COVID-19 has impacted all businesses within the travel and tourism industry, but none more so than the smaller, independent travel businesses. There were times during the pandemic when these business owners felt totally at a loss in terms of how to take action to keep their establishments afloat while awaiting the beginning of the industry’s gradual revival.
The good news is that many industry leaders were there to provide much-needed support to these businesses over the past year, and Sarah Habsburg was one of them. She stepped in to assist Andrew Attwood, owner of Antbear Lodge in the Drakensberg, after he reached out to her online. Together, they created a domestic marketing campaign to help attract local South Africans to the lodge, with a special focus on email marketing. Since September, with Sarah’s guidance, Andrew has managed to collect over 19,000 email addresses of potential customers and feels confident that his lodge is well on the road to recovery.
Who is Sarah Habsburg?
Sarah Habsburg is a travel and tourism consultant specialising in working with small businesses. She offers advice and guidance regarding email marketing for domestic tourism, website review and design optimisation, tourism resilience, and customer service. She was born in the UK and fell in love with travel when she was 16 and sat watching the sunrise over the Montserrat mountains in Spain on a school exchange. She soon moved to South America where she worked in tourism and education for two decades. Eventually, she decided to set up her own travel business and founded a backpackers’ hostel.
Spurred on by her passion for her job and hoping to make a difference within the industry, Sarah decided to study a Masters in Responsible Tourism Management, which quickly led her into the realm of consultancy.
Lifting others in times of crisis
Sarah says that she has always loved merging the elements of teaching, training and tourism. She enjoys helping people move forward and being the support that they need in order to do so.
“When COVID hit, I was relieved that I was no longer on the ‘front line’, but quickly realised that there were so many other small tourism business owners who were,” Sarah comments.
“I wanted to assist and so used my experience of having come through an 8.8 earthquake and a volcanic eruption – both of which drastically impacted the bookings and income for my business at the time – to create a helpful free resource to aid business owners in navigating the way forward. Andrew was one of many to come across this resource, and that’s how we met and formed a wonderful working relationship.”
Collaboration is key
When asked what advice she would give to small, independent travel business owners wondering where to go from here, Sarah insists that collaboration is key. It is vital for these businesses to stop thinking about saving themselves and to start working together to provide prospective travellers with well-rounded, memorable experiences. For example, a guesthouse in KwaZulu-Natal could collaborate with a nearby diving school to provide guests with a small discount on the experience, and vice versa.
Sarah also claims that self-care is an important aspect of the recovery process.
“Take good care of yourself and breathe whenever you feel overwhelmed. The world won’t come to an end if you need to take a day off to replenish your mindset. Also, seek help and reach out to others who are in a similar situation,” she says.
Sarah encourages small business owners to join her Facebook group for support when striving to build tourism resilience.
Watch our conversation with Sarah Habsburg here.