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How Social Distancing & Covid Demands Changes To the Travel Business

Story by Travellers Autobarn

Posted: September 14, 2020

Travellers Autobarn (TAB), originating in Australia in 1993, expanding into New Zealand in 2016, rents a fleet of modern, custom fit-out RV’s (locally known as Campervans), to mainly solo travellers (25%) and couples and friends (75%), with the USA clearly leading in the solos group, definitely more so than Australia or New Zealand. As the new kid on the block here in the USA (arriving early 2019 on the West Coast), up until Covid-19 the brand was growing slowly, but steadily.

With Covid-19 taking over, things, just, stopped. But now, there’s signs of life and people are venturing out again making enquiries, the phones not ringing o the hook, but there’s a tiny feeling of confidence to get out and travel amongst the people, to experience that space and freedom. Albeit washing their hands frequently and keeping a healthy social distancing from others, but none the less, people are beginning to move again. And RV’s are the perfect self-isolating form of transport.

We all know travel has changed for the entire world and TAB has changed along with it both in how we operate, how we prepare our vehicles, and how we keep things safe for our customers. The plan is constantly evolving and changing. The main thing that’s changed though, is how we think.

Personal Hygiene. Keeping clean is high on the agenda. At TAB we’ve always practised the fine art of cleanliness, so while this is not new, the new “depths” we go to now include a deeper disinfectant style clean, of every surface you can imagine.Even if you don’t touch it, breathe on it, or sneeze on it, we’re still going to deep clean. Our sta use masks and gloves when preparing vehicles for an adventure. We’re droplet safe.

PPE Packs. We’ve created the TAB-19 Pack with each RV hire. This includes masks, gloves, soap and hand sanitizer along with additional water containers specifically included to cater for the high demands of constant cleaning.

Pickups. We’ve streamlined and created a safe pickup zone, and a plan for customers who wish to have that old school personal interaction. We facilitate this by requesting customers make appointments and we schedule only one group of customers – one bubble if you like, allowed into the brand at any one time, with safe physical distancing rules followed. It’s mandatory for all customers to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer when entering the TAB branch. All our sta have been given strict guidelines about cleaning as well as their own personal hygiene with PPE provided.

Human-less Pickups. For the tech savvy, or the clean freaks, or people who just want to limit their interactions with others, we’re providing online checking as well as the option prepay & sign their rental agreement online. No humans required.

Working Together. Old marketing and advertising ways have been abandoned. Plans ripped up. That world no longer exists, because cash flow (like we were all used to) no longer exists. Thanks to Covid we now focus on a more collaborative win-win-win scenario (read Customers - TAB - Partners) and less on high advertising spend. What this means is we’re reaching out to partners, tour operators, even accommodation providers who are facing similar financial challenges, and collectively we create co-marketing opportunities with realistic, aordable and think outside the box strategies to reach, inspire and hopefully convert new customers. Basically, we’re all falling in love again, and jumping into bed together. It’s a Covid love fest.

New Pricing. Our CFO has run the ruler over our bottom line. We’ve all taken pay cuts of up to 50%. The higher you are the more you’re cut. From the CEO down. TAB isn’t where it is today because of a top heavy management. Our frontline crew are our backbone, our engine room. Always will be. We’ve cut back on spending. Cut back on capital spend. Put on hold new acquisitions. We’ve down sized and whilst not quite on life support, we’re all well aware one bad decision, one bad contact, one bad outbreak can send us packing. So, our prices have been adjusted to help the community and considering that people will have much less income in the coming 12 months, we’ve decided it’s better to have our RV’s out there to be enjoyed, this is what we’ve done:

  • Pricing in May & June has been reduced between 50% to 60% to normal pricing 
  • Pricing in July to September has been reduce between 20% to 40% to normal pricing 
  • On top of reduced pricing we are oering 10% discounts for online bookings…yes that’s an additional 10%! This means big savings for travellers, right NOW.

At the same time – there has never been a cheaper way to rent an RV and see the USA! When normally you are looking at $100 to $150 per day in June you can now travel through the US for less than $60 per day including miles…like we said, new pricing.

Payment Terms. We’ve reworked our payment terms. Made them simpler. Easier. Friendlier. Take our cancellation fees, we’ll admit, they weren’t that simple pre-covid, we’ve listened, reviewed and changed to a less risky, more friendly system... •

  • Book now – Pay Later; people only need to pay 2 weeks per pick-ups a $200 deposit.
  • No cancellation fee applies as long as they cancel 2 weeks before pick-up.
  • If cancelled within 2 weeks their deposit will be converted into a credit note.

And, we’re going to keep thinking. Keep thinking on how we can be safer, how we can be better, how we can make it easier, how we can price better. There’s no better time to get-o the grid, to go where you want, see what you want, do what you want all in the safety of your own perfect, self isolating RV. Life is short. The road is long. The time is NOW…