Collaborating as an industry to rebuild tourism is key to establishing more resilient businesses.
This is according to tourism resilience expert, Sarah Habsburg, who spoke on the theme during a webinar hosted by the South Africa is Travel Ready collective.
Sarah has endured crises in the tourism industry before. She had a hostel in a Chilean tourist destination that experienced an earthquake in 2010 and a volcanic eruption in 2015. “Overnight, everything was cancelled and there was no tourism.”
She said, as a result of both major interruptions to the town’s main source of income, community collaboration had been achieved.
Sarah described working with tourism businesses that had initially been disgruntled by the need to change. One of the changes was to shift marketing attention to a new source market. “It requires energy and a different set of marketing skills, but it isn’t just a Band-Aid,” she said.
“By creating stronger, more resilient businesses now, we create businesses that will be more sustainable in the future, when we face other challenges.
“One of the best ways to build resilience is by sharing and reaching out,” she said, which created the opportunity for dialogue and a platform for collaboration. Collaboration was important, destinations needed to share a unified message. “Travellers want to trust a destination.”
This meant more than building trust for your own business, she explained. Collaboration between businesses sharing a similar message would build a traveller’s trust in the accommodation, the restaurants, the airport, the town, etc. “We need to be working on trust on a destination level”, Sarah said.
COVID-19 had been a unifying experience for the tourism industry and sharing that experience was important. “What sharing our experience does, is make us realise that when we are challenged, we can change.”
A good example of such community collaboration was the city of Durango in Colorado. Tourism businesses in the city began to uniformly promote the ‘Stay another day’ campaign and collaborated to offer travellers an incentive to book another night there.
“The whole community came together to promote this concept, sharing the same message and sharing resources. That is community collaboration.”