Create or retrieve your password by clicking here

NTA COVID-19 CENTRAL

As the world hunkers down and puts travel on hold, those whose jobs depend on travelers seek solutions … and sanity. Available to all NTAonline.com visitors is this compilation of information, updates, best practices, and resources. Even if you’re working from home offices, isolated from peers, you can find answers and ideas from the NTA community.

For NTA members, you also may access our interactive discussion on Engage, our online community. We encourage you to go to Engage to contribute your strategies and best practices, to ask questions of fellow members, and to be a part of the conversation to move through this crisis together.

Press Release: NTA hails federal relief package for U.S. workers and companies (3/26/2020)

  • Official Resources

  • Financial Assistance Information

    • The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
      Upon receiving a designated state’s or territory’s request, the SBA will issue an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration. Reach out to your state or territory’s governor to request assistance.
      SBA Loan Programs Overview (Updated 3-20-2020)
      For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail.
    • The Business Development Bank of Canada is offering flexible and tailored financing solutions and advice to help through the Coronavirus crisis.
    • The European Commission is calling on the European Parliament and European Council to approve a proposal that would provide relief to organizations and businesses that are adversely affected by COVID-19. Read here how you can advocate for this relief.
    • Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) represents small business in Canada on government issues. 
  • Member Strategies and Best Practices

    Tour Operators: 

    1. Review and adjust your reschedule/refund policies. Encourage travelers to reschedule instead of cancel. Work with tour suppliers to renegotiate cancellation/reschedule to minimize loss. 
    2. Cut or postpone overhead and administration costs (office supplies, pay cuts, postpone new hiring, fewer business trips, etc.). Shift markets to less-impacted destinations. Reduce the number of products and tours offered for the immediate future. 
    3. Review and better understand your insurance policy. Communicate with peer tour operators and learn from their best practices. 
    4. Be patient with the situation. Communicate accurate and clear information from the industry and with trade partners. Keep calm. Stay updated on the situation with accurate information, not media hype. Be positive and send out positive messages.
    5. Work with suppliers and destinations for more flexibility terms and policies. 
    6. Reduce cost for short term, review business, and adapt for long term. 
    7. Actions taken on cancellations include refunds and rescheduling:
      1. Either waiting for refunds from suppliers before refunding clients or refunding clients and working to get refunds from suppliers.
      2. Urge clients to postpone rather than cancel.
      3. Refunding deposits if the clients does not reschedule or agree to postpone.
      4. Refunding deposits less a charge for nonrefundable airline, theme park, or theater tickets.

    DMOs: 

    1. Gather accurate and updated information and get a better understanding of the risks. 
    2. Use open and transparent communication with trade partners and consumers; keep them updated. 
    3. Stay calm and do not overreact. Do not stray from your core business of destination. 
    4. Be prepared to change marketing/advertising plans.

    Tour suppliers: 

    1. Offer flexible reschedule/refund policies. Offer extra incentives. 
    2. Provide accurate and updated information. Communicate with trade partners and consumers with clear information. 
    3. Provide extra protection (hand sanitizers etc., special waivers). 
    4. Reduce business trips, trade show exhibitions, and sales missions. 
    5. Keep updated with current and accurate information. 
    6. Ensure that employees are following the safe practices to mitigate contamination. 
    7. Keep calm and be patient and positive.
  • Crisis Management Resources

    White Paper: Crisis Management for Tour Companies, by Catherine Prather, CTP (2017)

    Courier Article: Finding Balance in Adverse Times

  • U.S. Advocacy Updates

  • Canadian Tourism Advocacy Update

    The Travel Industry Association of Canada continues to advocate for the tourism sector daily. TIAC is committed to the most up-to-date information to help businesses navigate this difficult time.

    • TIAC, Hotel Association of Canada and Restaurants Canada have joined together asking government to help address this crisis through secure tax relief and a credit facility for the industry as a whole. Launched in the form on an online campaign, using the Push Politics platform, the initiative builds on the joint letter submitted to Minister Morneau on March 23, asking for industry members to add their signatures to the letter.  This is an easy and fast way of communicating the urgent need to provide support for the industry. The Push Politics tool provides industry with an easy-to-use link that will directly connect with local MPs to support relief efforts for the tourism industry.
    • Please help us make sure the industry’s voice is heard by federal decision-makers. It’s a quick and easy process by clicking on the links below:

    Government Updates

  • Coronavirus Impact Survey

    (Released: March 10, 2020)

