Growing Your Business In the Time of Coronavirus
By Kristen Carroll, Founder and CEO of The LMC Groups
From the first hint that coronavirus (COVID-19) was sniffing at a pandemic designation, my focus was on the economic devastation that would soon follow, likely causing more disruption than the virus itself. So far, we’ve seen just that. According to a recent poll conducted by GBTA (Global Business Travel Association), COVID-19 could reduce global travel spending by as much as 30% in 2020, or $46.6 billion per month.
Ouch. It’s not surprising that many in the travel industry are taking to social media to dispel the rumors and initial hysteria. As of Thursday, March 5th, the number of confirmed deaths worldwide is still under 3,500, but the concern comes from both the high rate of new cases, as well as the compounding unknowns regarding the virus’s etiology and eventualities.
The LMC Groups has an abundance of clients in the corporate travel sector, and our clients are already feeling the pains of great volumes of canceled events and the quandary of how to handle the new reality. Should you waive all the fees for canceled trips? If travel spending continues to fall, are you going to have to reduce staff or take other drastic measures to keep your doors open? Are your employees safe and taking the best precautions to keep themselves, your clients, and your guests healthy?
There are many factors to consider. What we aren’t seeing, however, is how to use this virus to drive business. We aren’t telling our clients to profit from a global outbreak, but we are suggesting they mitigate their potential losses in group travel and events by generating income and creating demand elsewhere.
For example, if you are a chauffeured car service provider, and clients are canceling air travel due to virus-related concerns, can you offer a different service that may better meet their needs while keeping your vehicles moving? Under normal circumstances, many business travelers fly or take a train or bus to a city near theirs, such as from Boston to New York, from DC to Philadelphia, from Dallas to Houston, from LA to Las Vegas, etc. This may be the time to offer your distinguished travelers private transportation for distances that are 3-4 hours each way. While that may be cost-prohibitive for them under normal conditions, when public travel becomes a concern, it may well be worth the expense. In addition to individual services, even small group transfers in a Sprinter or similar vehicle would be much more appealing than traveling through a major airplane or train terminal.
If you are in hospitality and incoming groups are canceling services, rather than absorbing those losses, what if you were to offer staycation packages to your local clients and potential customers? Many leisure travelers are canceling their trips out of an abundance of caution but would still like an option to enjoy a leisurely escape, without having to face massive crowds or extensive travel. Consider throwing theme nights at restaurants, weekend and even weeklong packages at hotels and spas, and other similar demand-creating strategies that meet a need for the public while also helping you keep your doors open when other areas of your core business are impacted.
If you are a tour company that makes money on out-of-town visitors, it’s time to offer local tours! Now is the chance to encourage people to become tourists in their own hometowns.
There are endless possibilities to change the narrative and keep money coming in for your company, but you cannot afford to sit by idly and wait for the business to find you. Create demand and help people find you who didn't even know they were looking for you. Hopefully, long after COVID-19, these tactics will become part of your ongoing service offerings, and you will end up with a larger book of business than when you started.
Have you done something to drive traffic to your services to offset your losses? We want to hear about it! Tell us what you’ve done in the comments, and if your story can help others, we’d love to feature you in our next blog post!
For now, stay safe, stay clean, and stay in the black!