I started a travel company during the Covid-19 outbreak
When I tell people, I am launching a travel start-up in the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic, they tend to laugh it off.
One of them burst, “Wow, what a lousy timing for a travel-related business… any pivots in mind?”
Frankly speaking, there isn’t any travel happening now. With coronavirus ravaging through the globe, tourism has come to a complete standstill. Planes are now grounded, agencies are offering refunds, and tourist attractions are being shut down. 84% of global travelers have had their travel plans impacted by COVID-19.
My reply? “It is the perfect time to start a travel company now”.
Yes, no one expected a virus to cause the tourism industry to come crashing down. That said, it does not mean that all hope is lost.
With countries enforcing travel bans and shutting borders and when the industry has never been slower; where much bigger and established companies are attempting to cut their losses by retrenching hundreds of staff, forcing the rest of their workforce on unpaid leave, and struggling to cope with the demand of refunds, it buys us time to lay the foundations of our business. And we’ve taken this opportunity to build up our idea when our competitors are busy putting out fires.
My product focuses on exotic and sustainable travel for groups, especially people from Gen Z, the first generation of truly digital natives. They’re visual and experiential creatures.
Yet, right now, millions of them are locked down at home with pent up wanderlust, having graduated from college and being forced to re-think their post-graduation plans.
These feel-good travelers want to roam the earth, in an attempt to better themselves and the places that they go to. Covid-19 presented an opportunity for me to re-think the current travel trends and habits, and redesign the process of discovering beautiful destinations.
Beyond that, my team believes that travel can be a force for good and that our solution can play a part in nation-building, by changing the perception that people have of various countries using compelling visuals and stories.
The travel landscape is changing. For example, Galapagos, Antarctica and Morocco - these are historically less popular amongst tourists, yet are predicted to be one of the top picks for tourists post-covid due to reasons such as safety and novelty.
As a startup, whether you’re working on a new travel product, service, or opening a travel-based franchise, the first few months would undoubtedly be when you get the basic infrastructure up, hire people and get the business off the ground.
Let’s not forget — challenges drive innovation. Investors are expecting a new wave of game-changing startups to emerge during this trying time, just as how more than half of the Fortune 500 companies were started in a recession or a bear market, according to a 2009 study by Dane Stangler for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. For the potential entrepreneurs, an economic downturn provides a ready-made pool of labor looking to be re-deployed, and probably at a lower cost than usual. I received an overwhelming number of internship applications from both technical and non-technical students, something I’d never expected as a 23-year-old entrepreneur who just graduated from college.
The internet today is full of noise and distractions — Tik Tok, Instagram, Facebook and more. I spent some time thinking about how product owners can cut through all of those with some marketing tactics. Here’s a couple:
- Create content and start scheduling them so people will hear about you now and have something to be excited about post covid.
- Build your brand awareness and have people include your product in their grand travel plans when they can finally continue their jet setting, globetrotting habits.
If you’re already running a travel business and are feeling the heat from the virus charging its way into town, perhaps this downtime may be the perfect period to rework some of your old campaigns and revamp your content to generate more leads.
Either way, for anyone still keen on travel and tourism, it would be a good idea to ride this wave of the COVID-19 — when the virus takes a hike and travel bans are lifted, people all over the world with pent up frustrations of being stuck at home and having their vacations canceled would be more than ready to toss their money at you for some long-awaited travel experiences.
And many who have deferred or canceled their trips are still actively looking for good deals on tickets and accommodation due to the low prices and generous cancellation policies that are ongoing, with the mindset that by the end of this pandemic, they would be able to travel with somewhat a peace of mind.
While the economy has slowed down, it will get better.
While things are moving slowly, get your engine going so that you’ll be ready for the huge wave of tourists when borders reopen, and travel bans are lifted. Travel demand rebounded after SARS, and it will do so again when the COVID-19 is over.