German virologists nicknamed COVID-19 management a dance with a tiger. Mimicking how one would react in close-quarters with a tiger, we must remain conscious of COVID-19 to actively respond to its threats.
This metaphorical dance increases in intricacy as the world progresses toward “the new normal.” We are shifting from the slow waltz of stay-at-home orders to a quick-step of reopening. The travel marketing industry is warming up for this dance with adjusted marketing strategies to reflect the novel challenges of COVID-19.
Current Challenges of Travel Marketing
Prior to COVID-19, typical travel marketing campaigns often required weeks to create and promote content to consumers. After COVID-19 forced travel shut-downs, travel marketing firms were left to quickly readjust content to reflect the travel restrictions.
The ever-changing COVID-19 news has become a critical content consideration for travel marketing. Marketers are tasked with adapting campaigns to the most current information about the pandemic. This vacillating news cycle requires marketers to work with tight turnaround times in order to stay in touch with consumers’ present reality. Currently, many travel campaigns are crafting messages about safety guidelines in response to staged reopenings.
To further complicate content creation during the pandemic, travel destinations and marketers experience challenges with communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines. Above all, travel marketers face concerns about increased COVID-19 outbreaks in promoted destinations. Yet, enforcing safety protocols and tracking traveler compliance proves difficult. Messages promoting responsible travel practices may increase some travelers’ compliance, but it is impossible to guarantee everyone will comply.
The campaign time constraints further conflate communication challenges, as it leaves destination marketers with minimal time to create and promote engaging messages about safety. This challenge potentially means that travelers may not engage with a destination’s COVID-19 messaging prior to travel, increasing the number of travelers resistant to or unaware of restrictions and expectations.
Thus, marketers contend with a short-timeline to create wide-reaching, engaging, and clear content to promote their destination’s safety practices while maintaining an inspirational, “we’re open” tone.
Here are three media that I expect to most effectively ease the tight turnaround on messaging during the pandemic:
Social media is highly adaptable to changing circumstances. B-roll and leftover assets can easily be adapted into new content, and social posts can be edited before and after publishing. Social media is an excellent resource for travelers searching for the most up-to-date information about a destination.
However, some consumers worry about the trustworthiness of social media content. Now, more than ever, brands need to convey trustworthiness and authenticity through transparent messaging. Engaging video content that clearly describes the destination’s COVID-19 practices will add clarity and credibility to social media content.
Here are two examples of destinations creating engaging video content with reopening themes:
Visit Colorado’s cute animation provides a catchy, memorable jingle to promote important safety information.
Visit Las Vegas maintains their destination identity while promoting safety precautions like mask-wearing, hand-washing, and cleaning.
An e-newsletter allows for extended communication about a destination’s expectations for travelers during the pandemic. Newsletters are simple to draft, and with more people at home and online, an e-newsletter may garner higher readership than usual.
A clear e-newsletter rooted in credible safety recommendations will communicate expectations, build trust, and increase comfort for consumers considering travel.
Managing public relations is especially essential for travel marketing right now. It is imperative to ensure that reports about a destination’s responsible travel expectations, closures, and openings, are accurate and consistent.
Marketers may find it useful to reach out to local news sources and ensure that news reports accurately portray the protocols practiced at the destination. Additionally, it is important to monitor emails and comments on social media to answer any questions or refute false information.
Managing public relations, again, relates to building consumer trust. Consistent messaging across platforms will greatly enhance a traveler’s trust in a destination and their perceptions of safety while traveling.
The New Normal of Travel Marketing
While we are all fatigued from hearing, “a new normal” there is a level of truthfulness to the phrase for travel marketing. The industry faces tighter turnarounds, a rapid news cycle, and an extra emphasis on clarity and transparency for the foreseeable future. Without a definitive end to COVID-19 in sight, every industry, every individual, is dealing with the tiger in the room. There’s no choice but to dance.