Are you ready if tourism recovers faster than expected?
The long-awaited recovery may happen sooner than we thought.
Part of our work in digital destination marketing education is to be your scouts. Your “ear to the ground.” Your no-nonsense advisors about trends.
Lately, we have a sense that significant tourism industry recovery may happen a bit earlier than many had expected.
Conventional wisdom seemed to peg Fall/Winter of 2021 as the return of “semi-normal” times, with more complete recovery well into 2022. Now, thanks to climbing worldwide COVID vaccination rates – especially in the U.S., with multiple vaccines available plus more aggressive Federal action – we may see recovery happen a lot faster in some areas.
The latest Longwoods Travel Sentiment Study indicates that 84% of American travelers have travel plans in the next six months. Skift reports that United, Delta, and Alaska Airlines are near break even or positive cash flow this month. Some DMOs like Houston report that they are “preparing for a bumper second half of 2021, with a record amount of [in-person] conventions already scheduled.”
In this TripAdvisor 2021 Traveler Trends report, we noted the comment that, “For destinations and tourism operators, the message is clear: however you choose to market your offering to travelers this year, don’t wait. Every day, more and more travelers aren’t just dreaming of their next trip abroad, they are planning and booking it.”
Of course, some destinations stayed busy even during the pandemic, particularly the ones that are a gateway to lots of outdoor, open air activities. Parks and outdoor attractions had to impose ticketing, reservations, wristbands, etc. Campgrounds and RV parks were full. We expect such crowd controls to continue, or even get more challenging. If you’re one of those destinations, have a plan.
For everyone else, what should you and your tourism or Main Street partners be doing right now?
Don’t be “The dog that caught the car” when tourism recovers
There’s a joke about a dog that chased a car down the road, but didn’t know what to do when it actually caught the car.
What if the recovery we’ve all desperately wanted comes so suddenly that we’re not ready?
THAT would be a kick in the pants, wouldn’t it? 😊
From our earlier blog post that was a little ahead of its time – Tourism marketing and coronavirus: decisions now are key to what happens later – here are a few items to consider…
1) Help your partners get their most current information posted, including outdoor dining availability and curbside or takeout options. Have they given you their latest hours open/services offered for your website Resources page? Here is a local Business Updates page example from Experience Columbus, Ohio.
If needed, show partners how to pin a COVID-19 status update post to the top of their social accounts. Remind them to update their Yelp and Tripadvisor listings, their Facebook Page Messenger auto-responder, social media bios, email signatures… even their business voicemail message.
2) Help partners use this time to learn to successfully market not only their business/organization, but the destination as a whole. Coach them through claiming their Google My Business listings, the best thing they can do for local SEO. Do a mini-audit of their Facebook Page or Instagram accounts. Feature them in a blog post on your DMO blog.
Help them think through cross-promotion ideas, like offering a coupon for a free cup of coffee or tea at the downtown coffee shop to customers of the local kayak or bike rental company.
3) It is going to be VERY competitive amongst destinations once travel rebounds. You probably can’t compete with Disney or major cities with big budgets, but you can certainly plan right now for a focused relaunch campaign that will entice your best niche visitors.
Create as much of the media as you can now; shoot the video, take the photos, write the copy, design the graphics. Re-connect with influencers you’ve worked with in the past, and develop a plan to freshen up and re-share their content.
4) Strengthen the assets that belong to you alone: your website, your blog, your email list. Don’t let your success depend upon an algorithm or cookies or the whims of some platform founder.
Run paid advertising – on your Facebook Page at least – to build your email list, a critical asset that YOU control. Make it enticing: “When travel opens back up, our email subscribers will be the first to know about specials and packages.”
5) If you’re in the business of booking meetings when tourism recovers, take note of meeting planner input in this Destination Analysts research into what planners want right now from CVBs and DMOs:
- Sanitation and safety protocols will continue into 2022. Provide marketing pieces that “show that your town and activities are safe,” but do NOT have too much text and copy.
- Be clear what is open: “Can we actually enjoy what we came to see?”
- Virtual FAMs are popular, even (yes) among older planners.
- Don’t assume space requirements. Even small groups may want ballroom-sized space to spread out.
- Continue with flexible cancellation and rescheduling adjustments, to build booking confidence. Many groups are struggling financially.
- Your website info is key to success. More information is better. Recent video always a plus.
We can help with strategizing, content planning, and marketing education for your partners, so work us into your budget for the upcoming year if you’d like our assistance (virtual for now, in-person once we’re vaccinated.)
Not sure what would be best? Contact us.
Yes, that’s light you see at the end of the tunnel…
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Join us for the March 2021 #tourismchat on Twitter, on Thursday, March 25 at 2 p.m. Eastern. Guest chat host Elise Trivers with Visit Denver will lead a discussion about using TikTok and Instagram Reels videos for tourism marketing.
Update 26 March 2021 – Here is the #tourismchat transcript. Tons of great info!