In February 2020, Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental had been growing steadily for 11 years and was on the cusp of expanding into Peru. They were popular with international adventure seekers and bike enthusiasts alike.
The key to their success had always been a commitment to going above and beyond for the customer. They spent time understanding each customer’s unique needs and designing experiences tailored just for them. The result has been a loyal customer base that leaves glowing reviews and returns again and again.
But then COVID-19 swept the planet and shut everything down.
The next few months were as tough for Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental as everybody else. Nobody was traveling, and revenues quickly dried up. But unlike many others, these guys didn’t go into hibernation. They went to work doing what they always do: providing top notch service.
Mechanics dismantled and rebuilt all 50+ bikes in their inventory so they’d be in top shape when business started again. They revamped their website and made sure to keep up with their marketing. And they provided open communication and flexibility to customers navigating an uncertain terrain.
By August 2020 they were taking bookings again.
At a time when thousands of travel businesses worldwide shuttered for good, Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental kept their doors open and their expansion plans alive.
I spoke with International Sales Director Florian Lasnes to learn the secret to this gutsy little travel business’s success.
Tell us a little about your company: What do you do and how did you get started?
The company was created in 2009 by Court and Sylvain, expats from the United States and France respectively. They decided to make their passion their vocation and launched Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental in a small shop in Quito, Ecuador.
I joined them 5 years ago and took over the sales department of the company. I am also working on marketing and customer service.
How do you market your business and what has been most successful in driving bookings for you?
Through our website, we put a lot of videos and pictures to make our potential clients dream of riding with us, we also publish longer articles on our blog to go deeper in different subjects (culture, gastronomy, artisans, safety...). We use social media quite a lot (Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Instagram...)
You said a lot of your customers come back again and again, what’s your secret to winning repeat business?
Not really a secret, you just have to offer the right products that will please your customers and for this you need to listen to them, take their feedback into account, offer new tours on a regular basis, give them a better service than they expect, personalize as much as you can. Also word of mouth and recommendations bring us a lot of new customers.
Many tourism businesses did not survive the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you manage to keep your doors open?
Like for everybody, the past year has been a very difficult one but we reacted very quickly to the situation: we contacted all our booked customers and assessed the situation for each of them, we changed our terms and conditions and allowed total flexibility in change of dates without applying any penalties. We kept them regularly informed of the situation in the country and in August 2020 we started to have people on the road again. We also implemented the possibility to get a PCR test at our office when they finished their tour so it was easier for them to fly back home.
We kept investing in communication and social media to make sure our company was visible and reassure people we were still operating and also to make people dream while they were unable to travel.
If you had one piece advice for tourism businesses who want to grow, what would it be?
Personalization and outstanding customer service are the keys to get client satisfaction and, in the end, growth. Constant innovation is also a key factor if you want repeat business.