Morena Soleil – firstly, good on you for thinking about what next and what you can do. Many people are using the time to work out what next and how to plan with the levels of uncertainty. A couple ideas, and then I will jump into your specific questions. (1) past customers – do you have relationships with them, can you connect with them and see if you can help them ‘plan’ for a trip in the future, ask them when we have more certainty (and maybe there has been a gap) would they like to travel and ‘where’ – the idea here is the people who have worked with you in the past will know you, they will hopefully like what they received and that means you have to do less work to get them as potential future revenue (2) for the wider market of potential customers, I would think about how you can build an engagement with people who might still be interested in travelling post Covid-19, what can you do to help them work out where they might want to go, what options – this is about building your brand with your potential customers to choose you when they are ready, my sense is that I would not be trying to close people in this phase, this is more about you engaging, adding value and helping your market actually have hope and plan for the future. (3) on the question of ‘should I charge them a deposit’ – this is challenging, because you need to find ways to live, and keep the business going but also there is much uncertainty in the market that it is very difficult to ‘plan with certainty’ – albeit, here’s a thing, if you could actually secure epic deals from your suppliers eg. hotels for pre-bookings then you could pass these onto your customers and that might be a way to secure some deposits – just be careful about the ‘lock-down’ and when this will finish, and also the ‘trust account’ philosophy of holding your customers moneys for their trips – now lets have a look at your other questions. (4) how do you notify people of these packages you have secured? Talk to your past customers, they might be interested, build up some profile on Facebook, Instagram – mabye we can get some Facebook people to give some guidance on how to do this ‘hacker style’ ie with little funds – but I would say, you need to build the audience you can talk too – and maybe you need to find out ‘what might be the profile’ of people who would be willing to plan for a trip in 2021 now, because if you understood who these people were you could work with the Facebook services to go and find more of those people (5) How much do you charge for pre-registration to ensure commitment? I am not sure what happens in tourism, for my Icehouse business we charge somewhere like 15-25% if it is a long way out – does 10-20% sound reasonable? (6) Rules around this – as I said above, when you take other people’s money you have to be really careful about that customer money ending up in the same pool of money as you have to run the business, there are trust account rules in other industries, and I am sure the same thing applies for tourism, it is their money, not yours until they do the trip, so keep it in a separate account that you cannot access for the day-to-day business costs.
The final thing is – you have clearly experienced the pain of your business stopping, that is hard, but you also must not lose hope, you need to keep doing what you are doing to ask questions, to uncover where there might be future business. Remember lots of people will also be thinking about this right now in the tourism market – so think about your point of difference, and how you can amplify that up – and be ready for when normality comes back given how impacted tourism has been and will be around travel movements.
Thanking you for having the courage to share – Nga Mihi – Andy