We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global tourism industry.

Major airlines are on the brink of collapse, tour operators are laying off staff in their thousands, and smaller independent companies are wondering how they will ever recover.

In these unprecedented times, it’s important to think outside of the box and look for ways to minimise the impact on your sales. Though you can’t make money from closed museums or empty hotel rooms, you can try a different approach: preselling services and experiences.


What is preselling?

When China went into lockdown earlier in the year, tourist companies didn’t shut up shop or disappear from social media for months on end. They decided to pre-sell tickets to popular tourist attractions and experiences at a discount so that when restrictions were lifted, those sites could welcome customers and return to some sort of normality as swiftly as possible.

The scheme proved so successful that many popular attractions were overrun with guests who were eager to get out and ultimately part with their cash. On the first day of reopening, Huangshan Mountain Park had to restrict new visitors by 8 am as they were so busy. Offering discounted tickets in the weeks prior allowed the company to come “back with a bang” and recoup some of the losses that they incurred during the government-imposed lockdown.

And it’s not just major attractions that can take advantage of this ‘preselling’ model. Tour operators, B&Bs, hotels, bars, cafes, restaurants, and travel agencies can sell low-priced experiences through pre-sale to drive revenue during these challenging times.

Below, we’ve rounded up the major benefits of doing so.


Cash flow

Perhaps the most obvious benefit to preselling experiences is that you can maintain sales and cash flow at a time when your business would otherwise have been non-operational.

Despite government grants and the Job Retention Scheme, the truth is that businesses in the tourism sector depend on their customers to keep the books healthy, and without them, it would be impossible to survive. By selling off your services in advance, you can ensure that money trickles into your business in these uncertain months and pay your staff and bills.


Maintain visibility

Keeping your tourism brand relevant and engaging during a global pandemic can be tough, especially when you take into account the current public mood.

Rather than hibernating your business and having to start from scratch in three months’ time, preselling allows you to be part of the conversation and make a positive impact on peoples’ lives when they need a lift.

Take petting zoos for example. During the COVID-19 crisis, you can presell vouchers or days out so families can have something to look forward to in the months ahead.

And whilst they wait for restrictions to be lifted, you can help them get to know your animals with cute video updates, and show them around your park with a virtual tour. Keeping your marketing sensitive and positive will result in customers remembering and recommending you.


Relieves pressure

There’s no denying that the current climate is causing significant anxiety and stress for small business owners. Preselling experiences reduces the pressure on firms that are struggling to cope. You can use revenue generated to pay your staff and ensure you don’t lose key talent.

You’ll also gain confidence knowing that there is still an appetite for your services once lockdowns are lifted, and receiving support from local and international customers will make you feel valued and appreciated at a time when many of us feel helpless and redundant.

Another benefit to preselling is that you’ll know how many customers will be coming through the door later in the year. That will make it easier when you’re purchasing stock, food, and merchandise, and you can use presales data to anticipate customer behaviour and demand.


Attract international clients

Many tourism businesses rely on international customers to fuel their attractions, and whilst all-but-essential travel is banned, those customers cannot help you. The tourism sector will play an important role when it comes to the recovery of our economy.

If you can inspire and motivate foreign nationals to choose Scotland and explore our great country, you’ll not only be helping your own business but have a knock-on effect for hundreds of other small firms.

Developing an effective presales strategy and working with an international marketing firm like Zudu China will position your hotel, museum, or restaurant as a leader and help you to find customers; many of whom will be more willing to explore and experience new cultures and attractions after having their movement restricted. Use this as an opportunity to sell!


Piggyback off followers

One way that you can presell your experiences to the masses is through piggybacking off established audiences. NihaoScotland is one of Zudu’s marketing offshoots, where we help Scottish brands tap into the Chinese market.

We cover six weighted digital platforms, including a news media platform, a search engine, a social media platform, a video media platform, and a self-media platform to generate buzz and excitement about tourist attractions and other Scottish ventures, which ultimately increases brand awareness and drives sales.

Our bespoke mix of WeChat, Weibo, and MaFengWo influencer marketing can expose your brand to an affluent, travel-focused audience and put your attraction firmly on the map.

Not targeting the Chinese market? Work with micro-influencers to spread the word about your special presales offers. Offering a free night in your hotel or a meal at a restaurant for one lucky competition winner is a great way to drum up interest, as is rewarding key workers like NHS nurses and supermarket staff through a viral marketing campaign or press release.


Sell to domestic customers

Finally, preselling can help you to sell to more domestic customers. Scotland’s domestic market accounts for 70% of total tourism, and half of that is Scots holidaying close to home. Although we won’t see any tourism activity until lockdown restrictions are relaxed, preselling exclusive packages will allow you to diversify and increase your chances of survival.

When positioning your presales offer, hone in on the fact that you’re an independent Scottish firm and be transparent about your struggles. Consumers will buy into your brand and your story and be more likely to support you if they know their purchase will make a difference.


At Zudu and Nihao Scotland, we’re offering a pre-selling promotion service on the most popular Chinese platforms to help Scottish businesses recover after the current crisis. To find out more and see whether we could help you, click here to schedule a consultation.

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