COVID-19 has drastically changed how people travel — and it will be a good while before we return to “normal,” if ever. Although travelers are finally getting back out into the world and visiting new destinations, things have shifted. The travel industry took an enormous hit because of the pandemic, and destinations are still recovering.
Destination marketing post-COVID will look different, which means destinations will need to evolve their strategies to the changing times. Below, we’ll cover the top approaches to focus on now that things have re-opened.
But first, let’s look at how travel has changed since the pandemic started.
How COVID-19 Changed Travel
Before COVID-19 hit, the travel and tourism industry was responsible for one in four jobs created throughout the world. It was a vast, growing market.
But, according to an economic impact report from the World Travel & Tourism Council, the year 2020 showed staggering losses. The report showed a loss of nearly $4.5 trillion (and increasing) in travel and tourism for the year. A study also showed that many travelers canceled or delayed their vacation plans on almost the same day they learned about the pandemic crisis.
International travel was halted more than ever, leading to an emphasis on regional travel instead. Many people are still wary of traveling, so they’re instead dipping their toes in with destinations closer to home. That often includes scenic, outdoor locations like beaches, National Parks, or road trips. And overall, Americans are still anxious about going places.
New Marketing Strategies to Consider Now and Post-Covid
1. Rewriting the Story Your Destination Tells
The pandemic has put us through a lot. Attitudes and perceptions about travel have changed — is your destination keeping up?
The emphasis on eco-conscious travel has increased, and travelers are looking for branding that feels comforting and reassuring. That includes marketing messages that stress empathy, community support, and an understanding of travelers’ needs.
Brands will want to restructure or rewrite some of their marketing to fit the comfort travelers are seeking. That might include strategies focused on updated cleaning standards, company responsibility, and safety measures to protect those who visit your destination.
2. (Re)introducing Yourself to Locals
Even when people are worried about travel safety, they still get tired of looking at the same four walls. To scratch that itch for something new, locals have been exploring more of their own cities. As a tourist destination, you can capitalize on renewed interest in the area.
Think about what you can offer to those who want to “get away” locally. Offer promotions to explore a new area or collaborate with another destination to help each other grow while stressing community support.
Also, while things are slower, reflect on the benefits for travelers. They can have more of the destination to themselves by coming during the off-season or scheduling a work-cation near home that still allows them something new.
Overall, get creative and tailor messaging to appeal to an unforgettable travel experience.
3. Stressing Safety and Preparation
Understandably, tourists are looking for places that feel safe enough post-pandemic. Any destination offerings should adjust to what travelers are seeking, such as good hygiene programs. When a destination demonstrates they’re prepared for the “new normal,” it shows adaptability and helps instill long-term trust.
Smaller destinations can take advantage of this, emphasizing the ease of social distancing and quieter areas to enjoy versus other venues.
4. Going Mobile
Everything was already moving digital, but the pandemic has accelerated the importance of no-contact methods. Think about going mobile with advertising, websites, entrance tickets, and more. Consider where travelers are frequenting most and how you can make their experience feel as socially distanced and efficient as possible.
5. Look for Ways to Increase Online Exposure
Since people are more hesitant about their travel plans, they’re doing more online research before committing to a place. That includes looking at online reviews on travel sites and other user-generated content to see what others have experienced.
Tourist locations will want to get their sites on popular travel company websites and encourage reviews to increase exposure. As we mentioned above, prospective travelers are looking for vacation spots closer to home, so they might be unfamiliar with your offerings until they search in the area.
Travel sites can help you get in front of new potential consumers based on what they’re searching for. Also, consider geo-targeting methods where you deliver content to people based on where they’re currently located.
COVID-19 has taken a toll on the tourism industry, undoubtedly, but there is plenty of room for persistence and growth. Don’t be afraid to brainstorm new marketing strategies and creative offerings that better fit this new normal. And you don’t have to do it alone.
View our 2021 outlook report or contact Advance Travel & Tourism today for help with any of your destination marketing needs in these uncertain times.