PIVOT. It’s a simple word, but one that Amanda Johns from Tours of Guernsey has put into action after her business was turned upside down by the pandemic.
At the beginning of 2020 she had nine times the amount of forward bookings than in 2019, a year when 95% of her business came from visitors to the island, particularly cruise clients.
Then around half-way through March, the cancellations came which, she said, was so disheartening.
‘I refunded deposits in full as I needed to keep customer interaction,’ she added.
Amanda adapted her business in order to survive.
‘I also had to wait through various stages such as reducing the two-metre physical distancing, as that just wasn’t possible on a tour.’
She worked with Festung Guernsey, which was getting a couple of sites ready to open on specific dates (Batterie Mirus and Batterie Scharnhorst). Tours for locals and Isle of Man visitors were posted on Facebook, where reciprocal pages had been set up between the two islands with tips on where to visit.
‘I’ve had amazing support from the people who came on the tours,’ she said, with more than 650 people coming on tours this year. Part of the fee she charged for the tours to the two batteries was passed back to Festung to help with their projects.
In the Guernsey Together spirit, Amanda also donated part of the ticket price for her other tours – mainly coastal walking tours – to the Covid appeal.
‘One gentleman heard me on the radio talking about the tour to Batterie Mirus and he contacted me to let me know that he’d constructed a 3D model of the site.
‘He asked if I’d like to see it and ending up lending it to me to help explain the construction of the site.
‘Another gentleman lent me some of his Festung volumes, which are worth a lot of money,’ she added.
‘I’m very grateful to them and to all the people who took the time to write reviews of the tours.
‘At a time when you’re trying to get your business back up to where it was, it’s future visitors who will be looking at the reviews.
‘I’m looking to work with Festung again, not only at the two sites I’ve been taking people to, but perhaps to more of their private Second World War fortification sites.
‘A lot of people that had booked for last year have rebooked for this year – hopefully, it’ll be a fantastic year.
‘ I started this business full time a couple of years ago and 2019 was a great first full year.
‘2020 was looking fantastic with all the bookings at the beginning of the year.
‘But I’m very confident that when people want to travel and they feel confident in travelling, that they will come back to Guernsey.
‘It’s just a kind of postponement of their holiday, not really a cancellation.’
Elise Trebert, who runs the franchise Baby Sensory, similarly had to pivot her business – physical classes attended by parents and babies.
‘The first lockdown at the end of March was in the last week of term,’ she said.
The doors of her business had to be closed because she couldn’t accommodate the parents and infants during lockdown.
‘I decided to take the classes online.
‘I did a couple of trials, then decided to go ahead with the whole term online as I wanted to keep the business running, and support people as well.’
Elise’s classes rely on interaction from herself, the parents and the babies, so doing it via a screen was not perfect.
She had a mixture of existing clients plus new ones join in her online classes.
‘I had a lot of lovely comments from those new parents, mainly because of the support, and for having some structure into their maternity lockdown.’
By running classes, Elise kept her business out there and is back to having a waiting list for her physical classes.