COVID-19: The Leisure Industry’s Response

The COVID-19 crisis is unfolding quickly and already causing unimaginable human suffering, financial losses, and social devastation. Businesses around the world report an unprecedented decline in sales and profits.

Although the pandemic is impacting all industries, the hospitality & tourism sector has experienced the most challenges to date. Part of the reason are the travel restrictions in place, prohibited mass gatherings, event cancellations, and other precautions taken by ordinary people.

Since the circumstances are rapidly changing, we have no other choice but to start planning for the future. 

We had a meetup with French tour and activity operators to discuss how they feel about the negative effects of the coronavirus outbreak. This article shares with you all the useful findings and recommendations discussed in the meeting.

Find out what is the industry reaction and how businesses continue to make the most of the situation. 

Industry attitudes and feelings

Tour operators, outdoor sports providers, and animal park owners were among the participants in our online meetup for French operators on March 23rd. What’s common between them all? The answer is pretty straightforward. They all have similar financial concerns since further losses might lead the business to collapse within months. What’s more, the unsettling level of ambiguity additionally worsens the situation. 

Companies across Europe report an overwhelming amount of booking and event cancellations. The lack of future reservations is also not to be overlooked. 

The majority of participants are worried about the summer season which is the main source of revenue for many. The absence of such would cause long term consequences for many companies. Summer season can be even more negatively impacted if the government decides to leave schools open during summer to make up for the lost time. 

Support for the most impacted

Businesses that are experiencing significant difficulties to cope with the current conditions, seek support from BPI France. The organization proposes different kinds of support to small and medium-sized businesses. They also help companies manage to prepare to restart the activity in 6 months.

What about the employees?

In response to the financial challenges, employers are taking the necessary steps to protect the business. They are also doing their best to look after the health and safety of both customers and teams. As a result, many put on hold the recruitment of seasonal staff. Those who have already started the hiring process decided to wait until the beginning of summer before they confirm with selected candidates.

Regarding existing employees, they are of course working from home if possible. When such an option is not available, they are either asked to take unpaid/sick leave or made redundant. Employers are doing their best to provide staff with advice and make the most of government support schemes where available. 

The B2C relationship

The fast spread of coronavirus is unavoidably causing harm to the relationship between businesses and customers. In fact, the majority of travel and tourism industry representatives we met shared similar feelings and struggles. In addition to the cancellations we already mentioned, many of them experience challenges when it comes to keeping in touch with their customers.

People don’t know when the lockdown will come to an end and understandably are not spending money on leisure activities. The majority of customers don’t even want to be contacted at all in the meantime. This is especially valid for people who are in self-isolation and strictly following the new rules.

Although options like sending gift boxes were initially considered by many companies, most of them now feel like it is neither worth the time nor the investment. They now mainly focus on content creation and work on renovation and repairs to get the business ready for the beginning of the season. 

VR Experience

Many French companies share that virtual reality experience is one of the few options going forward. They consider organizing training events and videoconferences as a good way to make use of the time. They plan to exclusively focus on their social media presence in order to reinforce the brand image, engagement, and outreach.

Following the example of  French tour companies and activity providers, make the most of this silent time. Do the planning and upgrades that you were always leaving for later. Also, don’t forget to stay active on social media and share useful advice and exciting upcoming events with your audience. 

What are the next steps? 

So let’s look at the bigger picture. What are the strategies you could implement to make your business survive the COVID-19 crisis? French leisure industry representatives plan to focus on the proximity. In other words, target local markets and demographics. 

Remember that when people are ready to go outside again, they are likely to make an effort to support their country’s economy and avoid traveling abroad. 

Wrapping up

Our meetup for French operators helped uncover some of the sentiments in the industry around CODID-19. In this article, we made an effort to summarize and deliver the most useful insights from the meetup. Feel free to borrow the ideas that would work for your company too.

In addition, keep in mind that everyone operating within the travel and tourism sector is experiencing the same difficulties. You are not alone in this challenge and in the end, the collective effort and enthusiasm will make a change for the better. Businesses will adopt new practices and ideas that will help them survive. And people will be back to normal, thirsty for excitement and new experiences more than ever.

About Angela Bolchinova
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