How has your tourism business responded to COVID-19?
Tourism has been one of the most impacted industries. How is your business doing?
We at the South America Tourism Office are a specialty wholesaler that specializes in tourism to Latin America and Antarctica. At the beginning of the COVID outbreak Latin America was unaffected and it seemed like business would continue as usual. However, that quickly changed as the outbreak spread across the globe and countries began enforcing border closures and other quarantine measures.
Our focus shifted immediately and our team worked overtime to ensure all our passengers holidaying overseas were able to get safely back to Australia before flights stopped operating. Unfortunately, as a consequence of borders closing and the uncertainty of the near future, we have had to cancel the majority of upcoming travel and offer clients the option to move their holiday with us to a later date or cancel their booking. The ability to postpone travel arrangements is a mutually beneficial solution as our customers are still able to enjoy their holiday and we retain the booking. However, as we are required to pay ground staff overseas, such as tour guides and hotels, in American dollars we are affected by fluctuations in the dollar. When we sell a product, such as a tour, we advertise an Australian price that corresponds to the American dollar at the time. For example, a tour sold at a price of $1,000 USD while $1 USD is equal to $1.30 AUD would be sold at $1,300 AUD so that we are able to pay the ground staff the USD amount. The value of the dollar is constantly fluctuating, however, the changes are typically minimal. Since the COVID outbreak the Australian dollar has decreased significantly in value against the US dollar.
This means that packages sold prior to the COVID outbreak will now cost substantially more to deliver, a cost that we have to wear. At the same time, we have not been receiving new bookings, so there is more money out and less money in. It has been a challenging time, however we have endeavored to make the best of the situation. Now all our passengers are safely home we have the time to take a step back and focus on aspects of the business that have not been previously prioritized.
We have set-up flexible work from home arrangements that have allowed us to continue to work efficiently and safely. We have been able to invest this time into expanding our target demographic to increase our reach to a broader audience. Further, we have been able to update back-end processes and procedures and continue to develop and upgrade our website. We anticipate the work we have been able to progress during this time will improve the experience of our customers in the long run.
We are already receiving enquiries and bookings for future travel and are optimistic we will continue to grow as a business as the travel industry begins to return to normal.