Post Covid-19 recovery: health security and digital transformation will be key for business tourism
In a webinar within the framework of the project “Nodo Internacionalización Turismo MICE Antofagasta”, carried out by Eurochile together with Corfo Antofagasta and GEDES, the Spanish expert in tourist destination strategy Raúl García López gave the audience the main guidelines that companies are assuming to resume this activity in Europe, after a first stage of post-quarantine reactivation.
Last Tuesday, October 6, within the framework of the seminar “Transfer of trends, strategies and health measures in MICE Tourism (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions)”, organized jointly by Eurochile, Corfo Antofagasta and GEDES, the Spanish expert in tourist destinations strategy, Raúl García López gave the audience the main guidelines that companies engaged in this activity in Europe are assuming, after a first stage of post-quarantine reactivation.
The activity, moderated by the Director of Strategic Development of Eurochile, Francisco Meneses, is within the project “Nodo Internacionalización Turismo MICE Antofagasta” that is being developed together with Corfo Antofagasta to make that city an attractive destination for MICE tourism.
For García López, it is important to see in this forced shutdown of the industry an opportunity “to better prepare companies so that in the future, when the sector reopens, they will be more competitive.”
The first thing, he stated, is to rethink the entire strategic positioning of the company in the market: what makes us unique, what makes us authentic and what makes us different from the competition. This also implies analysing the offer of products and services that we offer. “Maybe we were thinking of capturing all kinds of events and congresses, and perhaps it is time to specialise and work on a target market to give more added values,” said the Spanish expert.
And in this context, he added, it is important to work on both the quality of the service and its customization. “Before we could offer the same program to different clients, today you have to know well the business culture, the strategic objectives of the company and organization when it holds an event, and customise the program and activities that we propose them.”
Another strategy to work towards the reopening and normalisation of tourism, he stated, is to work a lot with current clients, captive clients, “who are the first to work with us again. We cannot disappear; we have to be in contact with them during this pandemic”.
Sanitary measures to build trust
To give confidence to those attending events and seminars, once large group meetings are allowed again, having strict sanitary protocols, as well as strategic planning in this line, will be essential.
“The basic and general recommendations,” explained García López, “are to have a prevention plan that protects both employees and those attending the meetings. As we do not know well the evolution that the pandemic is going to have, we have to plan for different recovery scenarios, and for this we have to identify the threats that we may have related to Covid-19, and the measures that we can implement to correct them “.
Other aspects to take into account, he said, are the protection of employees, and defining occupational risks; contracting insurance that covers possible effects of the pandemic, such as possible infections at the meeting or event; the requirement of health certificates from suppliers; carry out independent external audits that allow to know if the implemented measures are correct or effective; and improve internal processes for greater health security and confidence in customers.
Among the protection measures for those attending the events, he added, is the sending of detailed information regarding the security measures that will be taken, and also the obligations that they have to comply with; do temperature tests at the entrance of the event; regularly disinfect all spaces; deliver a welcome kit with a mask and disinfectant gels at the entrance of the event, and in different areas so that people can use them if they need them; and invest in technology to facilitate online registration and avoid crowds at the entrance of events.
Some of the measures that are being implemented, he said, trying to carry out as many procedures as possible – and delivery of information – through the cell phone, to avoid crowds and lines of people. “If there is a budget, put information points with virtual assistants instead of people, encourage mobile or contactless card payments, put vending machines throughout the convention center or hotel. In large plenary sessions, it is proposed that they be divided into several smaller rooms and connected through a streaming signal”, said García López.
Moving towards digital
And along these lines, said the Spanish expert, it is essential to advance in digitalisation. “The first thing that I propose as a strategy for any tourism company, but more so in meeting tourism, is that you have to go towards a digital transformation of companies. Tourism has become almost 100% digital, and all meeting organisers are on a digital phase, but many companies and destinations have not yet understood this”, he said.
This not only implies the necessary investment in technology, he said, but also modifies the business culture: see what needs to change in the company to have a more focused positioning on the online channel, and specifically on the mobile channel, which is increasingly important.
In this regard, García López raised four fundamental pillars for the digital transformation of tourism companies. First- the user experience- “with all our communication and sales channels, our applications and social networks. That communication with us through the online world must be fluid and easy”.
Secondly, he said, it is necessary to move towards the personalisation of services, “working with each client as if they were unique and personalising the proposals and activities that we propose to them. To this is added automation, which saves a lot of time and money but also ensures that the event goes better; and finally, resilience. We are in a constantly changing environment -since before the pandemic, now much more-, technology and consumer habits are tremendously changing the sector and in meeting tourism new generations such as millennials -and the centennials that will come later – they want other types of meetings and not the traditional ones”.
Therefore, he said, it is necessary to invest in technology because many companies in the sector do not have a technological base, and even with little money, online positioning can be greatly improved.
“It is very important,” he added, “to also start working on big data, in collecting all the data generated by clients and meeting attendees to measure how the event has turned out, if the objectives have been achieved. Also, and more now with the issue of Covid-19, meeting rooms should start investing in sensors that generate flow data, and allow knowing if the maximum capacity of a room has been reached, for example ”.
This type of technology, he said, also allows information to be sent in real time to improve satisfaction. “In this we are, for example, with beacons, small devices with bluetooth technology that allow sending personalized messages to mobile devices based on their geolocation. With this you can send a message to the people who are at the entrance of a meeting room to tell them that the session is going to start or that there has been a change of room or any important information to send, but to a certain number of people based on their geo-positioning”.
To improve both the experience and the management, he said, in the convention tourism sector progress is being made towards intelligent meetings, “working on the acquisition of software or other disruptive technologies that allow controlling and organizing all the elements, and above all reaching a automation; that there are different procedures that can be done automatically without having to be very above them”.