Businesses that thrive post-crisis will be those that give customers more choice and control, says Wendy Wu Tours global sales director John Warr 


When we next take a touring holiday, there are undoubtedly going to be some changes. Whilst the coronavirus pandemic has affected almost every aspect of travel, we are seeing green shoots of demand in areas opening up with more people already planning their next trip. The biggest obstacle we all face in touring is regaining and restoring consumer confidence in the safety of tours. Safety must be our first priority however it is also fundamental to the regrowth of our industry that new health and safety protocols are implemented in ways that avoid making travel more difficult in the aftermath of the pandemic


Wendy Wu Tours has launched a new ‘Travel with Confidence’ safety initiative, one of the most through and comprehensive travel safety programme available to travellers taking a long-haul holiday from the UK. Over the last six months, we’ve been in consultation with the UNWTO (United Nations World Tourism Organisation), WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council), local governments across Asia and South America as well as our team, guides and ground handers and have developed a pioneering, fully-comprehensive set of COVID-19 health and safety protocols covering every element of the holiday experience from accommodation and dining to transport and sightseeing. As touring specialists we’ve gone to extensive lengths to ensure every element of the touring experience is safe and that are passengers are fully protected whilst also maintaining the incredible joy of the tour. As a result we’re now seeing an uptake in demand for travel in 2021 and 2022, particularly for Japan, Vietnam and Central Asia, and have expanded our touring collection to meet this demand. 


Every tour company is now addressing the measures they need to take to mitigate the effects of the virus and how to make guests feel safe and secure but there is also the argument that travel companies still need to excite and attract customers as well as reassuring them. To achieve this it is down to all of us to focus on making travel better, not just safer, which means putting travellers more in control, giving greater authenticity and personalisation, ultimately delivering a more customer-centric approach. At Wendy Wu Tours our mission is always to go that extra mile to excite our customers and give lifetime experiences, a key reason why our free business class upgrades and partner flies free promotions have been so successful. 


Whilst a focus on health and safety is paramount, on the whole it only scratches the surface of the changes required in the aftermath of the pandemic. In order to reinvent and reinvigorate travel over the next three years we need to look at a variety of interventions, in addition to safety initiatives, such as visible, communications-based cues where specific notifications about the health status of a destination and personalised notes about the importance of testing can be initiated. To sustain and re-engage with our travellers it’s vital that we move beyond reassuring customers to exciting them again with a focus on creating exceptional travel experiences. 


We must all stand united through this and whilst the current economic climate makes it difficult for companies to do more, the good news, as we’ve found, is that some of these changes require zero capital outlay but rather a change in mindset towards customer-centric behaviours. In short these behaviours fall into giving customers more choice and control, being human, genuine and personalising the experience whilst always listening to customers and taking an agile approach across all touchpoints. 


Businesses that thrive after this crisis will be those that work with travellers and employees to find solutions in a rapid and agile way and that find new ways to enable choice across the customer experience. It will take time and patience, but we must all embrace and rise to this challenge in order to come back stronger.