There is nothing like a little pandemic to remind us how fragile our place is in the world and to help us appreciate our friends and family. As many small business owners may have noticed over the past six months, a pandemic like COVID-19 can also have an impact on business. In Ontario, the tourism industry has been hit particularly hard and is facing many challenges. Customer spending habits are erratic and can quickly overwhelm a particular sector in the industry, while leaving others falling short.
And while the coronavirus has been challenging, it may also have brought to light gaps in business models and highlighted areas for improvement. Unfortunately, knowing what changes to implement can be challenging without being able to guess what will happen six months from now or even six days from now. Even if we had a crystal ball to predict the future, a second wave could throw all our plans into disarray.
It appears that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while, so businesses must evolve and adapt to this new reality. Fortunately, the best and brightest minds in the province have set their efforts to figuring out what businesses can do to safeguard their business in this changing world, and to predict what might come our way in the near and far future, and if and when a second wave comes our way.
Wondering what you can or should be doing right now to prepare for the second wave? Read on.
The Short Game
Short term actions businesses can take right now are intended to maintain operations and ensure a business is able to function under Stage 3 reopening guidelines from the province.
- Monitor situation and changing restrictions and protocols.
- Implement changes to health and safety as required by the province.
- Initiate enhanced marketing campaigns to ensure your business stays front of mind.
- Sign up for newsletters or connect with your local, regional, and provincial tourism associations or organizations – they are here to help you. Some suggestions are:
- Keep up to date on any programs or funding you are able to take advantage of right now. Your tourism organization contacts can help keep you in the loop.
- Take advantage of any free memberships available this year (like TIAO or OCTA’s FeastON)
- Register for the Safe Travel Stamp.
The Long Game
Long term actions are intended to help businesses think ahead to what may come, particularly if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections, and ensure your business is in a good position to weather that storm.
- Make sure your business is online and highly visible. Create or update your Google My Business account, social media, and website.
- Implement e-commerce options; introduce online ordering and streamline the ordering process.
- Look into shipping product feasibility.
- Consider what virtual experiences you will be able to offer in the event of a step backward from Stage 3 to Stage 2.
- Develop a plan of action for what happens if you or your staff become ill, and how you will continue to operate your business.
Coping with Uncertainty
As the pandemic has dragged on even the most energetic and dedicated operators have begun to feel the wearing stress that comes with constantly having to rethink and retool your business. Right now, there is a lot of speculation about what will tomorrow will bring, and coping with the uncertainty of the future is just one more additional stress business owners must face in a pandemic world.
At a time like this it’s important to dedicate some time to caretaking your own mental health and finding the time and energy to destress. All the best laid plans in the world won’t be worth much if you aren’t in a good mental space.