Do NOT lie to your clients during the COVID-19 pandemic | TravelResearchOnline


Do NOT lie to your clients during the COVID-19 pandemic

I am at a loss right now. I wish there were some encouraging words to offer or a crystal ball that had some accuracy. I have neither this morning, but I do have some facts.  In two months, we have gone from zero to 26,747 of the COVID-19 virus in the US. And just between Saturday and Sunday we added another 7,123.  This is spreading fast and we need to be very concerned for our health (primarily) and our businesses (secondarily).

The good news is that the virus is not particularly deadly. The bad news is that experts estimate 50% to 80% of us will get it with varying degrees of severity. The worse news is that it appears more likely to be a several month crisis with which we are all contending. We are scared. Our clients are scared. So stop lying to them and telling them everything is rosy.

Cruise ships are halted and Carnival is repositioning ships to be used as hospitals. Major airline carriers are grounding significant percentages of their fleets. Things are not rosy and I keep seeing travel professionals trying to paint a wonderful picture. Stop being a Baghdad Bob. Your clients are not stupid. They can see the news that the US Department of State is asking all Americans to return home due to the COVID-19 virus. They likely see right through it (if they are reading any travel messaging right now) and it only hurts your chance of coming out of this with your reputation intact.

Cruise prices have never been this low. Get your deposit in now for your Summer cruising and save!

Yes, I actually saw that. Will there be cruises this summer? Perhaps.  But with 90 million Americans ordered to shelter in place, this is the wrong message.

Flying is safe, but we encourage you to consider business or first class. The air circulation is of a higher quality and there is a greater expectation of personal hygiene.

Oh now there’s a tip for you! I received this in a newsletter from an agent. I can tell you, there is zero correlation between ability to pay and ability to bathe. And last I heard there were no different air sources in airplanes. Not only is is an outright lie, it is opportunistic. And it shows.

Right now, the messaging you need to be conveying to your clients (and you should be communicating to make sure they still know you exist) needs to convey:

  • Concern for health and safety of them and you and your employees
  • Promises that you are following this and will keep them updated as needed
  • Announcements of any operational changes to your business
  • Promises that when it is over that you will be here for them

A local Irish restaurant in my neighborhood has been doing an excellent job. They were shut down by the Governor two days before St. Patrick’s Day and have been sending out daily updates—

  • St. Patrick’s revelry canceled but we have carry out dinners for the family
  • Our hours are shortened for daily pick up
  • We have touchless curbside delivery, order in advance and we’ll bring to your car
  • Our servers are now delivering because we want to keep them employed and not use GrubHub
  • We are shutting down operations on Monday and Tuesday due to the uncertainty and cleaning

You get the idea. The messaging was we are here. We care. We want you to remember us. It was not “sale on corned beef sandwiches today—prices never lower”.

I am not meaning to be a pessimist; we are known for surviving anything thrown at us, but this is different. In most of our lifetimes, we have never seen an incident where the government is considering sending each citizen a check to help. We have never seen  Congress consider a small business bail out.

There is help for all of us. I generally am not a fan of taking on more debt during a crisis, but on the other side of this, I do see a rebound for the economy and our industry. Americans are vagabonds and will begin to explore once again. But until then, make sure you are sending the right message and keeping in touch.

Oh, and keep your distance and wash your hands!  Be safe!




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