During the first few weeks following an emergency, you'll need to make some quick marketing and communications decisions for your business. This section will help you to identify the best strategies to get your business back on track.
After looking at the financial implications of the crisis on your business, there are likely to be some marketing related decisions to make to increase your sales.
Here are some questions you might need to consider:
- What product do I have to offer?
- Do I need to make any changes to it as a result of the emergency situation?
- How do I get customers back to my business?
- Which customer markets should I focus on?
- Do I need to discount my prices?
- What advertising opportunities should I participate in?
Revising your tourism product
One of the things you may discover soon after an emergency incident occurs is that you can't offer the same experience to visitors as you did before.
If you're in regional Victoria, the natural environment could be damaged by fire, flood or storm which may lessen the appeal of visiting the area. You may need to identify new sites of interest that are undamaged by the emergency and safe for visitors.
You may not be able to offer your usual range of products or services due to damaged property or trouble with suppliers.
The emergency may also have created certain negative perceptions about the region that you need to address through changes to your product. You may need to restructure your product in some way to appeal to a new market to substitute for those who are not visiting.
Most tourism operators have to alter their product offerings in some way to compensate for the impact of an emergency. The trick is to be quick to notice what changes would help your business, to put these in place, and then communicate them to your markets.
The better you know your customers, the more adept you can be at devising product changes that meet your customers' needs and aspirations.
Notify your target markets of product change
Once you've identified the types of product changes you'd like to put in place, work out how you'll tell your target markets. This may include any or all of the following communication tools:
- Update your website, and other websites that feature your business. This may include the introduction of new packages and added extras.
- Send a newsletter or email to your previous guests to inform them about the new product.
- Let potential visitors know about any changes to your product when they contact you by telephone. Prepare briefing notes for reception staff to ensure the message communicated to visitors is clear and consistent.
It's also advisable to contact existing bookings to let them know about any changes to your product if the experience they thought they were purchasing has been altered.
If your product changes create a newsworthy story, contact travel media and other relevant media outlets to explain the new products.
Case Study – Big 4 Parkgate Resort, Halls Gap
"Three or four months after the fires, many operators got quite a shock to realise that the reason for tourists to visit their business had been severely hampered. People had to acknowledge that tourists were not coming to the area to experience their particular business but to see the Park. When that was damaged, so was our trade. To help alleviate this, we worked hard to identify new spots in the Park for people to visit as the most well-known sites were closed.
We introduced these sites to potential visitors when they made inquiries or arrived at the Resort, and it seemed to work well. During this research, I went to places in the Park that I'd never been to before. It is important for tourism operators to be open to product development change after a big event like this. It is part of winning back customers and maintaining levels of return visitation."
Samantha Magill operated Big 4 Parkgate Resort, surrounded by the Grampians National Park when bushfires hit the area in late 2005 and early 2006.