The future of tours in Munich
I hope you and your loved ones are all keeping well. I thought it was about time to give you an update about the tour situation here, and my take on how things may pan out for tourists and tour operators in the future. Not just in Munich but generally.
In Germany, in the middle of March, lockdown began. Almost overnight, it seemed as though a new order or seismic shift in our perception of normality had been instigated. Everybody has been touched in some way, either directly by the virus or by the consequences of it. We have had to adjust our lifestyles that we have taken for granted for years, there have been perceived negative but also positive consequences in our lives.
A digital revolution has taken place, with those reticent previously to embrace it now forced to. As a consequence, for many, the workplace will change forever but what about our leisure time. Prior to lockdown, we had seen unprecedented levels of tourism. Almost year on year the number of international travellers had been increasing. As a tour operator, I had experienced the positive consequences of that, at least economically. However, I had a sense of things not being quite right, long before Covid dictated change. The term “over tourism” was the instigator of a lot of debate in the tourist industry. Trying to reconcile the ethical question around globalisation and international travel with the drive to generate profit and perceived success in business. I had felt for some time that action was neccessary to ensure that the quality of a tourists experience was secured whilst minimizing damage from an ethical perspective. The challenge being to try and run a reasonably profitable business at the same time. It is one of the reasons that I prioritize small groups as part of my offerings, I had learnt from experience on the coal face of tour operations, that leading hoards of people in a City or at a location, was not the way to go and unfair for my guests. I built a business model and pricing structure designed to keep group sizes reasonable. For my guests, that means they pay a slightly higher price for a tour but they get an experience that is more like a private tour. As we emerge tentatively from Covid, I believe more than ever that it was the right decision.
Local Governments, including here in Bavaria are capping group sizes, 15 max as it stands. That means that tour companies relying on volume of guests are going to have to look at their pricing models and increase prices to survive. My experience is that people that book tours dont mind paying extra if they get a more personal experience. Now, they value that Personal experience even more because of the health considerations. So what does all this mean to you as a tourist in the future. My personal opinion is that you will eventually see more and more small independent operators, offering high quality small group tours, with direct contact to their guests. They will maintain contact with those guests post tour, with webinar offerings and the like. Effectively these small operators will become like a virtual friend in the City and for many the first point of contact via reviews and word of mouth. I know this model works because I am offering it now. Digitizing business operations keeps overheads lower and enables small operators to hibernate their business much more easily when times are tough(a second wave is not unimaginable). Smaller companies will therefore be more resilient and capable of surviving another similar crises. The bottom line is I believe tourists will be able to be more discerning because of increased options and offerings due to an increase in small high quality operators. We are seeing and living through what I believe to be a massive change in the way tours are run and designed. If operators are flexible and willing to embrace that change then the outlook is still positive.
The consequence for tourists could also be a more predictable chance of an excellent experience when taking a tour! Feedback from my guests seems to indicate a hit or miss chance of a good experience as things were, with people wary regarding what to expect of an experience. As a tour director, I welcome the more Personal experience as well. I get the chance to talk to people rather than just herding people from point A to B. The chance to acknowledge people and address their needs and hear their opinions is priceless from a personal and business perspective. Happy guide generally = happy guest, so maybe the forced changes will benefit all parties. Let’s hope so!