This past week, I put the final touches on a story about the business of quilt tours. I came to appreciate the creativity of fabric art.
Unfortunately, coming out of this crisis it’s more like patchwork. The federal government has charged states to determine their own game plans for re-opening. The states provide guidelines, but those guidelines vary from state-to-state. However, it’s up to the local cities to implement the guidelines and police them.
Here’s where it gets even more complicated. Case in point, our South Carolina governor lifted the ban on beaches. They had been closed during much of the quarantine. North Myrtle Beach immediately opened, but Myrtle Beach took a more cautious approach and delayed its opening a few more days. There’s too much that we just don’t know with so many individual destinations working their own recovery plan.
As part of the messaging, we’re hearing that group travel was the first to come out of the 9/11 and 2008 recession stoppages. After the 9/11 attacks, travelers felt secure in numbers. Post-recession, packaged group travel was a value. Frankly, I’m not sure we can take either of those situations and use them to predict the coronavirus recovery. We just don’t know.
Looking toward the future, what we better know
One thing we know is we should plan to see groups arriving with smaller loads. Group sizes have been shrinking over the years and today’s health concerns and social distancing will certainly contribute to smaller loads. Suppliers will need to get creative with itinerary options and pricing delivering unique experiences at an affordable price based on fewer than the normal 20-25 travelers.
No longer is it just okay to say our rooms are cleaned daily. You’ll need to know how rooms and public areas are sanitized. Is your staff being tested and how often? How’s your buffet going to sanitize and operate with my tour customers? What is the capacity of the restaurant at 5:30 p.m.? Will the tour customers be at a safe distance with adequate social distancing? How will your theater maintain social distancing at intermission when tour customers are headed to the lavatories and concessions? Does your attraction provide cloth masks and are the audio tours sanitized after every use?
You get the picture. This is the world we’re living in. The astute tour operators are going to be asking questions. Suppliers need to have answers.
By Dave Bodle