Defend, Protect, Plan and Act: Resilience Strategies for your business

Covid-19 is presenting unprecedented global challenges for the travel industry in both the short and medium term. Misinformation and fear has spread as fast or faster than the virus itself, but we are under no illusion, this is a real public health crisis with actual risks to consumers and colleagues.

It has never been so important for brands to provide clear, correct information from trusted sources in order to provide reassurance both to customers and internally. Safety must come first for brands to retain consumer trust.

But no matter how deep the issues are right now, demand and consumer confidence will return and when it does, travel brands will want to be in a robust position to fulfil the pent-up demand.

Consumers are spending more time than ever online during this time of crisis and as well as searching out the latest news, those who are and will be self-isolating, will be dreaming of escape. Google has told us that whilst searches for holidays, flights and cruises dived dramatically from 22 February, demand is still substantial. The way a brand communicates with their online community during a time of crisis is key to winning hearts and minds which is not only crucial now, but also for when the situation returns to normal.

So what strategies can you implement?

Issues to consider include:

  • Keep customers reassured and updated. Keep communicating.
  • Provide useful, factual information, guidance and intelligence from trusted sources such as WHO, FCO and Public Health England.
  • Provide regular communications on fast-changing situations in destinations, information on flexible booking policies and what’s being done for health and safety in destinations.
  • Be transparent and consistent across all communication channels
  • Sentiment and tone of voice are also key. Brands need to engage with their followers with empathy and warmth. They need to show unity with destinations that are being affected by the virus. This is not the time to be robotic.
  • Act collaboratively with clients, partners and suppliers to ensure you are listening to their needs.
  • Maintain share of voice in the media. As ever, LOTUS continues to communicate with valued media contacts to find out what they need and when they need it and fulfils these requests on time. From our conversations with media over the past days editors have told us that they’re still very much looking for travel content for their pages. That content has shifted and is now focused on travel-related consumer issues, providing inspiration for 2021 bookings, good deals and travel health advice.
  • Monitor consumer confidence and sentiment. Listen to customers and stakeholders and address their needs and concerns.
  • Whilst the outbreak is ongoing, review marketing campaigns and target effectively with value deals where you know demand lies. For companies who work with multiple destinations, focus on destinations that are outside FCO advisory ‘red zones’.
  • Review messages aimed to stimulate bookings carefully. Be aware of being unsympathetic to consumer sentiment and don’t ignore official advice.
  • Be mindful of what consumers are looking for during the ‘crisis’. Our specialist division LOTUS Wellbeing has found that consumers are more concerned than ever about health, wellbeing and mental health. Messaging around these themes will be well-received over the coming weeks.
  • Ensure your agency maintains your profile in the media during the outbreak with statements and opinion pieces to ensure a strong position for when the situation returns to normal.
  • Pent-up demand, when it comes, has the potential to be sizeable. Prepare for recovery when the situation returns to normal
  • Have a range of content to be ready to go (particularly value offers) when recovery is in sight.

Jules Ugo, Managing Director of LOTUS