Op-Ed: Financial coping strategies for a future without international tourism

International tourists have been an important mainstay of Australia’s economy, but we’re going to have to figure out how to live without them for some time.

It’s not that they don’t want to come to Australia anymore. It’s that they either won’t have the money to travel, or that Australia won’t want them to come.

It was an international traveler –an Australian or a tourist – who brought CoVID-19 to Australia, and we don’t want that to happen again. So, our borders are not likely to open any time soon to tourists from countries with large numbers of Co-VID-19 deaths, unless those international travelers are willing to spend the first two weeks of their trip to Australia in lock-down quarantine, at their own expense, and have insurance in case they need to go to the hospital.

On the other hand, at any one time, hundreds of thousands of Australians are traveling abroad. Since 15 March, for instance, 300,000 people have returned to Australia, 3,000 were/are on cruise ships, and there’s another 11,000 living abroad with some trying to get back. In spite of their love of travel, very few Australians are planning a trip to China, Japan, the UK, France, Spain, Italy or the USA any time soon. The irony is that many Australians have never even been to places in Australia that international tourists save up their whole lives to come and see.  What a great opportunity to introduce them to their home country!

Aussies are travelers, and as soon as the social distancing regulations are relaxed, they are going to want to “go somewhere”.  Now is the time to get those 300,000+ Australians to begin to discover the wonders of Australia. Your task is to figure out how to get them to come to your city and stay in your accommodation.

So, my advice is to forget marketing to international tourists right now. Begin developing a PR plan that is focused on marketing to Australians. Think hard about what you have to offer, who your competitors are, and which tourists would be your ideal customers (e.g., singles, women, families, over 50’s). Think about what you have to offer that’s different – and how you are going to get your message across to people who are looking for your kind of difference.

Practical coping strategies for financially strapped businesses  

Businesses that are financially strapped need to do the following:

(1) Review your Profit & Loss, and Cash Flow, then Balance Sheet, and be honest about your financial position. After figuring out how much money you have, figure out how many weeks or months the money will last, given current expenses, and decide which expenses can be cut to make the money last longer. Talk with your landlord about postponing payments, making partial payments, or developing a plan that works for both of you.

(2) Apply for some of the government grants that the states and the federal government are making available, i.e., Job Keeper, Emergency Cash Grants, and maybe even file taxes earlier than normal if you expect to get a refund this year.

(3) Visit your banker and discuss a 6-month deferral of mortgage payments, and whether you quality for a loan with low interest and repayment deferred for six months, with reasonable payments thereafter.

(4) Spend time looking at your business and see how much of the business you can “re-invent”.  Look at the traffic flow through your restaurant’s kitchen, how your tools are organised in the truck or supplies are stored in the warehouse.  How can you cut out steps and save minutes? Work through the list of projects that you haven’t had time to do but know will make you more efficient. Revamp the registration or check-out processes, as well as the housekeeping roster and schedules. Look at the restaurant menus and which meals, wine and beer are selling and what kind of profit you are making on each one.  Ask the employees on JobKeeper to make suggestions about how to improve the facility, the processes, the food, service, and overall customer experience.

(5) Compare yourself to competitors and think about what you need to do to make yourself stand-out and be different from all of them.   

(6) Figure out how to translate your difference into a set of marketing messages you can send out through low-cost social media channels, e.g., Facebook, Instagram, and get friends and past customers to amplify the message. 

In other words, start working now to attract the Aussie traveler who is beginning to realise that “there’s no place like home” and are considering where to travel in Australia – and might love to come visit your accommodation, just as soon as they are allowed to travel again.

You can get upset that international tourists won’t be coming anytime soon, you can sit and wait for them to return, or you can go find new tourists – in this case Australian tourists. The good news is that we know they love to travel!

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