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Wanderlust | The changing travel marketing landscape

While still in the midst of a pandemic, experts in the tourism industry, one of the most severely affected sectors, continue to find new approaches that can both comfort and address the traveler’s needs in the new normal.

This was one of the topics in a webinar on The Changing Travel Marketing Landscape During and Post COVID-19 Crisis last July 28. This digital forum was headlined by various online travel experts from around the world, who shared marketing strategies on how one can have a better idea of how to come out of the pandemic prepared.

Today, in most countries, operations of destinations and various leisure establishments are still on a halt while the world awaits for a vaccine. But what does this mean? Should the industry continue to reach out to their markets during this uncertain period?

“What do we do as a tourism brand?’ We can’t come out and tell people to plan a trip because we have no idea when people are going to be traveling again,” said Virginia (USA) brand director Lindsey Norment.

She added that if your destination is not yet ready to accept visitors then there’s no need to be “super aggressive” but “always let people keep your destination in mind”.

One of the presentations suggested that industry stakeholders need to take control of the conversation and remain proactive in the messaging.

“Always be abreast of the facts and know how the pandemic is affecting your destination. Understand how to best traject the information in order to relay an educated message to your market,” said XMarksTheSpot’s Jude Gilles.

He added that one must take this opportunity to mitigate travel concerns and re-evaluate one’s channels, especially that people are likely “still overwhelmed and confused” amid the pandemic.

“Take this time to rethink content strategy plans and how to best utilize each platform to solidify relationships with your market,” said Gilles, emphasizing that the destination’s commitment in this time of crisis is to “calm the minds of the travelers”.

Lee Naples of TravelNord emphasized the importance to consider one’s brand positioning and messaging.

“Instead of generating bookings, find ways to provide comfort and relevant information to your visitors. This will not only elicit better response but will also help build a stronger brand recognition for future businesses when the pandemic dies down,” he explained.

Naples also added that in managing a social marketing strategy for a destination, find out what market is interested in knowing. It can be as plain as posting updates about the destination and projecting when it will reopen.

“Re-segment, re-forecast – review your content for engagement to your market and adjust your messaging properly to maintain confidence from concerned travelers,” he said.

A modified target audience follows a shifting social content. It is high time then to tighten up one’s market segment and target those that are most likely to engage.

“This will give you a better diagnostic of where your strengths and vulnerabilities might be. The earlier you engage, the quicker you can recover from the effects of the pandemic,” said Harold Fencer of BreakTheIceMedia.

He also suggested shifting to online experiences and finding creative ways to bring the “thrill of travel to the comfort of home”. One can host online webinars about tours that attract travel enthusiasts, or do livestream where viewers can virtually visit destinations, or choose from a selection of online experiences that can be conducted by locals.

“Pocket-sized initiatives can make a significant return on investment. Holding free digital events can help increase bookings in the future,” Fencer said.

As the landscape is changing with new protocols in place, adapting to the new normal is definitely the key to survival for travelers and industry stakeholders alike. One thing that the tourism industry has proven over time is its unwavering resilience. While initial travel will likely be closer to home, the industry is expecting a growing clamor for foreign travel once quarantine orders are lifted.

“Just keep your audience engaged and listen to their demands. Your brand presence is still essential during these quiet times,” added Fencer.

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