By Noelle Chong, Founder, Wanderprime Travel
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has come to a halt with the hospitality and tourism sector being the worst affected of all major economic industries. No doubt, this also means that the way we travel has inevitably changed forever. The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang shared that tourism was an important contributor to the Malaysian economy in the previous years. In his statement that was published by The Star, he revealed that the sector saw an increasing trend in GDP contribution since 2015 with 15.9% (RM240 billion) recorded in 2019. However, in 2020, the industry saw an estimated total loss of more than RM100 billion due to strict travel restrictions.
We are fortunate to still be thriving in this trying economic climate. No doubt that the growth of our business is not at its optimal, but honestly, we would not be here today if it was not for the unwavering belief and support from our clients which has further motivated us to be innovative with our products and services, adapt to the current situation, and stay relevant in the economy. Ultimately, we want to make travel possible again.
So the question is – what is our secret?
Of all the series of unfavourable events that had snowballed as a result of this pandemic, we found a silver lining in which it gives us industry players, be it tour operators, hotels and resorts, airlines, or the tourism board, an opportunity to come up with creative and innovative solutions that would help revive the industry and make travel a norm again.
Here are the four insights that we have learned from our year of making domestic luxury travel possible in 2020.
Be agile and adaptable
If you are in the luxury travel segment, last-minute bookings and trips are very common especially among high net-worth travellers due to their busy schedules and spontaneity. Last year, 75% of our clients had booked their vacation less than 6 days before their travel date with some bookings coming in as close as two days prior. For this reason, they would resort to booking whatever that suited them at that point in time. Hence, agility, creativity, and flexibility are some important skills to brush up on!
Be an expert, familiarise yourself in your practice, and build trust
In this modern society, clients are likely to rely on research and reviews before embarking on or purchasing any products and services. In our case, most of our clients rely on us to come up with the perfect getaway instead! This is mainly the result of them having multiple different hats of various sizes on either as entrepreneurs, board directors, or business owners which usually translates to them having little to no time for the extra work outside their scope. For trust, these are three criteria we aim for our products and services to meet before we propose them to our clients. They are a) Service Responsive Standards, 2) Comfort standards, and 3) Track experiences or portfolio. With knowledge, familiarity, and extensive network of recommendations, you will be able to better serve your clients, build trust, and uphold your brand.
Be readily accessible and responsive
Speaking of having little to no time, we are expected to respond almost instantly when our clients contact us because they usually establish contact only when they are available. Once you miss this window, you might have to wait awhile before getting a response and this would evidently translate to your inactivity and inefficiency. Worse case scenario, you might even risk losing a client. Thus, it is crucial to drive teamwork and to ensure everyone is on the same page in order to provide your clients with responsive, uniform, but most importantly, accurate information across various communication platforms.
Be understanding of your clientele
The term ‘luxury travel’ is one that we use to help potential clients and the general public understand what we do and what we have to offer. However, within the walls of the office, words such as ‘luxury’ and ‘best’ are discouraged as it is a debatable term when it comes to crafting products and services that would meet the demands and expectations of our clients. For instance, how do we define what ‘luxury’ could mean to millionaires compared to that to billionaires? Their budget, expenditure patterns, and preference could vary drastically. Thus, it is crucial to first define your company’s targeted market before moving on to understanding your customers’ expectations in order to deliver the experience that they deem fit.
Though the idea of the hospitality and tourism industry picking up anytime soon may seem far-fetched at this point in time, we can take this opportunity to reflect, learn, and adopt the necessary strategies, skills, and operations to put your organisation in the right gear in line with the new norms for when travel picks up again.