For most businesses, the coronavirus pandemic has caused nothing but headaches. And when the nature of your business is guided tours, it’s safe to say that during a lockdown, things are going to be quiet.
But with the pandemic and subsequent restrictions on activity, businesses have also found unexpected opportunities. “More Irish people are holidaying here and will be interested in doing local tours later in the year,” says Cairín O’Connor, owner of Ireland Less Travelled Tours, based in Dublin. “So that presents me with new options.”
And key to Cairín finding new opportunities has been her engagement with different tools, and a willingness to try new things in unpredictable times.
If things are quiet, use the time well
For Ireland Less Travelled Tours, lockdown really meant lockdown. With travel restrictions in place, organised tours were off the cards and this left the business-of-one not just quiet, but motionless. While this presented some problems, it also opened a few doors.
“It feels like a year in college really – I'm doing a lot of courses,” says Cairín. “I’ve attended weekly Digital Garage webinars, which have been very helpful. I’ve been able to drill down into the various aspects of my business, so I feel I'll have a stronger one at the end of it.”
One of the courses she took meant Cairín could effectively add to her business offerings. “I found a course online to become a culinary tour guide, and I hope to do some tours for people living in Ireland or Dublin, because they'll be day tours.” Yet while this creates potential for future business, Cairín knew that once restrictions were lifted, she’d need to hit the ground running.
Look for opportunities to find new customers
In an effort to ensure that upon reopening there would be busy days, Cairín looked to Google tools like Analytics and Trends to find the right audience for what Ireland Less Travelled Tours is offering.
“Going back a few years, a lot of the Americans coming to Ireland might've been from the East Coast. But now new flight routes, like from Dallas, Texas, are coming into the country, so new avenues have opened up. Analytics has allowed me to see people in these new areas, new markets. So I'm able to engage with them directly.”
And seeing what people’s interests and hobbies are has also helped Cairín when it comes to targeting. “I used Trends to see what people do in their spare time; what their interests are. With me offering services beyond standard tours, like culinary tours and genealogy tours, understanding these trends helps me reach the right audience. It’s good to know there's a good chance that there's a market for it.”
Adapting your strategy can lead to future success
Adding new aspects to her tour services means Cairín can potentially reach a whole new audience. Knowing that lockdown was going to present problems, no matter what the business type, that change in business strategy was top of mind.
“I'm focusing on the Irish market more,” Cairín says. “That’s a shift in strategy, like bringing in culinary tours is.” But not only has rethinking the business strategy been important, using that downtime effectively is what’s been key to being best prepared for post-lockdown business.
“Attending the Digital Garage classes every week has been huge. It's great to understand exactly how the different tools available work, and it was all brilliantly explained.” While these times may be unpredictable, making good use of a quiet period in business isn’t. When certain doors are temporarily closed, it’s a good opportunity to find new openings.