    With many of the concerns about coronavirus focused on travel, tourism professionals are keeping a wary eye on the spread of COVID-19. In a survey conducted last week by the National Tour Association, more than 200 of its members reported on the impact of the coronavirus to their business.
    Of the 104 responses from tour operators, more than half (55%) said they have received cancellations from customers. This percentage could increase, as many operators reported that clients were asking about cancellation and related policies. Of those who have received cancellations, the majority said the decision to cancel was fear-based rather than mandated by a local government or organization.
    Smaller percentages said their company is postponing departures (21%) or adjusting itineraries (10%). Nearly one quarter of operators (23%) reported seeing no coronavirus effect on their business or their tour programs.
    Most tour companies (78%) have not modified cancellation and refund policies, but more than half (58%) anticipate they will need to modify their policies if the outbreak of COVID-19 continues.
    “The survey results are consistent with what we’ve heard from members within the NTA Owners Network and on Engage, our online community page,” said Catherine Prather, NTA president. “What’s encouraging during a troubling time is how members support each other by sharing their policies and strategies. They are focused on moving forward and coming through this, while also keeping the health and safety of their travelers as a top priority.”
    Many of those shared strategies center on coping with a downturn in business. Asked how their companies will adjust plans to save money or recover lost revenue, nearly two-thirds of tour operators said they are (23%) or will consider (40%) reducing business travel through 2020, including trade shows, and three out of five companies will (30%) or will consider (30%) delaying the implementation of new business plans.
    Only 12% of tour operators said they plan to reduce their staff. Other actions that were cited include cutting office costs and altering marketing plans—either increasing or decreasing.
    Although 54% reported that it was too early to know if the coronavirus had adversely affected one or more of their company’s main revenue sources, Prather said it is concerning that nearly a third (30%) responded that a main product line had been disrupted.
    “Our tour operators’ businesses are very diverse, and markets including China, Italy, student travel, and cruising were referenced multiple times in the responses. Many of our tour companies are small businesses—the backbone of this industry and of the global economy. We will be advocating for policy measures that can help bring them through this crisis.”
    Tour suppliers also are impacted by travelers’ concerns about the coronavirus. More than half of responding suppliers (57%) reported receiving cancellations, and of the suppliers who reported no cancellations to date, half say they anticipate getting cancellations.
    Destination management organizations reported less of an impact on travel from COVID-19. Four out of five DMOs (82%) said they have not experienced a drop in visitation, and more than half of those respondents (54%) do not anticipate future cancellations related to coronavirus.
    Among both supplier and DMO respondents, more than 80% said their organizations have not imposed travel restrictions on employees, but more than a third (37%) anticipate such restrictions if the situation worsens.
    In the same vein, only a few suppliers and DMOs have changed their tour product offerings or are targeting new markets to replace losses due to COVID-19, but 40 to 50 percent of respondents anticipate doing so if the spread of the disease—and travelers’ fears—continue to escalate.
    “What I find encouraging is that across all categories of membership, a large majority of our respondents expressed confidence in having the resources and information they need to address travelers’ questions and concerns,” Prather said. “The one thing they’re saying they need more of is accurate, level-headed information. This would help ease uncertainty, which is creating fear and driving overreaction.”
    NTA members attending the association’s tour operator retreat, Contact, next week can expect to gather a lot of information and to share many conversations about the coronavirus. The event takes place in Anchorage, Alaska, March 18–21, and welcomes some 120 tourism professionals, including operators as well as sponsoring suppliers and DMOs.
    “In the days and weeks ahead, we will work with our members—and with other associations and government agencies—to provide the accurate, level-headed information our members want,” Prather said. “We will always be open and honest, even when the news isn’t encouraging.”
    Prather, who has been with NTA for 26 years, is facing the coronavirus challenge with determination and optimism. “Our industry is resilient and has endured and recovered from terrorist attacks, other health epidemics, and financial downturns. We can get through this.”
    About the survey: The survey of NTA members was conducted from March 2–6, with 87 percent of the responding tour operators located in the U.S. or Canada, with the remaining 13% based overseas. Of the DMO respondents, 93% are in the U.S., and 7% are in Canada. Of the tour supplier members who participated, 86% are from the U.S., 13% from Canada, and 1% from overseas.

  • China Market Update

    As the COVID-19 continues to have a global impact on the travel industry, we have asked our China Inbound Advisory Group leaders several questions about the crisis. Yama Gao, CEO of America International Travel Services; Andrew Wong, President of OWL Tours; and Demin Fan, CEO of US China Connect shared their thoughts and experiences.

    To what extent is your tour operator business affected by the coronavirus outbreak?
    Yama: We have more than 1,000 travelers’ trips cancelled. Our main business—the Chinese travelers to the U.S.—has stopped completely. I’m also very concerned about a lot of accounts receivables with those partners who are in financial crisis due to the virus outbreak.
    Andrew: Our company has not been affected by COVID-19 yet, but due to the economic slowdown, particularly in the past couple of months, we projected at least a 60 to 70 percent decline in sales. As of today, we do not have any bookings from China until July, and we still see a possibility of a cancelation.
    Demin: We mainly serve Chinese delegations and groups. Now the business is totally stopped.

