Although travel sentiment is turning more positive, the pandemic is still heavily impacting the tourism and hospitality industry. Nearly half (49%) of American travelers have canceled a trip due to COVID-19, and trips for fall and winter holidays will likely be off by half relative to 2019 (Destination Analysts).
Nevertheless, the travel and tourism marketing show must go on. Planting seeds now will allow destinations to boost their brands and positively impact bottom lines when traveler confidence returns. We’re taking a close look at best practices to build momentum toward 2021. First up …
Adjust marketing efforts to locals (and regionals), and don’t stop once travel picks back up.
According to a recent survey by Zeta Global, 58% of consumers are not planning to travel for the holiday season (up 49% compared to 2019). Those 31 million travelers will likely still be getting out and about, just closer to home. So, how does a travel brand pivot? By shifting marketing to focus on locals. We’ve done just that for the Town of Castle Rock. We also quickly shifted message and media to speak directly to New Mexico residents only for TOURISM Santa Fe. Other examples include Hong Kong’s “Holiday at Home” and Australia’s “Holiday Here This Year.”
Need more proof that you should tighten your radius for attracting visitors? A recent Skift survey indicated that 40% of Americans’ first post-COVID-19 trip will be by car, within 100 miles of home. A little more than a quarter (26%) will travel beyond the 100-mile mark, yet stay domestic, and still travel by car. Only 16% will take a flight, and an even smaller segment (8%) plan to leave the U.S.
But, even as people become more comfortable with the idea of taking real, live, pack-the-duffle-bag-and-go-on-a-road-trip or pack-the-suitcases-and-get-on-an-airplane vacations, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) need to continue to engage with residents and regional audiences, or the “locals,” for short.
And here’s why that matters for travel and tourism marketing. When you know more about locals’ hesitations about or motivations for seeing tourists return, your messages will be more emotionally resonant with the traveling public. You’ll also have greater confidence that people are indeed ready when you open the doors wide again.
DMOs should be asking:
- How willing are locals to welcome tourists?
- If they’re unwilling, what conditions have to be in place for locals to feel confident about welcoming tourists again?
- What have locals been doing differently since tourism and visitation decreased?
- What value do locals place on tourism’s benefits for the local economy?
Coming soon, we’ll be talking about ways to dial up the dreaming and discovery phase, how to leverage industry and first-party data to inform forecasts, and the value of testing out new KPIs in marketing plans.
Now in our 50th year of business, Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.