Is Your Travel Business Prepared for Global Climate Disruption?
January 26 is Australia Day, the country’s biggest summer holiday and the centerpiece of such tourist events as Australia Day Live, a massive music festival held in the iconic Sydney Opera House.
It’s also a time of year when Sydney receives the most tourism, whether to see the city’s legendary New Year’s Eve fireworks display, enjoy summer in the Southern Hemisphere, or for a number of other reasons.
But this year, Sydney’s high season is being overshadowed by the “megafire” currently raging across thousands of square miles of New South Wales and Victoria. Those are Australia’s most populous regions, and home to Sydney and Melbourne, the country’s biggest, most cosmopolitan cities and largest air transportation hubs.
As such, tourism in the country has taken a hit. Though Sydney’s iconic New Year’s Eve fireworks proceeded (although not without criticism), the city’s Australia Day fireworks show has been cancelled. Mass protests against the government’s handling of the crisis—and its refusal to acknowledge climate change—are attracting tens of thousands of citizens.
None of this is encouraging to potential tourists, who have been subjected to apocalyptic images of smoke-filled cities, blazing red skies and enormous fires for months. And this is just the latest example of how global climate disruption is affecting the travel industry: Such events are becoming more widespread as climate change continues to alter weather and storm patterns across the world.
Businesses operating in the travel, tourism and hospitality industries are faced with a difficult and potentially existential question—how do you deal with the challenges posed by global climate disruption?
6 Ways to Prepare Your Travel Business for Global Climate Disruption
1. Prepare a guide for worst-case scenarios. Australia’s fires have caused mass evacuations of residents and tourists from popular vacation destinations like the country’s beach-strewn South Coast. The government has also advised travelers against visiting other popular spots, such as South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. At a minimum, this has ruined holidays—and at worst, it means lives are in danger.
Though Australia is no stranger to seasonal wildfires, the extent of the current crisis would have difficult to predict months in advance, when travel plans were being made. But with climate change becoming increasingly widespread, it’s safe to assume that this is only the beginning—and travel businesses can best minimize the fallout by preparing travelers for worst-case scenarios.
There are a number of ways to do this: Dedicate a section of your website to outlining emergency procedures. Create a script for your customer care agents to deal with concerned travelers when they call. Above all, be ready. Having a plan of action and showing preparation for all contingencies will not only reassure your customers but reduce the drama and disruption you experience when crisis strikes.
2. Offer reassurance via official sources. Thanks to today’s interconnected communications, travelers can learn what’s going on virtually anywhere in the world, at any given time, from a variety of reliable sources.
Most fire services offer updates on Twitter, for instance. The U.S. State Department regularly updates its site with travel advisories. The government of New South Wales even offers a “Fires Near Me” app. Armed with this knowledge, you can reassure travelers that they can stay abreast of any unexpected developments that could jeopardize their convenience or even their safety, practically in real time.
3. Offer alternative destinations. Developing a series of alternative locations with similar profiles could help you minimize lost business when global climate disruption strikes. For example, New Zealand is a viable alternative to Australia, as is South Africa. Both feature Southern Hemisphere seasonality, an abundance of outdoor activities and the convenience of English-speaking cultures.
Even within the same country—particularly one as large as Australia—many areas may be perfectly fine for travel while others are facing difficulties. Perth, Cairns, Tasmania and the famous Uluru rock are all relatively free from the fires currently inundating Australia, for example. Your agents should be educated about this and ready to help concerned travelers adjust their plans accordingly.
4. Revisit your cancellation policies. Cancellation policies for airlines, hotels and cruise ships are sometimes stricter than travelers desire—and in this current era, that could mean the difference between whether a trip is booked or not. And while some companies do tend to relax their cancellation policies during times of crisis, this isn’t something that’s necessarily known to all travelers.
If possible, work out relationships that allow for more flexible cancellation policies, which can offer travelers the reassurance needed to book their desired travel. And make sure your customers know that these policies are in place, so they can book travel more confidently.
5. Offer attractive travel insurance options. Travel insurance can be difficult to navigate, particularly for novice travelers. Some plans don’t offer coverage for climate-related events, for instance, while others have other restrictions or time limits that can be hard to comply with or even understand.
Offering insurance on favorable—and understandable—terms can make the difference in winning over customers in an era of widespread concern over climate disruption. Working out a special offer with an insurance partner also could provide you with a lucrative upselling opportunity.
6. Make sure your customer care staff is knowledgeable, helpful and easy to access. More than most other industries, travelers demand fast access to customer service reps. They also want real-time assistance when difficulty strikes.
As our own research has shown, travel customer service agents are most successful when they can demonstrate:
- Empathy with travelers
- A thorough understanding of travel destinations, airlines and accommodation options
- High-level knowledge of global distribution systems (GDS) to better facilitate
When travelers reach out—whether it’s a time of crisis, or just a standard request for information—they want to speak with agents who can offer meaningful insights. They need to know the solutions they’re being offered will really work. If they get this level of service on a regular basis, they’ll have much more confidence traveling with you in an era of global climate disruption.
We Can Help Your Business Cope with Global Climate Disruptions
Need help implementing these methods for dealing with global climate disruptions? We can help! As a leading provider of outsourced customer care for the travel industry, we have decades of experience building the kind of expertise that travelers demand.
Don’t wait until the next crisis: Contact us today to discover how Working Solutions can help your travel business prepare for the years ahead.Let's connect.