    What strategies have you taken to minimize the crisis?
    Yama: We have made travelers’ safety the first and foremost priority during this epidemic, and we made sure our clients got back home safely after travel restrictions were announced. We implemented a full refund policy for all cancelations. AITS will take the financial loss to minimize our travelers’ impact. The suspension of business gives us time to provide training to our staff. We have organized AITS lectures every day for our staff during this down time.
    Andrew: Since we do not foresee that tours will come back anytime soon, we have no choice but to lay off. Although it is one of the toughest tasks for our managers to face since emotional stakes are involved, we still have to let our workers go. By doing so, it significantly cuts down some of our operational costs and gives us more time to wait for the tourists to come back. We will try to put this layoff as a temporary suspension of employment and will ask those employees who got laid off to come back once the market is back up if they are still available at that time.
    Demin: During the down time, we will try to cover things that we had no time to pay attention to before.

    How long will it take for tour operators to fully recover from the impact of the coronavirus?
    Yama: China’s domestic travel is expected to resume starting May 1st. China inbound to the U.S. probably has to wait until October’s golden holidays for full recovery.
    Andrew: Depending on when the market comes back and how serious the spread of the virus is, we project at least six months to recover after everything back in action.
    Demin: I guess we could start in July slowly, then fully recover in September.

    What do we need to focus on when the China market recovers from the crisis?
    Yama: The main focuses are a company’s risk-management ability and its cash flow. The company’s culture is also crucial in terms of whether the employees are on the same page with the company to fight the crisis.
    Andrew: Since there will be a lot of slowdown due to the virus, the most important thing right after the recovery is to clear out all the work that was delayed so it won’t affect future bookings. Also, tour operators should keep in close contact with their suppliers to make sure everything is still the same as before and to confirm that all terms and conditions are unchanged. Try to compromise on some terms if your supplier cannot perform what they did before.
    Demin: We may face the challenge of not having enough tour guides working.

    What change will this crisis possibly bring to the China tourism market and to the tour operator industry in the future?
    Yama: This crisis will accelerate the reshuffle of the industry. The market will converge to those leading companies with sufficient cash. Small travel companies are facing closure.
    Andrew: Depending on how long the crisis lasts, it could possibly lead to a lot of businesses closing, and as a result, a lot of new faces will appear when the market comes back. If  there are new companies, we will need to make sure the newbies know all the rules of compliance, and they will have to know that safety is the top priority.
    Demin: Some companies may be closed forever.

    How can tour operators prepare for another crisis in the future?
    Yama: Pay attention to the scale of the enterprise and ensure the security of funding resources.
    Andrew: We will focus on setting up a better crisis management plan through research, consulting, training, and education services so that we can prepare ourselves to be ready anytime to help tourists visit their destinations and to be prepared when challenged with catastrophic events.

  • NTA Events

    In regard to scheduling and conducting fly-in meetings and conferences during the COVID-19 outbreak, NTA will abide by the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, NTA is relying on government agencies worldwide to continue their restrictions on travel from areas with outbreaks of COVID-19.
    As an extra precaution, NTA leaders will consult with health agencies in those North American destinations that are the sites of upcoming NTA events, and association leaders will instruct attendees to take any actions that are suggested by those agencies. Finally, during the course of meetings and events, NTA will provide hand sanitizers and any other safeguards recommended by the CDC. NTA will also ask attendees to monitor their own health and to seek medical help if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.

  • NTA has provided us the research and atmosphere to brainstorm new ways of doing things and fresh additions to trips, which has led to successful business development. Rachel Ranck, WorldStrides, NTA member since 1985
  • What NTA does is provide the right buyers. They provide the right people who make decisions. This is what makes this organization one I can’t afford to take off my list. John Stachnik CTP, Mayflower Tours, NTA member since 1979
  • I came to NTA to build a business, and that’s exactly what it did for us, as sales came in. For me, it’s the only outlet for new ideas. Matthew Squire, Select Travel Service (UK), NTA member since 2002
  • NTA membership and our attendance at the convention have provided us with more clients, more business relationships and more ideas. We are proud to belong to NTA. Daniele Panzarin, Target Travel (Italy), NTA member since 2007
  • The No. 1 member benefit of NTA has to be all the great professional and personal connections we’ve made over the past decade. Taunya Wolfe Finn, CTP, Wolfe Adventures & Tours, NTA member since 2005
  • We have not found a more reliable, more profitable or more consistent tourism venue in which to acquire new business than NTA. Diane Hohnstein, Hospitality Management Services, NTA member since 1999
  • I believe attending the NTA conferences allow me to create valuable relationships and work together with U.S. operators in creating great Scotland product. Maggie Anderson, VisitScotland, NTA member since 2003
  • NTA events provide us with beneficial networking with many top tour operators. It’s national and international in scope providing a global perspective. Tim and Elaine Moulder, Brilliant Edventures, NTA member since 2015