By Guest Writer Ruth Franklin
This week the Maldives took another step towards recovery with the launch of phase 1 easement of lockdown restrictions, which in turn will have created a more optimistic feeling about the future.
Whilst it may yet be some time before local islands see international tourists, I am sure there are many locals who are looking forward to the moment they can travel once again between islands and enjoy a weekend away from their city homes or indeed visit family and friends.
With this in mind it is time for water sport and excursion providers to start considering what steps they need to take to be able to open for business. The domestic market will be the first to want to use their services, I know for sure I do!
1. Health & Safety
It goes without saying that the final guidelines for Safe Tourism when published will need to be reviewed to ensure all requirements are met. However, in the meantime start to consider and develop health and safety protocols for your team and your guests that are specific to the activities you offer. This will assist in keeping everything and under control. These protocols may include but are not limited to the following:
What will be the guest capacity for each activity to ensure social distancing?
How will you clean/disinfect boats between use?
How will you ensure life jackets and rented equipment is cleaned/disinfected between use?
Will guests need to bring their own equipment?
Will you be able to provide tandem activities if this is something you have offered previously?
How will you provide the equipment to guests?
Will the wearing of masks and/or gloves be compulsory?
Now is the time to ensure all your equipment is in good working order. Is it safe to use? Is it in good condition? Is it stored correctly? Is it stored in an environment where it will remain disinfected once the cleaning process is completed? Does it comply with any necessary safety guidelines issued by the manufacturer or associated activity governing body or associations?
Will you be required to have any mandatory health and safety equipment available? This might not be easy to purchase in the beginning. So plan in advance to make sure you won’t run out of it.
3. Team Preparation
Train and educate your team on your new protocols so that everyone is on the same page. Their actions and behaviors, how they demonstrate the required health and safety and cleanliness guidelines is important to the success of your operation. If they are not trained effectively on processes and procedures they will not be able to deliver the service level guests are now looking for.
4. Test it Out
Implement your operational changes as a team and check that you can provide a safe but fun experience. Review every activity so that you understand that all aspects of the guest experience follow social distancing, cleanliness as well as general safety.
Be transparent and inform guests about what you are doing and about anything that in the future they should expect to do for themselves. Prepare public notices highlighting the new ‘rules’ and ensure they are visible in key areas.
Whilst I believe that health and safety in our new world is a shared responsibility, it is still important to reassure guests that you have policies and processes in place. This will assist to manage and respond to their concerns. As a business you may also want to consider insurance and waivers that may assist in protecting your business if funds allow.
Don’t forget that we are in this together. I would encourage water-sport and excursion providers on local islands to work together and not in competition. Who knows for some small operators, merging businesses together may be the road to a long term successful recovery process.
About the author: Ruth Franklin is the Co-Founder of local tour company Secret Paradise.
Secret Paradise has provided local island experiences since 2012. They annually audit their partner accommodation properties and are currently finalizing a program to support their guesthouse partners in being ready for business.