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Expert advice

Advice for the present and insights into the future of tourism

What happens when the world suddenly grinds to a halt? What impact will the current events have on our society, economy and tourism? Marketing and tourism experts take stock of the situation and offer advice on the best course of action.

Michael Oberhofer on tourism and society

This novel coronavirus is impacting heavily on South Tyrol and Europe. Its medium and long-term effects cannot be fully predicted, yet. But while tourism can sometimes come to a standstill, people’s desire to travel and see new places never fades. Travelling brings happiness. Humans have always been on the move and, as much as we may enjoy spending some time at home, the spark of wanderlust never goes out. When this lockdown is over, the desire for a change of scenery and a break from the daily grind will be stronger than ever. And that is what we should be preparing for. Let’s use this hiatus to review our marketing tools and to finally tackle what the hectic pace of the tourism industry has made us postpone. Let’s look ahead and find new strategies to (re)kindle the desire to travel in our guests.

A better future

Our life is usually driven by desire – we aim high, looking for the extraordinary. And yet, whenever we allow ourselves to be thankful for what we have, we understand the great value of the small things in everyday life. It often takes an emergency situation for us to become aware of this. And now, it has suddenly happened. All certainties seem to collapse, and we realise how incredibly valuable our time with our loved ones is, how wonderful it is to take a walk by the river, to eat an ice cream in peace and quiet as we watch people walk by.

The essential always lies in the humble things, rather than the grandiose ones. The beauty of everyday life surpasses that of a sensational experience. There is infinite magic in the smallest of things. Some of the wonderful things in life, now out of reach, will still be there for us when this is over. But others will be forever lost, because the world will not be the same after coronavirus. And perhaps, many of the things we no longer have were worth losing after all.

Embracing change

The only constant in this world is change, and with every end comes the great chance for a new beginning. Hope is always stronger than despair. Even now, we won’t let ourselves be defeated: we sing from our balconies, clap in appreciation for our carers, and experience a new sense of solidarity. Frightening as it may be, this current state of emergency holds great potential, because it forces us to stop and question ourselves. Now, it’s time for us to ask ourselves: “What kind of world do I want to live in?”

Most of us are facing this not with crippling anxiety, but rather with a level-headed approach – step by step, biding our time and thinking it through. We are taking care of things that we had been putting off, and devoting ourselves to our homes and families. Also, we are doing things at a different pace – one far more friendly to our minds and bodies than the hectic bustle we were used to before. We no longer have to run the rat race all the time: a quick online purchase, wanting to own something we don’t really need, ticking off another item from our endless to-do list.

What we are up against is more than just a virus. It is the shackles of our own behavioural patterns that we need to break free from. Those shackles prevent us from being our real selves. Changing habits takes time, and I hope that quarantine will afford us enough of it.

A new beginning

Change won’t be limited to interpersonal constructs – the economy will also need to be reinvented. The local dimension will recover its importance, because we are learning to support each other once again. We will seek recreation much closer to home – in our case in South Tyrol, in the Alps, in Italy. We will become more autonomous, rediscover the importance of craftsmanship, and use technologies that we previously resisted, but that are now part of our daily home-office work. Politics and science will regain our trust. Quality journalism will overshadow fake news. Nature will recover a bit at incredible speed, and we will treat it more respectfully, because sustainability will no longer be just a slogan. As for ourselves, we will grow stronger and more resilient. Petty things will no longer get to us, and we will learn what solidarity is all about.

Deceleration

Maybe one day we will once again feel like complaining about things like the weather, a disappointing meal, a cashier who works too slowly. But maybe we will also remember the time when nothing could be taken for granted, and that will stop us from nagging.

My hope that these days of quietness will teach us to stick to a slower pace, even when things are expected to pick up speed again as we transition into the post-coronavirus world. I hope that we will remain curious, retain our sense of awe for life, and support the local economy – the village shop, the local hotel, the restaurant in our town.

What is now standing still, we are in fact rebuilding. How do to that, we will understand little by little. For now, let’s be grateful for what we have, and let’s try to learn from this precious lesson so that we can create a better future.

Michael Oberhofer

Kohl & Partner: what should we do?

Tourism is now faced with new, major challenges. How to cope with absolute stagnation, and how to endure a state of standstill that will drag for weeks, possibly months? What measures are now needed to bridge this period and keep the ship on course? It is already clear that consumer behaviour will become more conscious. Lois Kronbichler and his colleague Werner Taurer show us the way forward.

#1 Solid business planning

For the next few months, every entrepreneur will need to operate on the basis of a well thought-out, continuously updated business strategy (with detailed plans, e.g. occupancy rate, employee budget, marketing plan etc.). We recommend considering three different, location-dependent scenarios, seen from today’s perspective:

  • Best case scenario: the summer season will start in mid-May, with restrictions and half-open borders.
  • Realistic scenario: the summer season will start in the second half of June, with relatively heavy restrictions until the end of July, and a relatively positive August and autumn.
  • Worst case scenario: the summer season won’t start until September, providing us with income in the autumn months. The next winter season is secured.

 

#2 Open and cooperative communication with banks

To secure cash flow, it is important to negotiate with banks personally, based on the various scenarios and the relevant business plans.

 

#3 Price reduction is not a solution
What is now required is a proactive pricing policy instead of price dumping: moderate concessions must be coupled with psychological pricing measures (price reductions subject to conditions, flexible terms for short-notice cancellation etc.).

 

#4 Keep staff motivation high
Even if it is difficult and many are on short-time work, it is important to keep in touch with the employees right now. This exceptional situation requires a lot of understanding from all parties involved. Team spirit is of paramount importance right now. Challenging times and experiences often bring people and teams closer – both at work and in private life.

 

#5 Focus on what is positive
The tourism industry needs to keep its focus on the good things in life. For many people currently “trapped” at home, the prospect of a holiday in early summer feels like a light at the end of the tunnel.

 

#6 Optimise cost structure
All internal reserves must be used, postponing or suspending what is not necessary for current operations, and naturally also tapping into any financial support measures offered by governments and interest groups.

 

#7 Invest in marketing and active communication
Stay in touch with your guests: send them messages from your holiday destination to offer them a relaxing virtual space. When normal business resumes, everyone will start communicating more intensively, all at the same time. This might make it more difficult to make your voice heard. Prepare in advance with a well thought-out operational marketing plan. Intensify your marketing directed to regular guests and keep offering high-quality advice. Under no circumstances should you panic and reduce or increase your marketing budget!

 

#8 Stay fit

At a time like this, it is important to keep yourself fit for purpose – through exercise and healthy food, but also through online training. Maintaining a harmonious relationship within your family and with your business partners is also very important.

People with ideas

We put together all our ideas, tools and professional expertise to help you through these uncertain times. Please do not hesitate to ask us for advice – our team of consultants is always at your side!

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