How this client’s beach resort transformed an International travel ban into the stuff of legend.
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International travel bans, violent conflict, and resort occupancy were not on my 2018 bingo card.
At that time, more than 10 cities in Nicaragua were the scene of heavy fighting when local residents began public protests against the social security reforms decreed by President Daniel Ortega.
In response to these skirmishes, the United States issued a Level 4 travel advisory for Americans attempting to fly to Nicaragua.
Once the travel ban was issued, many businesses that relied on U.S. tourism were basically cut off from the outside world.
It was at that time that Chancletas Beach Resort, one of the tourism dependant businesses, became my client.
When the resort’s president, Shay O’Brien called me he was panicked, and rightfully so.
The travel ban had eliminated his resort’s ability to generate revenue virtually overnight and with no telling how long it would last.
He called the right guy because my brain loves solving difficult challenges for my clients (they’re like complex business puzzles) and I was highly motivated to help him navigate the situation successfully.
Mr. O’Brien was not fearful about his family’s safety or the safety of his guests because he insisted that the hot zones were in distant cities and had almost zero effect where he was located on the Pacific coast.
While this was true, it didn’t reverse the fact that there were news reports coming out almost daily of people getting kidnapped and even killed while traveling on major artery roads coming from the main airport in Managua.
On our first call, the travel ban news was still fresh and Mr. O’Brien was in the process of mentally transitioning from denial to bargaining in the stages of acceptance.
He had heard ideas from others in the same situation that there they were going to attempt to reroute guests to fly into the neighboring country of Costa Rica and then make their final leg into Nicaragua from there because Costa Rica did not have the same travel restrictions.
This alternative entry option would only be considered by the top percentage of risk-takers but how would we pitch this to them specifically
Here’s how I advised Mr. O’Brien during that period and the actions he took to successfully navigate this situation and come out of it in a much stronger position.
My first directive was for him to shift his mindset and quickly come to terms that this issue would likely not disappear overnight and that he was facing an insurmountable force, albeit a temporary one.
He did, and that one shift set the tone for his next moves and could have been the biggest factor in getting through this because he likely saved weeks resisting the inevitable instead of taking action.
Next, I advised him to adjust accordingly by notifying his staff that their work hours would be reduced in response to the travel ban until further notice and to cut ALL OTHER NON-ESSENTIAL EXPENSES.
If his resort was to survive this, he would have to take immediate action to protect his capital because we had no way of estimating how long it would be until his business was back online.
Next, I advised him to prove that his region wasn’t in a danger zone by going live on social media while driving around and creating and editing video clips to publish online.
These videos had a terrific response and were a key ingredient to getting ahead of when the travel restrictions were lifted. Many previous guests and followers rallied around Mr. O’Brien promising to support his business the moment they could.
A few bold travelers even made the jump from Costa Rica to Nicaragua and had the place to themselves which he also documented on various social media platforms.
Fortunately for Mr. O’Brien, he had built up a strong reputation with resort guests dating back around fifteen years and because of this, it helped to expedite the process of taking his story public.
That compounded when influencers and professional surfers who had been guests of the resort became aware of the situation and also became vocal online in support of Mr. O’Brien, his resort, and his location.
Once we had momentum we made a push to increase his exposure and performed outreach to a major relevant publication to cover the story.
Surfline, a global surfing media company agreed to tackle the trending topic and covered the story with great speed to market.
This was a huge win for the resort and transformed a somewhat localized event into full-blown international news within the surfing subculture.
Do you know one thing surfers dream about?
The thought of surfing an uncrowded lineup at a world-class break!
And that’s exactly the story Chancletas Beach Resort was offering to those brave and adventurous surfers who dared take the trip.
These brave surfers were scoring world-class waves in empty lineups and they documented the entire process on social media.
We focused on creating lots of great content and building up his online presence so that by the time the travel bans were lifted the resort was positioned even stronger than it was prior to the travel ban.
These trips would go on to become ‘the stuff of legend’.
A great ending for a great guy and his family.
I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out from the initial call, and it didn’t look good but together we made smart decisions and took decisive action.
Parlay that on top of the fact that Mr. O’Brien had built up a great reputation over the years and that was just the credit line he needed to be able to tap which not only saved his business but allowed him to build up a formidable competitive advantage in face of adversity.
Unfortunately, not all the other businesses in that situation fared the same.
Today, Mr. O’Brien, his family, his employees, and their beloved resort are doing better than ever and I couldn’t be more proud of him. Chancletas now offers surf trips, fishing charters, jungle and volcano tours, and all sorts of trips catered to adventure.
Be sure to check them out and book your stay here.