of their visit.
  2. Find Your Cheese: COVID-19 has effectively 'moved your cheese' and there have been and will continue to be unavoidable consequences for the travel industry regardless of how we respond. However, the degree of success you will experience will be driven by your ability to adjust your priorities, lay out new strategies and effectively meet the needs of your consumer and your community in the new reality.
    1. We all know that the drive market is coming back first: The most recent data suggests that 46% of Americans plan to travel between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Of the 46%, 76% plan to travel by car, 22% by plane domestically and 2% by plane internationally. (Longwood Suites with Miles Partnership, May 27 2020)
    2. Other travel consumer optics have changed: Consumers are exploring travel options and opportunities that weren't necessarily on their radar screen six months ago. The good news is that they are more open to new ideas, the reality is that they feel compelled to look for safer options to share with friends and family in the context of COVID-19 precautions. Hiking, biking, paddling, camping, small towns and other destinations 'on the road less traveled' have an opportunity to market experiences to a far more receptive audience.
    3. Be creative, be fun: How about offering a 'land cruise' itinerary for the family RV/SUV? Package and present your available experiences and attractions creatively. But while you're reassuring consumers that you are safe, open and ready - be sure to promise and provide memorable experiences they will treasure.