Becoming and remaining a formidable travel entrepreneur is never easy nor clear-cut, especially during the COVID pandemic. As always, adaptability is key to success. After all, your business is likely to revolve around satisfying the needs and wants of the ever-demanding, ever-changing customer.
According to Lavonne Wittman, Vice President of Skål International for PR and Communications and Membership Engagement for Africa, there are many ways to take action to overcome challenges and embrace opportunities as a travel entrepreneur, especially in terms of accepting what you cannot control and taking full advantage of the things that you can.
Lavonne insists that the first step is establishing why you’ve entered the travel industry in the first place.
“Hopefully, you’re involved in the industry because you’re passionate about it, rather than having fallen into it accidentally. Your passion will act as your driving force! Combine that with a knowledge of what you are hoping to accomplish, who you are trying to target, and what type of solution or experience your target market is looking for, and you will already have a decent recipe for success,” she says.
Other essential components for overcoming challenges and embracing opportunities are having enduring confidence in your business, strong leaderships skills, above-average emotional intelligence and, of course, the ability to communicate with both employees and customers.
“A leader’s ability to communicate often means the difference between success and failure for a business. The quality of the leader’s communication and his or her communication style impacts everything, including their employees’ motivation to prioritise customer experience and to actively work towards helping the company achieve its goals,” comments Lavonne.
Entrepreneurs should be working towards creating a company culture that revolves around keeping customers happy. They should be intentionally focusing their communication to effectively shape the opinions of their customers and employees surrounding the business, as well as to influence positive behaviour and guide outcomes. Obviously, it is imperative that entrepreneurs step up to provide direction, particularly during times of uncertainty, and that they do so with empathy.
“Empathetic leadership is an art, not a science – and it is a severely overlooked and underestimated skill in the business world,” says Lavonne.
Along with empathy, entrepreneurs must tackle the task of teaching employees to believe in the purpose and vision of the business.
“You achieve what you believe, and the more you believe, the more you achieve. It’s important to get employees believing and to be as passionate about your goals as you are. They must feel like a part of a team. After all, they are adding value and aiding you in building your business,” she adds.
Finally, Lavonne believes that the only way to create long-terms relationships with clients is to let go of the sales pitch and focus your attention on starting meaningful, personalised conversations with people. Secondly, while it is critical to place emphasis on ensuring an extraordinary customer experience, as well as on after-sales service and attention, pre-sale service is just as important.
“Put the time and effort into discussing your business with a potential customer even if you know that they are unlikely to book right now. No time spent engaging with a potential customer is ever a waste. After all, they could turn into customers a few months or years down the line,” she says.
To conclude, Lavonne shared a few important words of inspiration for entrepreneurs operating within the travel and tourism industry:
- Know that failure is possible but don’t allow yourself to become pessimistic.
- Know that the world is uncontrollable but that there are always aspects within your business that you can control.
- Know that it is important to lead but also to serve.
- Know that challenges are inevitable but that you will always find a way.