As a high quality boutique tour operator, we pride ourselves on offering great information, high quality travel suppliers with creativity to provide travelers of all ages an enjoyable experience on their vacation. The Covid-19 epidemic will force the travel industry to be more creative, more detailed and more patient than ever before.
We still receive inquires for packages in 2020 and we have assisted many with their travel plans. The problem is that the epidemic has caused a ripple effect in the tourism supply chain along with varying visitor policies pertaining to quarantining. Many companies like ours will have issues with supplying their travel products in the same manner. Small domestic tour operators, like our company, are well positioned to recover faster than operators who specialize in Europe or other countries, but it will be challenging to provide the same experience.
Here are a few of my thoughts / recommendations for travel:
- Book your longer travel plans to the Northeast in 2021 – Maine has quarantine restrictions on visitors until August 31st, 2020 as does Massachusetts and Vermont. Many fly into Boston. If one truly follows the restrictions, it’s hard to avoid a quarantine. Many suppliers have lost good employees and some have decided to close down for 2020. The risks to themselves and to their finances does not warrant opening. It’s going to take a little time to get the full quality of tourism in the Northeast back up and running. Consider shorter trips, baby steps. (see below)
- Don’t expect massive discounts from small hoteliers or other suppliers – Airlines will have to lower their prices to get people on board, so that should bode well but don’t expect the same from a good portion of the hotel industry. Many hotels will be incurring higher costs to adhere to heath standards. Many will be operating at lower capacities. They can’t afford to offer steep discounts in the long run. Restaurants can’t either. City Tours at 50% capacity? Do the math. Ask yourself this question: If you were willing to pay $350 for a room at a quaint inn along the Maine Coast in 2019, why wouldn’t you pay the same for that inn if they are sanitizing everything 10 times more and incurring many extra costs to provide you a safe environment? That being said, there are deals to be had from hoteliers.
- We all need to do our part to help industries recover – Americans can do a lot by booking domestic travel to help get US hotels, tour operators, car rental companies, restaurants and activities back on their feet. Look, Americans are pretty demanding when it comes to quality. If we want that quality to continue, we need to travel, dine and explore destinations. We can support all of this by being patient and paying a fair price for services. All of these businesses employ millions of people and they need to see a recovery to rehire.
- Work with travel agents and tour operators – They provide a wealth of knowledge and more importantly, they offer service. With all of the unknowns out there, let your local travel agent or a tour operator manage everything for you. Do you really want to call three hotels, airlines, rental car, restaurants, local tours to change or cancel your plans in case of future issues? The hold times are lots of fun too! If you value your time and money, use specialists who can weed through all the garbage that is out there on the internet. In almost all cases, it does not cost you more.
- Spend money on private touring or small guided tours – Most hoteliers are going to be following strict protocols and health guidelines. so if you can cut back a little on your hotel costs, invest the money in private touring. If you travel with people you trust and you have 4-6-8-10 people, the value of private touring only gets better. Private touring with 2 people was always a great product…now it’s a great value. In many cases, private touring is done for a set price up to “x” amount of people. So if a private tour is $300 and you have 6 people, your cost is $50 per person. In many cases city bus tours are $30-$40 per person anyway. Walking tours are typically lesser in price then private driving tours, but depending on the destination, there are some great values out there.
- Watch for unique and creative ways that the tourism industry will respond – There are already technologies available that are being used by some in the tourism industry. If some of these technologies can be brought to more of the travel industry at an affordable price, many will reap the benefits of feeling more secure and safe from the virus. As an example: GPS technology is already used for walking tours in museums. How about a tour of the Maine Coast in the confines of your own vehicle? A garden tour may use headphones with a tour guide. Instead of a tour guide raising their voices at the participants, they can simply speak into a microphone as they normally would speak and not have to face people 100% of the time. These headset systems are expensive, GPS touring takes time to put together and test, but I bet there are a few “small boutique tour operators” looking at these already…………..
Americans are feeling bottled up and want to get out there. My last big suggestion is to take baby steps! Do a weekend in Portland, Maine or Kennebunkport, Maine. Head up to Acadia National Park and stay in Bar Harbor on a three-night adventure. Get out on the water in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Get all patriotic for a few days in Boston and head up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Walk the many mansions and gardens in the Berkshires of Western, MA. Explore Vermont’s plethora of outdoor activities. Head to Upstate New York and taste the many fine wines of the Finger Lakes Region or tour Castle’s along the Hudson River. The Northeast is a four-season destination that can offer many outdoor discoveries to keep you safe during these challenging times. Blogs are not supposed to be advertisements, but we are here to help plan your baby steps back to traveling.
About the writer: Steven Grasso has over 28 years experience developing travel programs for destinations throughout the USA and Canada. Steven believes that knowing how to get there and how to connect the dots while traveling is an important aspect of travel planning. He also believes that the best value in travel is when you let locals do the touring and/or driving while the traveler can soak in all the sites and sounds of a destination and utilizing a 3rd party that specializes in particular destinations can help weed through bad, good and great information.