Sowing the seeds for business growth

Last week was National Gardening Week which seemed appropriate as we contemplate how to nurture and regrow our vital industry.   The nuclear winter of lockdown has decimated the once blooming visitor economy and as our thoughts turn to how we can rebuild for what will inevitably be a new normal, like all good gardeners, we need a vision, lots of patience and most of all, a plan.

So for all you destination Monty Dons out there, here is the Go To Places 4 step plan to business growth.

1. SOW THE SEEDS :  Whilst the country holds its collective breath, awaiting the Government’s announcement this week about how we will emerge from the lockdown, there is already much that businesses can do in advance to prepare for the first steps towards recovery.  This is the perfect time to remind your customers of your fantastic product and feed their daydreams of future visits.  Technology has been very much the unsung hero of the lockdown and many organisations (including ours) are already sharing engaging imagery to whet the customer’s appetite.  So dust off your archives, mine social media for great UGC, and most importantly brush up your Google listing to make sure you are a visible as can be.

2. NURTURE AND GROW : Rebuilding consumer confidence will be challenging.  There is considerable evidence that, although many people are longing to get back to our great tourism destinations, they are understandably concerned about keeping safe.   Tourism businesses which can clearly demonstrate that they can operate (and enforce) good social distancing, maintain high standards of visible cleanliness and keep visitor numbers to a manageable level, are more likely to gain the trust of visitors as they return to our destinations.   Scrupulous adherence to guidelines and visible demonstrations by staff that public health is paramount will be critical in rebuilding visitor numbers.   Inevitably, numbers will be small at first, but if we get this right, then visitors will slowly regain the confidence to travel once more.

3. GREEN SHOOTS : If we are patient enough to give the time and attention to steps 1 and 2, then I have no doubt that this Summer will begin to see the green shoots of recovery for our industry.  But even the most optimistic gardener would acknowledge that green shoots do not always a ripe harvest make.  Optimist that I am, I think green shoots are all we can hope for in 2020.  It has been a long hard winter and our industry will take a long time to heal and recover.    This is not the time for the Government to withdraw vital support.  Just as those green shoots need the sun and the rain, the Government must continue to provide business support to ensure our industry can regrow.  It is my belief that some form of support will be needed until at least next Spring. In particular, a more flexible furlough scheme to support businesses in the rebuild phase will encourage entrepreneurship and investment in the future.   

4. BLOOM : It may take some time but our £120 billion industry will be back.  Just as a garden is made up of a variety of plants – from the nourishing vegetable patch, to the luscious borders; from the imposing trees to the ambitious window-boxes – our industry is a kaleidoscope of businesses large and small which make up the heart and soul of our communities.   They add colour, smells, noise and joy to our high-streets and they are missed every day.   The demand for our destinations remains strong.  With the restrictions on international travel likely to remain in place far longer than those for domestic journeys, this may be the year when the Staycation finally gets its day in the sun.   This may, indeed, be the year, when the Treasury finally recognises that domestic tourism is what keeps our industry going. It is the lifeblood of our high streets,  our rural communities and our coastal towns.  As we wonder what more we can do to support the great national effort to beat coronavirus, maybe the most patriotic thing we can do this year, having stayed at home in lockdown, is to holiday at home when it’s over.

Every gardener knows that success depends on patience, hard work and a little bit of luck.   Investing some time now in preparing for a new way of welcoming our visitors is hard work well spent. It will take a lot of patience to take those green shoots to full bloom.   As for luck? Well, I for one think we’re due some of that!

Go To Places is here to help. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss how our campaigns or services can help your destination with recovery post COVID-19.