Welcoming guests from another planet?

7 December 2021

As the bubble expands it may feel that way…

With the arrival of the trans-Tasman bubble it will soon be more ‘business as usual’ for the tourism and hospitality industry in New Zealand. However, much has changed since Covid tipped our world upside down and the country’s borders closed. After so long without international visitors, are we ready for normal?

There is a sense of cautious optimism amongst those in the tourism and accommodation sector. In 2019, Australian visitors accounted for 40% of tourists arriving in New Zealand. It is, without doubt, an important market. But in the current environment, can we rely on things behaving in the same way they once did?

Flood or trickle? How much will the tap be turned on?

The travel bubble is the light at the end of the tunnel. Sort of. There are many unknowns at the end of that tunnel too.

Yes, Australians will head our way. But there are still many uncertainties, which we have to assume will impact people’s decision-making. Kiwis travelling domestically have helped sustain so many tourist centres and businesses around the country over the last year. Now, it’s likely these Kiwis will be keen to head to Australia for warmer weather, reuniting with family or for a change of scenery. It is still unclear if Australian visitors travelling to New Zealand will match the levels achieved by domestic travel.

There are some businesses that feel travel between the two countries will have a negative impact on bookings. However, for most, the travel bubble is good news and should bring better times as tourists pump some much-needed spending into our major tourist centres.

A psychological re-set

In the first few months, your guests’ experience will be absolutely unique to them. There is a good chance that, for better or worse, emotions will run high.

There’ll be both the euphoria and excitement of international travel and with it, inevitably, a crash now and then. Expect visitors to feel more on edge than normal. One small thing, and it may feel like their much-anticipated holiday is ruined.

It’s important to get the practical side of things perfect. Guests will want to see that standards are maintained at the highest levels, especially concerning hygiene. Guests will want to know they’re staying at a safe and sanitised property.

The other side is the human aspect. This is a good time to go the extra mile to make things as welcoming and hospitable as it can be – with all the happy smiles, sumptuous towels and comforting beds that brings.

The landscape’s changing (again)

If there’s one thing we’ve all come to accept as part of our new normal, it’s that things can change at a moment’s notice. And for accommodation providers, this means having a plan if things change. A sudden Level 4 lockdown or a closure of borders is all entirely plausible in today’s changed landscape.

Understandably, this can put guests on edge. Try to ease the stress and help them through any unexpected situations that may arise, no matter how small. It may be as simple as guiding through some alternative ideas on a rainy day if their sightseeing plans are cancelled. Keep things simple and stress-free for them.

Supply and demand

With some buoyancy expected to return to the travel industry, the demand for experienced tourism staff is once again rising. This can be a complex issue. Many tourism workers left the industry to find new employment and employers are left to try and fill roles at a time when unemployment rates are lower than at the start of Covid.

For hotels, it’s critical to maintain quality levels, and this can only be done with the help of a great team. This is not the time to let customer service levels slip and lose a reputation you have worked hard to achieve. Consider contacting hospitality colleges such as PIHMS and QRC to recruit skilled tourism staff or interns.

Lean into the head wind

As the winter months approach, we can expect most Australian arrivals to head to ski destinations for their New Zealand holiday. This may not be good news for many small towns that aren’t typically top of mind as a winter holiday destination.

Why not use this time to ramp up your promotion and education drive to potential Aussie visitors? The current NZ-wide marketing campaign has been successful in engaging Kiwis to see something new, you can also encourage Australian visitors to get out and explore something new. It’s time to educate travellers about the unique attractions your town offers.

Sending your story further (and faster)

Hotels, motels and tourist activities have adjusted to a homegrown clientele over the last year. Those in the industry may need to adapt their deals and promotions to cater to overseas travellers again. While we have seen a lot of marketing here in New Zealand, much of this will not have been seen in Australia.

Some businesses will be hastily creating and placing advertising for the coming winter months. Others may wait to capitalise on spring and summer visitors from Australia. Now is the time to start implementing marketing campaigns, whether you’re thinking short-term or long-term.

Planning for the future

Yes, a quiet period is not great for the bottom line. Yet for accommodation providers it can present a perfect time to embark on room upgrades or refurbishments. With visitor numbers down, it will mean less disruption to guests if you are undertaking building works.

This may also be the perfect time to upgrade beds, linen or room accessories. Doing so without compromising cashflow can be challenging for some businesses however. So it’s always good to check with suppliers about payment plans and whether it’s viable to put a mutually beneficial schedule in place.

Overall, the trans-Tasman bubble is really good news after a difficult 12 months. We hope you’re ready to make the most of it.

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