Le Boat: Open for business and ready for fun
National Marketing Manager, USA, Canada & South America Le Boat
Can you talk a bit about how Le Boat has been managing to navigate its way through the global pandemic. Has Le Boat’s operations been impacted? In what way?
The landscape of Ontario’s Tourism Industry has certainly changed since March 15, 2020. Due to COVID-19, global travel restrictions and the delayed season opening of the Rideau Canal, Le Boat initially lost 80% of bookings for the 2020 season and all our USA and European customers.
In the past months, we have had to re-think our business and marketing strategy and re-sell our product domestically.
To ensure the safety of our customers and staff, Le Boat launched a new COVID Safety Charter that includes new cleaning protocols, social distancing and other measures as per Ontario’s new Health and Safety Guidelines for re-opening.
Today, we have managed to rebuild to close to 70% occupancy for the season.
In the last 4 weeks we have grown sales by 243% vs the same time last year. We are striving to achieve 80% occupancy (or more) before the close of the season on Oct 14 and could not do this without the support of Canadian Travel Agents.
So, what’s the plan going forward here in Canada? Conventional industry wisdom says that Canada is going to be the hot destinations this summer? Is Le Boat open for business?
Le Boat is definitely open for business! As the world emerges from their homes, we’ve seen that travellers are craving restorative immersions in nature and safe escapes where they can enjoy the great outdoors.
With the current travel restrictions, it makes sense that most travellers are considering domestic travel and ‘staycations’ as safer and cost-effective options for themselves and their families to enjoy time together in the summer.
Le Boat has seen that travellers want to be able to be self-sufficient, explore the great outdoors, have fun and keep themselves and their families safe this summer. A private boat rental holiday with Le Boat, where no prior boating experience or license is required, offers travellers all the above liberties, with the added reassurance of even stricter customer health and safety operational procedures in place. On a Le Boat holiday, all key amenities such as private bathrooms, onboard showers, kitchens, bedrooms, spacious interior and top deck lounge areas (with BBQ) are on board the boat and for exclusive use by your family or small group of friend, making this the perfect holiday choice.
Many companies have introduced enhanced health and safety protocols in their operations. Has Le Boat done this? Can you outline some of the new protocols that have been put in place?
Within this new environment, our goal is to provide guests and employees with confidence and reassurance that their health and safety is, and always has been, our number one priority. We have evolved our operations to make sure that we have taken every precaution to afford our customers an even safer and healthier holiday experience with us.
We have implemented additional health and safety measures called our ‘COVID Safety Charter’. Across all of Le Boat bases globally, Le Boat has rolled out additional health and safety measures at each stage of the customer journey in order to be prepared to receive guests and monitor ongoing health and safety throughout the 2020 season. This new program is about offering genuine care and the highest levels of service, enhancing procedures to protect both Le Boat guests and employees, while also ensuring that they feel safe and reassured.
Earlier this year we also implemented our Go Boating With Confidence policy that offers booking terms that are as flexible as possible. Travellers can cancel up to 48 hours prior to departure in case anything unexpected comes up.
Le Boat COVID Safety Charter
- Le Boat has streamlined the check-in process by supplying key pre-departure information to customers digitally, and introducing safety briefings and compulsory safety videos in advance. Any payments to be taken will also be done in advance.
- An enhanced system has been introduced for robust cleaning and sanitizing of all Le Boat bases, including receptions and high-traffic areas with the necessary PPE, and hand sanitizer is available to all customers at each base.
- Boats will be deep cleaned and sanitized using disinfectant spray on all surfaces that is proven to kill COVID-19. Additional soap will be provided for customers on all boats, and all laundry will be washed at high temperatures being handled only by staff wearing PPE.
- Allocated arrival slots and social distancing rules will apply for all Le Boat customers and staff in bases. Clear signage will provide guidance, screens at reception will provide reassurance, and all staff will be wearing PPE for extra safety throughout the check-in and checkout process.
- With the aim of minimizing physical contact and promoting safety and hygiene during the checkout process, Le Boat customers will be responsible to bag any personal garbage, strip bedding on boats and only one person per customer party will be required to report to checkout.
- Le Boat will actively be discouraging anyone with symptoms from travelling, but will make it possible for customers to reschedule their holiday if affected by using their ‘Go Boating With Confidence’ flexible booking policy.
As a business, we want to ensure that our customers can enjoy total peace of mind while on a Le Boat holiday. Our holidays are an opportunity for customers to reconnect with their loved ones and friends following what has been a very difficult time for the entire world.
Where do travel agents fit in Le Boat’s plans? Maybe you can talk a bit about the company’s products and programs and what kind of opportunities selling those products and programs offer agents.
Since our launch in Canada in September 2018, our goal was to grow our sales in both Canada and Europe with the assistance of the Travel Agent Communitiy and we have focused our efforts on driving awareness of the Le Boat product, our destinations as well as what a boat rental holiday is all about.
We continue to hosted many webinars, provide agent trainings, host agent familiarization trips so they can experience the product for themselves and continue to meet and speak to travel agents across Canada.
We are very fortunate to be one of the only travel companies to be operating a full season in 2020 (in both Canada and Europe), offering an experience where your travelling cohort is in their own self-contained environment, while still being able to explore the great outdoors, spend time with family and friend and discover some for the world’s most beautiful inland waterays. All of Le Boat’s global sales and marketing offices are focused on the domestic “drive to” /staycation consumers for the 2020 season (vs the long haul or international market). We do have our 2021 product on sale for anyone looking to secure their clients space on a 2021 boating holiday.
Does Le Boat do (or is it planning) educational programs for travel agents? If it does, can you talk about them and how agents access them.
Le Boat has a variety of training tools, webinars, sample itineraries, regional guide books, deck plans and other helpful material for all travel agents who have never sold a boating holiday before.
We are happy to provide agents with all the marketing assets they will need to offer a Le Boat rental to their clients including access to our image libraray, sample social media posts, content for your newsletter and website & much more.
Please contact the Le Boat Sales Team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-734-5491 for more information.
Last question. What’s your best guess at what’s in store for the industry going forward? Are you optimistic or pessimistic? And why?
At Le Boat, we are very optimistic that the Travel industry will recover from this global pandemic and very fortunate to be able to offer a product for clients that allows them to explore some of the world’s most beautiful inland water ways, rivers, canals and historical towns- all from the comfort of their own private boat.
We’ve seen the desire for staycations and local travel increase greatly this year and I think that is a trend that will carry forward for years to come.
Being able to eat, sleep, play and live on-board allows your clients to be able to control their environment and decide what they want to do and who they want to engage with-all while explores nature and getting away from the distractions of everyday life.
They can choose to explore the great outdoors for the entirety of their holiday (cruise, bike, kayak stand up paddle boat, cruise the open waterways and relax in nature) and cook onboard or choose to visit some of the small “less touristy” towns and villages along the waterway and go for lunch or dinner at a local restaurant, visit a winery, go shopping and explore.
All our itineraries are flexible and clients get to choose their own schedule and decide where they want to go during their vacation.