It’s no secret that COVID-19 brought numerous challenges to the travel and tourism industry. With no one traveling and attractions being forced to close, travel destinations were faced with the difficult decision to either pivot their strategy or halt marketing spend all together.
Our client Visit Jackson, MS, shares their plan of action once the pandemic began.
The Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau, dba Visit Jackson, is the official destination leadership organization for the City of Jackson. It serves the Jackson community by positively impacting the city’s economy through recruitment and securing meetings and tourism activities. Visit Jackson is a quasi-independent governmental agency created by the Mississippi State Legislature.
Phase 1: Stop, Listen, Proceed with Caution
As soon as it was clear that COVID-19 was going to force a halt to the travel industry, Visit Jackson first paused all traditional advertising messaging. Instead of focusing on bringing visitors to the city, Visit Jackson enhanced COVID-19-related information, content, industry best practices, and resources for its stakeholders.
“We found ourselves in a position serving as a principal leader in the tourism industry throughout the state,” said Kim Lewis, Communications/Destination Development Manager. “We immediately acted on the existing partnership that we have with the City of Jackson, sharing city and statewide updates and regulations, as well as joining forces with the Mayor’s office by participating in the COVID-19 Task Force; provided signage, face masks, and hand sanitizers to our industry partners.”
Visit Jackson has received a strongly positive community response as a result of their shifted efforts. By increasing its outreach to its community members, Visit Jackson has started to become a more depended-upon and respected resource for Jackson’s people and places.
Phase 2: Beginning Again
As restrictions started to ease, the Visit Jackson team knew they couldn’t just start promoting their destination as they usually did – focusing on meetings, sporting events, concerts, etc. They took an innovative approach to appeal to both locals and close driving markets.
“We began to feature our attractions enticing consumer travelers to consider Jackson and its unique I-55/I-20 location,” said Lewis. “Additionally, Staycations marketing opportunities have become more attractive to Central Mississippians who are now ready to ‘get out’.”
Just as Visit Jackson did, during Phase 2 we advise focusing on feeder markets within a few hours of your destination. Keeping imagery and promotions centered on wide-open spaces, outdoor and spacious attractions where people can feel safe and not crowded is key. Experts have predicted that destinations will be most successful in feeder markets that can access the destination safely and quickly.
Since Jackson is a college town, there is some concern on another lockdown, however the Visit Jackson team is working with the Mayor’s Task Force, school administrators, the business community and health professionals to implement practices that will minimize the infection rate and develop messaging to encourage responsibility.
In our latest eBook We Will Travel Again, we discuss how travel marketers can adapt to the current situation in a way that will set them up for success later. To best position our brands for success as the phases of this crisis transition one to the next, we must prepare. This crisis will not last forever, and travelers will hit the road again. In fact, they’re already planning their first great escape. Will you be there?
About Kim Lewis:
Kim Lewis is the Communications & Destination Development Manager at Visit Jackson, representing Mississippi’s capital city for the past seven years. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about meetings in the City With Soul, please visit www.visitjackson.com.