Safety first: travelling post-COVID
The well-being of travellers has already always been top priority for tour operators. However, now that the entire tourism industry has been disrupted by the COVID-19 virus, health and safety are even more important now.
Therefore, the awareness of good practices in health and safety of travellers will continue to grow. It will thereby also influence their expectations for travelling. That is to say, they will be more cautious of health issues for future travel plans and expect tour operators to do the same.
Prepare for new travel standards
As tour operator, you’ll need to take reasonable precautions and prepare your business for new travel standards. Travel is a shared operation and experience. Tourism businesses, suppliers and travellers need to be willing to comply with health and safety procedures.
In the end, transparency and trust between your business, employees, suppliers, travellers and destinations will be the leading drive in the recovery and future of tourism. We’re all in this together.
In this article
Tips to ensure customer health and safety
To meet the travellers expectations, be guided by our 7 tips to ensure customer health and safety and to win their trust.
1. Create a health and safety protocol
Keeping everything running smoothly, requires you to put your plan in writing. To ensure transparency and to be able to communicate it clearly, it’s important you create a protocol for the new travel standards. This needs to include the new procedures that ensure customer and employees health and safety. But also how you will train, communicate and maintain the protocols towards employees, travellers and suppliers.
By developing these guidelines, you actively support and implement safe operational procedures. They will help prevent travellers being infected by COVID-19 and also increase the safety level for travellers, employees and local communities. When developing your own protocol, be guided by the Global protocols of the World Travel and Tourism Council.
2. Develop safety regulations for customers
As mentioned before, we are all in this together. But still, travellers will lean on tour operators to keep them safe and sound during their travel experience. Provide each traveller with a clear information package describing your guidelines and recommendations. Don’t forget to keep communicating the procedures throughout their experience to uphold the safety standards.
Basic tips to ensure health and safety for customers
- Promote frequent handwashing
- Recommend the use of face masks
- Exercise physical distancing
- Provide each traveller with a free hand sanitizer and facemask
- Ask for a negative COVID-19 test on arrival
- Facilitate online-check in and wireless payment
- Avoid groups arriving at the same time
- Pre-book lunch and dinner or arrange a picknick outside
- Avoid the highlights and travel off the beaten track
- Disinfect and clean thoroughly in between groups
3. Train your staff in safety regulations
After developing a safety protocol for your customers and experiences, you need to make sure your employees are aware. To make the protocols effective, they need to be trained and feel comfortable with the new regulations. You can only create a safe environment for both the employees as customers if they know how to comply with the guidelines.
To avoid larger groups together, facilitate an online webinar or e-learning program where employees can become familiar with the protocols. Host Q&A sessions and aim for minimising the risks of an unsafe situation. Don’t hesitate to invest in this as your staff will be responsible for communicating this to customers during their experience. They are essential in creating a safe travel experience.
4. Verify your practices
Besides developing your own protocols and promoting it to your customers, there are also options to verify your practices. By having a third-party check and evaluate your protocols and practices, you will earn validation. It thereby provides your customers with evidence you are serious about your responsibility to keep them safe during their travel experience.
Two relevant options where to do this are the:
The Virus Aware Seal is an initiative of the Good Travel Guide. Businesses that participate in the Good Travel Seal certification can also apply for the Virus-Aware Seal. In the latter, the efforts and measures of a business ensuring a safe travel environment are evaluated based on a score card.
The Global Safety Stamp is an initiative of the World Travel and Tourism Council. Businesses in the tourism industry, among which tour operators, are eligible to use their Safe Travels stamp once their health and hygiene protocols, outlined by WTTC, have been implemented.
5. Collaborate with partners
As tour operator, you want to make sure your customer’s safety is ensured throughout their entire experience. Therefore, it’s important to collaborate with your partners and key stakeholders. To fully implement your protocols and to understand additional measures. Work closely with your entire supply chain to ensure full and correct implementation of likeminded protocols.
Thereby, also adapt your travel experiences to COVID-19 regulations. This way you can offer customers the chance to explore the destination safely. In the end, you are responsible for the well-being of your customer. Make sure the communication with your partners is transparent and clear. Also agree on implementing protocols and certain sanitation and disinfection cleaning practices.
“Consistent and easily-understandable standards will help you boost traveller confidence”
6. Communicate your regulations
Now that everything has been arranged internally, its time to rebuild trust and confidence with your travellers. The best way to do this is through effective communication and marketing. Inform them about your newly implemented protocols and assurances to ensure a safe travel experience. Communicate your protocols both digitally as physically through all your channels.
Tips to communicate your standards
Consistent and easily-understandable standards will help you boost traveller confidence. Don’t forget to:
- Raise awareness about the need for save travel experiences
- Share your customer regulations before arrival
- Remind them about the regulations on-arrival
- Have employees available for direct support
- Ask for customer feedback after their travel experience
- Update the protocols if changes are made
7. Be flexible and reliable
Lastly, remember that you should see your protocol as a living document. The regulations can change as the tourism industry slowly recovers. Keep communicating your protocols to your employees, customers and suppliers. Remain transparent in your procedures and be prepared for the unexpected.
Flexibility is key here and show this to your customers when it comes to moving dates and cancellations. Customers will be worried about financial security and might be hesitant booking a travel experience without security of flexible booking conditions. Ensure them and show your reliability by supporting them in the process.
Take responsibility: ensure customer health and safety
Nobody knows how the future of tourism will look like exactly. The only thing we can do now is adapt to the current circumstances. Prepare for new travel standards and ensure customer health and safety throughout their entire experience. Key aspects in the way forward are protocols, trust, collaboration, transparency and safety. Take responsibility and offer customers the opportunity to explore the destination in a safe way.