At this time of the year, Paige Balsinger would typically be spending her time making reservations at restaurants, theaters, casinos, and other venues for guests of All Around Charters and Tours.
Not this year. The charter and tour company outside of Fort Myers, Florida, has found its traditional venues are closed or not accepting group reservations as the state restricts gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
So the Tour Department Manager decided to get creative. Balsinger is selling tours that do not rely on destinations being open.
She is overcoming the challenge of pandemic closures by planning trips that are essentially drive-by sightseeing tours with pre-planned meal stops at food trucks.
Balsinger recently shared some strategies she is using to build business during the Aug. 20 United Motorcoach Association Town Hall session.
“I’m having guests that want to travel, so what we are starting to set up is more sightseeing trips, where guests don’t have to leave the coaches,” she said.
The coaches are doing drive-by tours of historic buildings, alligators in the Everglades and murals in St. Petersburg.
“Instead of working with the restaurants, we’re working with some food trucks and taking people somewhere where there are picnic tables. We’re just trying to get people out without having to go to venues, which aren’t taking group reservations,” Balsinger said.
Eager to gather safely
She’s heard from churches and other affinity groups — such as circles of friends — who are eager to go on safe outings together.
Balsinger is offering to customize tours and reaching out to longtime clients to let them know of this new option.
“People want to see each other. They’re really wanting to start to get out and travel, and they’re comfortable being together,” Balsinger said.
Social media push
Getting the word out is easier, thanks to the new social media push the company recently made.
“We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on our Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter,” Balsinger said. “People are really watching our video on YouTube about how we’re cleaning and fogging our coaches. I can track and see who looks at it. That’s really been a big success story for us.”
Customers want to see that safety message before they call to book a reservation, she said.
All Around is also using the free UMA’s AssurCLEAN Program to put passengers at ease so they can travel confidently.
It’s one of two new, free UMA resources All Around Charters and Tours credits for helping it gain its footing during the new normal of COVID-19.
The other is the newly introduced Social Media Tool Kit to enhance the operator’s online profile and promote the industry. Balsinger credits the kit for quickly putting her on the right track.
She used the #RESTARTtheBUS hashtag on Twitter to draw attention to the plight of the industry, then posted the Industry Infographic on Facebook, put her company on Instagram and added a YouTube channel.
“The social media has just gone over very, very well,” Balsinger said.