The time for creativity (and cleaning) is now……

As the majority of the UK tourism and hospitality industry prepares cautiously for its own version of Independence Day on 4 July – Go To Places has been busy talking and listening to key sectors of the industry (such as indoor and outdoor attractions, free to access open spaces, accommodation providers, pubs, restaurants and meetings and events businesses) in order to help them prepare to open a viable business whilst at the same time ensuring the safety and security of visitors and staff. 

Senior representatives from key industry bodies also joined us for these discussions and we are grateful to UK Hospitality, The British Beer and Pub Association, British Visits and Events Partnership, The Association of Leading Visitor Attractions and local representatives such as Produced in Kent, Chilterns and Kent Downs AONB and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

So what have we learnt?

Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest concerns for tourism businesses right now across all sectors (aside from the need for ongoing financial support – particularly rent relief for pubs and hotels) are around managing car parks, toilets, food and drinks. 

Accommodation providers are also deeply worried about the time it will take to deep clean between room turnarounds and weddings are a huge issue going forward across the industry.

There also remains some big unanswered questions that need urgent answers such as: why zoos, animal parks, camping sites and self catering businesses can’t open sooner;  when will business travellers be allowed to stay in hotels overnight; will businesses receive financial support to invest in new contactless visitor management systems and to access the required PPE for consumer facing roles; when will the industry standard (which is seen as a vital part of a successful reopening) be ready  - answer hopefully “mid-June”- and could/should social distancing be reduced to one metre in line with World Health Organisation recommendations (rather than the Public Health England two metre rule)?

Questions also remain about the management of vulnerable volunteers, relaxation of licencing laws to allow businesses to expand their outdoor footprint (is it a problem if the named licensee for pubs and restaurants is on furlough?) and how to handle cash is also a vital issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

Go To Places is currently lobbying and talking to local and central Government to seek answers on all of the above and to relay some of the main themes, issues and advice that have emerged from our discussions which are as follows:

Pricing/Revenue Generation

  • General consensus is that reducing prices isn’t necessary as the demand will be there – in fact some attractions are already reporting that they are sold out for tours of their gardens/open spaces
  • Businesses could however reduce prices (and extend opening hours) for visitors who want to come outside peak hours which will help to manage visitor flow
  • Businesses need to think about how to secure some economic benefits from the footfall in outdoor spaces where possible
  • Giftshops normally target retail collateral at the overseas market but going forward businesses need to consider how domestic audiences could be encouraged to buy for themselves or for overseas friends – Anne Boleyn Christmas decoration, anyone?
  • Could your business consider other uses for large outdoor spaces such as drive in cinemas?
  • It’s easy to forget that many of our world class cultural institutions and attractions are recognised and supported by people and businesses all over the world and Shakespeare’s Globe have been very successful in securing donations in this way

Health and Safety

  • Businesses should consider bringing in portaloos as a way to manage toilet issues with one in and one out and potentially a traffic light system for other toilets when they are vacant
  • Hotels should consider online check in (via mobile phones) and breakfast options could be grab and go, room or table service
  • Consider temperature checking guests when they enter your business?
  • Buffets could be served by staff behind screens and lunch/dinner should be socially distanced with options for guests to have plates cleared or to do it themselves
  • Menus could be projected onto walls
  • Staff and teams could and should be rotated

Marketing and Communication

  • Restoring consumer (and corporate) confidence has to be the highest priority for tourism businesses so active ‘policing’ of visitors and visible cleaning of sites will be paramount.
  • Clear consistent messaging for visitors will also be absolutely key in order to provide this confidence before and during arrival. The official Government kitemark will be a vital part of this reassurance
  • Businesses should consider recording pre-visit videos to show site cleaning and how visitors will be managed which should also be shown to visitors upon arrival (if possible) - check out this example from Hever Castle
  • If businesses are not able to guarantee safety – an honest approach needs to be taken
  • When re-opening – consideration should be given to asking a local hero to open tourism businesses e.g. doctor, nurse, care home manager etc (and then promote this on social media)
  • Before staff return, re-integrate and re-educate them to update them on the situation and what to expect

Visitor Management

  • Consider marquees outside buildings and how customers could place orders for food and drinks via Whatsapp, a dedicated app or by phone
  • Consider using a platform such as Eventbrite to manage timed ticketed slots
  • Larger venues i.e. theatres could consider several daily small scale performances (rather than one larger performance)
  • Could your business consider other uses for large outdoor spaces such as drive in cinemas?
  • Hybrid events (with virtual and physical attendees) will help with sustainability and to manage visitors
  • Accommodation providers with facilities such as swimming pools could create a booking system so that only one group of guests uses the pool at any one time. Think about other activities for guests that could be made exclusive, private and bookable.

Clearly there will be different issues for different sectors but enhanced cleaning, sanitation, careful visitor management and communication will all play a vital role in recovery and attracting much needed visitors and customers.   

To find out more about Go To Places or how we could help your destination or tourism business with recovery planning, please get in touch.