Destination Marketing in the COVID-19 Era: How Can DMO’s Attract More Visitors?

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Seven months since the first lockdown, tourism boards and DMO's (Destination Management Organizations) are finding their footing in this new landscape. While the early days of COVID-19 found DMO’s forced to rethink their messaging and point to local deliveries, online shopping, and encouraging people to stay home rather than explore.

According to a new Hilton study, 95% of Americans miss travel. In fact, 9 out of 10 respondents said travel memories are some of their favorite memories, and many say they’re experiencing “a travel memory deficit.” To combat that deficit, Hilton’s launched a new campaign entitled “To New Memories.” 

This new campaign taps into the desire to travel again soon. Market research company Destination Analyst says roughly 80% of American travelers say they have plans to travel in for leisure before the end of the year. In Europe, people are also optimistic about traveling soon. 54% intend to take a trip in the next six months, according to this European Travel Commission research.

Yet, travelers have many questions about traveling now or soon.

  • Where can you travel? 
  • What’s open? 
  • How safe is it to travel? 
  • What cancellation policies exist? 

Bloom Consulting, a consulting firm that specializes in destination marketing, found travelers crave reassurance and transparency right now. According to their report, “If the global public perceives the government of a Country to have managed the crisis well and a secure health system, 53% of tourists’ desire to visit the destination will be influenced in their favor.”

Additionally, travelers are looking to less crowded destinations and want to be assured hygienic measures are in place. 

Destination Marketing in COVID-19 Era.

While pre-COVID, DMOs focused on creating fun campaigns geared toward different market segments to inspire visits. Now they have the added pressure of inspiring confidence in prospective travelers. 

Travelers want to know they can get there, what’s open, and if proper safety measures are in place.

In other words, the new twin pillars of destination marketing in the COVID-19 era are aspiration and confidence. Potential travelers want to feel hopeful and safe. Destinations that can strike the right balance in acknowledging the difficulty and uncertainty people feel yet, helping them feel safe will attract visitors. 

Here are a few examples of DMO’s leading the way in restarting their tourism industries during COVD-19. Despite being from all corners of the world, they all share similarities in that they offer clear guidelines for travelers.

5 Examples of DMO’s Leading the Way in the COVID-19 Era

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The demands of today’s travelers include flexibility, meaningful experiences, and hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. These Tourism Boards have created new destination marketing campaigns to reflect the COVID-19 time.

1. Launched June 1, 2020, as Australia reopened interstate travel, the campaign encouraged Queensland residents to “explore their own backyards.” Businesses who have completed Australia’s COVID Safe documentation requirements can display the “Good to Go” stamp in their marketing. 


2. A New Zealand destination, Visit Auckland, taps local Māori tradition by evoking the spirit of Papatūānuku in its campaign. Papatūānuku is a Mother Earth figure in local tradition. The campaign Papatūānuku is breathing encourages potential visitors to breathe and find calm.


3. Bad Gastein, Austria, invites prospective visitors to focus on humanity and use this time to relax and appreciate themselves and one another. Their social media focuses on timely inspirational messages and original photography.


4. Zip to the other side of the world, and you’ll find Los Cabos, Mexico, welcoming visitors. The #LosCabosRules campaign makes a play on “rules” and says, “Paradise has rules. They’re just more fun.” The campaign focuses on healthy habits like wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing to appeal to those seeking a quick getaway in paradise.


5. Moving up the coast to California, different regions are promoting a return to travel, such as Sonoma County’s “Life Opens Up and Santa Cruz’s “Let’s Cruz Again.” Wearing masks and frequent hand washing is part of the messaging.

It’s not surprising that people crave connection, new vistas, and inspiration after months of lockdown. Yet, as news reports come from second and third waves, tourism boards and DMOs must inspire travelers’ confidence. 

Trust Technology, Data, and Destination Experts

As the travel landscape evolves, technology and third parties’ expertise can also be good allies to DMOs for their Destination Marketing strategies during COVID-19. 

Travelers need answers and solutions like Smartvel’s can help to reassure your visitors. Smartvel’s AI gathers the entry restrictions of any country, helping DMOs keep visitors fully updated of the changing travel regulations. The same AI also gathers events and things to do at the destination, and can help DMOs inspire visitors with the best plans, events and experiences in their destination for upcoming trips.

Another good practice is to become a data-driven destination and look at consumer insights that might help you think ahead of the future travel expectations, discover new audiences, and personalize your communications. There are many data providers, agencies, and free resources out there that might help you through this process. Check out, for instance, this report by Think with Google.

Marketing agencies like MMGY Global, Destination Think or Digital Edge can also play an essential role in guiding you through the COVID era and rethink your Destination Marketing strategy to be prepared for the upcoming travel seasons.

 

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by Jennifer Phillips April

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