Of all industries, tourism has been hit the hardest during the Covid-19 pandemic. Welsh tourism has had a particularly difficult time, with a parliamentary report saying it resulted in the immediate closure of 97% of businesses with 80% of staff put on leave. For the Easter holiday alone, it is estimated that North Wales lost more than £ 100million in revenue.
But there are now grounds for optimism. The rollout of vaccines and the subsequent easing of travel restrictions mean the worst seems to be over. And not only are tourism and hospitality workers returning to work, they are also busy preparing for the pent-up demand for vacations and excursions.
While the blockages were brutal, they were also a useful learning exercise. The digital transformation was already underway in Wales, but Covid-19 has accelerated the change. With traditional business operations restricted, companies have had to adapt and diversify. Restaurants and hotels have moved online to sell products and food, while closed attractions have been promoted through virtual tours. The Welsh Government’s historic environmental service Cadw, for example, has organized virtual reality tours to Castell Coch and the UNESCO World Heritage site, Harlech Castle.
The digital transformation was already underway in Wales, but Covid-19 has accelerated the change.
As a result, the lockdowns have heightened the importance of digital technology and the internet, whether it’s video conferencing with staff, providing updates via social media, or interacting with potential customers at using a website. Some companies are more advanced than others on this digital path. But it’s easy to catch up. Superfast Business Wales offers a range of online courses and business advisors, whose expertise has already helped a number of businesses make the most of the opportunities that a good online presence can offer.
Nestled at the foot of Snowdon, the Royal Victoria hotel has turned to digital to both develop its business and improve the customer experience. Much of the work was done before the pandemic and improving internet connectivity was a major challenge. With guidance from Superfast Business Wales, the hotel not only improved service for its guests, but also improved the platform of its internal business systems.
“We have never regretted our decision to upgrade. ” says hotel general manager Steve Lee. “It was essential for the company. Today we are all cloud based and that includes sales, purchasing, accounts, inventory turnover and management, data protection, PC defense software, VoIP communications, as well as applications. for the restaurant and the bar. He also provided our Track and Trace platform during Covid, as well as Zoom and Teams video conferences. “
On a slightly smaller scale, The Old Mill Holiday Cottages in Flintshire have also benefited from digital adoption. Liz Stack, who operates three cottages, turned to Superfast Business Wales for advice on how to improve the online function of her business.
Following training and one-on-one, she updated her website using widgets and on-board video. It has also implemented a reservation system that works in tandem with Facebook and Airbnb, allowing customers to see availability and book online. These efforts immediately reduced her commission costs and put her in a good position as Wales exited Covid.
Liz Stack, owner of The Old Mill Holiday Cottages, used Superfast Business Wales webinars to improve their website and optimize SEO.
“After the lockdown, the buzzword appears to be ‘UK Staycation'”, Liz Stack said. “However, in an increasingly competitive vacation rental market, it is imperative to embrace digital technology – not only to make ‘The Old Mill Holiday Cottages’ stand out, but also to increase profitability. This, in turn, allows me to continue to reinvest and further develop my business. “
How did Liz survive the lockdown? As she explains:
“I continually strive to put into practice the methods I have learned from attending Superfast Business Wales webinars. I implemented SEO best practices and started writing blog posts to attract potential customers to my website. In addition, I am regularly in contact with potential customers via social networks, sharing information and photos about our region.
The Covid-19 outbreak has reshaped many areas of the tourism industry in Wales, but businesses shouldn’t wait for a pandemic to reap the benefits of digital transformation.