Since its founding in 2004, City Wonders has emerged as one of Europe’s leading tour operators, featuring tours of Europe’s most iconic cities and sites. Now, the company is on the front lines of the most extraordinary crisis facing travel and tourism. As part of Arival Online, I spoke with its founder, Simone Gozzi, while he was hunkered down in his home in Rome. Here are five essential takeaways for every creator and seller of tours, activities, and attractions:
- It’s about survival now
Forget about growth. Many tour companies are facing a nearly total collapse of revenue as countries across Europe and around the world enact rigid travel restrictions.
- Don’t expect a quick recovery
The sudden and sweeping clampdown on not just on travel but of so much economic activity means the fallout will be extensive. Operators may hope for a return of some travelers by summer but should plan for a much longer period of little to no activity.
- Cut products as well as expenses
When demand does return, it will be slow. “This will leave many scars, and travel demand will not return overnight,” says Simone, who suggests operators only focus on maintaining those core products and departure schedules that are most profitable. Only rekindle those other products as volume increases.
- Consider going into hibernation
“A term more and more of us in our industry are using is ‘hibernation,’” says Simone. He says operators facing an extended period without revenues may consider cutting to the bare minimum until the recovery begins.
- OTA commissions don’t matter when no one’s buying
OTAs are facing the same challenge as the rest of the industry – right now there’s no demand. The commission isn’t the issue so much as the imbalance in the relationship. Many operators have to pre-purchase attraction tickets, transportation, and other services, whereas OTAs want last-minute cancellations and payment after the travel date. This, says Simone, puts too much risk on the operator in the current climate. He wants two things from OTAs: more operator-friendly cancellation policies and faster payment from OTAs.