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5 Expert Tips to Re-Open Your Tourism Business

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I watched the day dawn this morning, sitting outside with a hot cup of tea.  The dawn always gives that sense of hope, freshness and a new beginning.  I wish that spirit of the dawn to you and every single person working in tourism and hospitality today.  Here in Ireland, the industry is energising around the earlier-than-expected re-opening date of 29th June. 

As I sat there, I wondered how an individual owner or manager can now resource themselves to navigate this new phase, I got to thinking back over the many Zoom calls I’ve either hosted, contributed to or listened in on over recent weeks.  Like everyone else, I’ve had an opportunity to learn so much from others in the industry!  Here are the nuggets of wisdom from 5 industry experts in Ireland that sprung to mind and they may serve business owners and managers well in the next week or two.

1. “Reassurance is your Key Selling Tool” – Jarlath O’Dwyer, CEO Burren Ecotourism Network & The Tourism Space.

Gather all the information and forthcoming guidelines on health and safety, assimilate that and adapt it to your brand and your experience.  Your health and safety messaging, communicated in welcoming and reassuring tones, must now come first – on your website, in social media, on your premises.  This may tire in a few weeks after the re-opening – for now, though, as visitors find their travel legs again, it’s a primary decision-making factor.  Jarlath recommended creating a branded, 1-page Charter that is downloadable from your website, visible in your premises and fully understood and executed by your team.  

2. “We are always just a tweet away from a mini firestorm. But don’t let that stop you moving your business forward.”– Pól Ó Conghaile, Travel Editor & Writer.  

In Ireland, we expect official guidelines on re-opening in the next day or two.  No matter how rock-solid they are, however, it is certain that people will interpret them differently.  Absolutely expect visitors to be assessing your performance and drawing conclusions on how well you do.  Absolutely expect that you will not get everything right every single time.  And absolutely expect that damaging social media post to come your way.  Think now about how you will deal with it when it happens.  According to Pól, the key is to have a very clear understanding of the health protocols you’re putting in place, give customers clear expectations and manage that when they arrive.

3. “Digital is the key battleground.” Niall O’Callaghan, Managing Director, Shannon Heritage

The Digital Space is where business will be won and lost and sharpness here will make a big difference to your re-opening experience.  Move as much of the transaction as possible online.  In a recent 'View from the Bunker', Niall shared that this will allow you to 'emphasize interaction and not transaction' when the visitor actually does get to you. Your warmth and welcome must shine through on site so let digital do what it can for you in advance.  Businesses are managing capacity online in advance, selling tickets, allocating arrival times, providing reassurance through detailed health and safety messaging.

4. “Set a goal, decide the action, execute the action, move on”, Julie O’Brien, Runda Hospitality & Tourism Solutions.

We can expect a flurry of opinions, predictions, conjectures, guidelines, interpretations over the coming few weeks.  It will easily become overwhelming.  In conversation with the Burren Ecotourism Network, Julie spoke about dealing with those feelings of overwhelm and panic that set in early in this whole crisis, and gave advice about channeling that panic into positive energy: Set a Goal, Decide on the Action, Execute the Action, Move on.  Take this approach to give yourself as much control as is possible in this scenario that will play out day by day.  Work with what you know and make the best plan with the knowledge you have.

5. Ar scáth a cheile a mhairimid” Michael Vaughan, Owner Vaughan Lodge Hotel and Host of ‘A View from the Bunker’

Michael concluded one of his Bunker conversations with this evocative old Irish saying.  It’s translated variously by different people.  Here’s my version: ‘we survive and thrive in the shelter of one another’.  Resist the mindset that sees you in competition with others in your destination.  Continue to collaborate, support and encourage each other – now more than ever!

Thanks to Jarlath, Pól, Niall, Julie & Michael for their inspiration! 

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The newsletter, Public Sector Tourism Monthly, contains curated insights and inspiration from here in Ireland and from around the world, with a particular emphasis on sustainable, regenerative and collaborative themes.   

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