We’re in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing people to dramatically shift daily routines, and no one is sure for how long. As a result, marketers across every industry are having to rethink well thought-out annual strategies on the fly, starting from scratch.
DMO marketers normally busy welcoming Spring Breakers instead have to balance public safety versus local economic impact of losing part or all of peak travel season(s). An initial reaction may be to focus on paid media impact. For destinations and attractions, there is a decision to ‘go dark’ versus maintaining some level of awareness. Taking a step back, travel marketers should realize there’s an opportunity to leverage ‘owned’ or ‘organic’ communications, especially at this point in time.
For the foreseeable future, the consumer decision funnel should be squarely focused at the top of the funnel, or awareness messaging. Even if people can’t go on vacation, it doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.
The time to start planning for life after this pandemic is now. The best place to start is talking to your army of brand advocates. When thinking through strategies for talking to these folks, there’s not a one-size-fits all solution.
But there are key considerations to consider:
Phase 1 – Be Upfront:
Initially, you must be a resource for people who’ve planned to or have actively considering visiting your destination or attraction. Be honest and open about what’s currently going on in your area, but not in a negative tone. Also make sure all key stakeholders, most importantly local businesses, are aligned on a consumer-friendly approach. It’s important to reduce friction in any cancellation processes. By being an advocate for your audience, it’s much more likely you’ll get them back. Both internal and external communications via organic channels are crucial, and they must be in lockstep.
Phase 2 – Be a Virtual Friend:
The reality is, people will yearn for something else to talk about as time goes on. This is an instance where tourism should play a role in brightening people’s day and provide escape from news dominating the headlines.
Showcase your destination, but not with the ‘visit now’ mentality. You’ll hear a lot about ‘virtual experiences,’ but that kind of approach needs to be done in an authentic way. Here are a few thought-starters:
- With spring beginning and summer right around the corner, consider virtual tours of some of your more scenic areas
- Set up live Q&A sessions with area attractions and let them answer audience questions. Perhaps let them take a peek ‘behind the curtain’
- Some people may not be able to connect with friends and family for a period of time, create virtual postcards that can be shared with loved ones
Whatever you do, it needs to remain true to your brand.
Phase 3 – Be Ready:
We’ll eventually return to some sense of normalcy, it’s important to be ready. As people become more likely to travel again, leveraging organic channels along the way helps you maintain a level of awareness.
With that foundation, you can begin to implement other tactics, perhaps starting with paid search and website retargeting to identify those already in the consideration phase. Soon, you’ll be able to move to higher impact tactics including Connected TV, streaming radio and social influencer campaigns. Many destinations will launch paid efforts at the same time, so you must ensure what you’re doing breaks through the clutter. Strongly consider channels you’ve only tested previously but saw success.
If you need some help brainstorming ideas for your upcoming organic strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact us.