By Blake Ng — 20 Jul 2020
Let’s start with some good news: Covid-19 won’t last forever. Around the world, tours and attractions are in various stages of reopening. Guidance for doing so safely can be hard to find, and it’s often overly general. We all know that hand washing, cleaning, masks, and distancing are important. But how do you take these general guidelines and narrow them down to apply to your business?
SanSee has developed a strategic four step outline to help you prepare for reopening: Communicate, Analyze, Teach, and Act. Here’s how you can take control of your operational risk:
Your first step is to communicate expectations to your guests. Customers need to know what’s expected of them, and they want to know what they should expect from you to keep them safe. Start with the government guidelines for things like masks and distancing. Then add in any unique requirements for your company or the sites you’ll visit. You might be more strict than the government if you’re using vehicles to transport guests, for example, as “masks in public places” is a common requirement which can’t be assumed to apply to a 14 passenger van or small boat. Communicate this information as often, in as many channels, and as clearly as you can, with a goal of avoiding surprises.
For communicating what you’re doing to keep the guests safe, this is best done though your own website via a link from the home page. Videos showing cleaning procedures are very effective, but be friendly, not clinical. Collaborate with your social network to get feedback so you can hit the right tone between effective but not scary.
Finally, each employee knowing both sides of expectations makes for a smooth and safe operation. If you read the first rounds of reviews post-pandemic, it’s clear that guests are watching carefully.
Knowledge has shown to be the most effective defense against Covid-19. No one knows more about your business than you do, which makes you the most effective tool in keeping everyone around you safe. Be aware of all the potential points of contact, whether it’s customers, colleagues, or objects. Every contact point carries some level of risk–we’ve probably all gotten a paper cut from accepting a voucher. Your job is to determine first which of these contacts need to be addressed, then how to address them. SanSee recommends doing this in chronological order. Imagine a day as a customer, from the moment they depart their hotel until they leave you at the end of the day. Who do they interact with? What do they touch? What conditions are they subjected to? Then, repeat the process with your staff members. Keep in mind that your goal is to first eliminate points of risk, then minimize the ones which can’t be eliminated. Don’t go too far on this, it’s much better to really hammer the big ones and let the little things like those paper cuts slide.
You’re tired of hearing the phrase “new normal.” Since a lot has changed, a lot must be learned. Training applies to customers as well as employees. For your guests, they may need reminding to keep their distance. Your employees may need to re-learn cleaning techniques, how to use new equipment, or how to project their voices properly from behind a mask. In the US, you may even want to teach de-escalation techniques in case you run into a guest refusing to abide by safety protocols.
The best ideas won’t work unless you make them work. For safety and hygiene, that means first making a written plan. Then it means assigning someone to monitor and enforce the plan. It also means reviewing occasionally as situations change. We hope that overall things change for the better, but as we’re seeing in Hong Kong and the US, there may be a few bounces back and forth before we finally get this pandemic under control. And of course, we’re learning more about this virus daily, and sometimes government guidance is well behind accepted scientific research. We all remember being told as late as April that masks don’t help, and more recently that aerosol transmission is unlikely. The most practical advice I can give for anyone implementing new safety procedures is to try a practice run before you take paid guests. This allows you to rehearse in front of a friendly–but critical–audience. You’ll probably discover new pain points along the way, and maybe some gaps in your safety plan.
If you need help putting all this together, trade associations and tourist boards can be a good resource–they all have the common goal of bringing travelers back confidently and safely. As mentioned above, sometimes the guidelines don’t update as frequently as they should. To really drive the point home and use safety as a selling point, consider getting a third party certification through Rezdy’s partnership with SanSee. Research shows 84% of travelers are more likely to book a product which has a third party safety endorsement. Rezdy has negotiated a special package starting under $150USD for a custom hygiene audit for most businesses, along with guidance updated as soon as a trend becomes clear.
Written By – Jon Peahl– President, Sansee Systems
Jon Peahl founded SanSee Systems in the wake of the destruction brought on the travel industry by Covid-19. Jon has 20+ years experience in tours and attractions, including Viator, City Sightseeing, Tiqets, and Empire State Building. Prior to that, he worked in public health at the county level in addition to assisting the Indian Health Service and CDC in the field. Jon also has experience as a lawyer and studied epidemiology at a post grad level. He’s been called a combination of Forrest Gump and Mad Max, as a result of his post apocalyptic career skillset and his ability to be in the right place at the right time, a moniker he wears with slightly suspicious pride.