ABTA’s Webinar on 14 May addressed the immense job lying ahead – bringing our industry back to life. The webinar provided insights from industry experts and business leaders for how companies can survive the next 6 months and get back on track when travel bans are lifted.
Our panel consisting of Alan Dixson (Let’s Go Travel Uniglobe Kenya), Brian Kitchen (Aviation Specialist), Jo Lloyd (Nina & Pinta), Jeanette Moloto (Marriott International), Kirby Gordon (Safair Operations), Nikki Fonzari (Cummins Africa & Middle East), Raphael Bueno (Business Rescue Specialist), Ricky Reynolds (Reynolds Travel) and Yvonne Skerritt (The Travel Guru) shared the following insights.
1. Stay active, visible and relevant
Now is not the time to go quiet. Smaller brands have considered ‘going dormant’ and starting their companies back up when bans are lifted. Our panel agreed that this is not advisable. Now more than ever, brands need to find ways to stay active and visible, and find new ways to deliver new types of value to their clients.
The importance of keeping sales teams as active as possibly cannot be stressed enough. Though there might be no ‘travel’ to sell right now, sales and customer-facing teams need to be constantly engaging current clients and changing the focus of their sales pitches – it is now all about how safe their products are, and what they are doing to positively impact the situation. Right now ‘helpful’ is relevant and will keep your brand visible.
2. Build Consumer confidence and Traveller readiness
Consumer confidence is of great concern, as is traveller readiness to travel.
If consumers do not feel ready or safe to use travel products once bans are lifted, the industry’s re-birth will take that much longer. It is of vital importance that travel managers and suppliers use this time to build confidence. Suppliers need to be continuously sharing what it is they are doing to ensure traveller safety when using their products, and travel managers need to be engaging travellers to address their concerns. Traveller surveys are a great way to do this and ABTA is currently working with their Members to assist in creating relevant and useful survey material.
The importance of continued education about the virus and its transmission cannot be stressed enough. Help your clients and travellers to address irrational fears by being very clear on how the virus is transmitted (via droplets and not airborne) and what precautions will keep them safe. The goal is to create a mindset where travellers realise that with a few precautionary measures and consistent hygiene habits, even if they are in close proximity to someone who has the virus, the likelihood of them contracting it is extremely low.
3. Make sure you still have cash in 3-6 months time
The current risk is that companies are so stuck in a survival mindset, that they might end up using all working capital just to get through the next 3 to 6 months. Herein lies a great concern though, as companies are going to need working capital even more when bans are lifted and businesses start operating at higher capacity again. It will thus be no good to spend all of your working capital now, and have none left when you really need it 6 to 12 months down the line.
Elements of the business rescue advice discussed on the webinar is to reduce every possible cost, engage with suppliers where long term contracts are in place and investigate how to re-work these agreements that assist with the longevity of both parties. Focus purely on your core business and cut out any surplus items that are costing unnecessary money. Collect any outstanding monies possible, and try to find ways to monetise any new and innovative services you are offering. Every little bit counts.
4. Engage, Engage, Engage
Transparency is of vital importance right now. Create strategies for engaging with each of your stakeholders and engage consistently. Clients need to know about your business readiness, traveller safety measures and what they can be doing to assist you while you are of service to them. Be honest about your current limitations, reduction in service levels and so on.
Engage staff as transparently as possible to give them a measure of peace to assist them to deal with any fears that you are able to address.
Engage suppliers about mutually beneficial strategies to reduce costs and delay financial commitments.
And finally, think about even engaging competitors to share strategies and advice wherever possible. As an industry, we are seeing a tremendous amount of team work with brands working together and all understanding that we are stronger together and the only way to ensure we have an industry that can again be robust, is to work together.
5. Use this time to fix what is broken
For many years, our industry has had some fairly unhealthy business practices, particularly relating to credit terms extended by TMC’s. This pandemic has thrown a massive spotlight on the importance of healthy business practices and specifically the ability to have a healthy cash flow and profit margins. We foresee a big shift in the way TMC’s and other suppliers will structure their payment terms moving forward, and clients who have grown accustomed to having extended payment terms will need to come to terms with this no longer being the case.
TMC’s and Suppliers need to use this time to re-asses all business practices that need to be adjusted, and start communicating this to clients. Not all business is good business and TMC’s and Suppliers need to be selective in the clients they keep on board, versus those who have a negative impact on their bottom line.
Other elements needing fixing will be all those items that you usually ‘just don’t have time for’ – Creating further efficiencies in processes, building databases and sales pipelines, moving to more automated processes in any areas of your business where processes are time and resource-consuming, and so on.
6. Have a ‘start up’ mindset
No brands are safe at the moment. Many travel suppliers that have relied on their legacy reputations or their ability to get business ‘by default’ are realising that this strategy simply doesn’t work in the current situation we find ourselves in.
Brands thus need to start ‘thinking like a start up’. If you are totally new to the industry, and you have been ‘born’ at a time when travel is being completely re-defined, what products would you develop and what services would you offer? Do research, engage with clients, and find ways to deliver new levels of service that speak to our current times.
Brands that are adaptable and innovative over this time and do a good job engaging clients, staying active, visible and relevant are the brands that are more likely to survive and thrive over the next 6 to 12 months.
If you missed this webinar, you are able to listen to it online HERE.
This resource is free of charge for ABTA Members and non Members pay R 250 ($15).