It is no secret the tourism industry has been one of the hardest-hit sectors throughout the pandemic. From provincial lockdowns to PCR testing requirements to mass confusion over rules and regulations, the stress and frustrations of trying to travel have outweighed the benefits for most people.
While many people are getting out and travelling despite the risks and complications, the majority of people are staying home ... especially when it comes to Atlantic Canadians.
Behind the scenes in small business
What many small tourism businesses (including us) don't talk about very often is the behind-the-scenes struggles of staying in business through all of this turmoil. It's a lot easier to talk about the fun stuff, the positive and the inspiring than the difficult, heavy and emotional parts of the business.
Be it in Canada or in just about any place around the world right now, tourism companies are still struggling to stay in business. Just because the doors are open and the lights are on doesn't mean the business is thriving. They may be hanging on by a thread. In fact, the struggles may be far larger than you know.
As you may or may not know, I (nor my business) have qualified for government assistance since October 2021. While big companies with storefronts and employees qualify for rent subsidies and employee wage assistance, independent travel advisors who run their own small businesses have fallen through the cracks. We are one of the most affected sectors, yet the government assistance programs don't apply to us for various reasons. On the flip side, at least we did have some assistance and some businesses continue to get assistance. Not all countries have these programs in place for the tourism sector.
Costs of running a business
You've probably never thought about the cost of running a business unless you are an entrepreneur yourself. In our case, many people think since we don't have office space, we must not have much for costs. In comparison to a larger storefront agency with rent and payroll, that is true. However, having fewer bills to pay is not the same as having no bills to pay. It is all relative.
From insurance licenses to professional fees, website hosting to cell phone service and long-distance bills, computer software to bookkeeping services ... these fees don't go away just because people aren't travelling. Combined, they cost thousands of dollars each year even for a small home-based travel business. We don't get to cancel our cell phone or internet service to 'save money'. We can't get an insurance license for two months instead of 12. And I can't take care of client cancellations, rebooking past trips or new bookings without paying my professional fees, cells phone, wifi and computer software.
This is just a quick look at some of the struggles of my small business, but I trust you'll understand the same holds true for small tour operators here in Nova Scotia, across Canada and around the world.
Imagine owning an adventure company where you financed kayaks, climbing gear, a new vehicle, bicycles or stand up paddle boards back in 2019 or early 2020 to grow your business and then the pandemic hit. Not only can you not return the gear you also don't get loan forgiveness and you have no tourists buying your tours because travel is all but shut down.
Each type of business has a different set of struggles, but don't underestimate the weight of those struggles both financially and mentally.
Please take time to support small tourism businesses, right now and in the future. Even when tourism rebounds, many of us will be paying off loans for years to come. Nearly all of us have lost two years of income, but still have those two years of bills to pay along with those of the upcoming third year of this mess.
How you can help support small tourism businesses from home
Of course, the best thing you can do to support small tourism businesses is to buy from them. When that's not an option because you aren't ready to travel yet, here are three easy ways to make a BIG impact for your favourite small businesses.
Like and follow their social media pages
Social media algorithms favour companies with more followers. Small businesses have a harder time reaching the masses in order to be recognized by the algorithm. Seek out a few of your favourite small businesses and follow their social pages. Just by doing this, you give them a better chance at reaching more people.
Be an active participant on their social media.
Click the like button on a post. Interact with their stories by answering questions, polls and stickers. Leave a comment to say 'great info' or 'wow, that looks amazing'. Or if you really like it, hit the share button and let your friends know. Even better, invite friends with similar interests to like the page! You can help these small businesses reach new customers and do your friends a favour by letting them know about a product or service you think is pretty awesome.
I like to think the Love the Way You Travel social media pages are fun, educational and inspiring. You'll find me posting inspiration for your next travels, education about responsible travel and fun polls about travel-related topics. I share photos and stories, tips and recommendations. You won't find me dancing or singing though.
Write a review
If you've had a good experience with a small business or tourism company, take five minutes and leave a nice review for them. Were you treated like royalty even though they were understaffed? Did someone go above and beyond to make your experience extra special? Were the cleaning protocols better than you expected? Did they provide you with information that saved you from making a big mistake? Did you have the best day ever because you forgot about the stress of life and were present in the moment?
Reviews are so important for companies these days, take a few minutes and let them and others know what they are doing well.
If you've booked travels with us recently we'd love for you to post your review on Linked In, Google or our Facebook Page. It's not just about us though, other small businesses appreciate this as well, so seek them out and give them some social media love!
Thanks, as always for reading, for your support of my small business and your passion for seeing the world. It's because of my amazing, adventurous clients that I also get to do what I love and experience the world.