Devised by Florian Herrmann; Written by Fallyn Richmond

Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s beginning to feel like a too-long road trip. Our legs are aching to get out of the car as the road signs show onerous numbers of miles yet to go. Buckled in on the lengthy “road to recovery,” here’s what we suspect will keep DMOs on track for the next six months:

Tip 1: Check-in on local businesses

The pandemic devastated small businesses with shutdowns, reduced traffic, and lower sales as future shutdowns still loom. After this exhausting year, checking in on local businesses is critical. Listen and improvise ways that your services may help ease your community through the next six months. 

Of course, helping businesses during a season of financial challenges may mean negotiating with tighter budgets. Depending on the flexibility of your operation, work to offer support now, knowing that it will pay off later. The best public relations this year is demonstrating genuine support for your community. 

Tip 2: Create a flexible marketing plan

The single thing we know about next year is that we do not know anything about how it will unfold. 2020 taught us all a near year-long lesson about readapting plans in the face of impending disaster. 

Let this lesson in uncertainty guide your marketing plan. Plan for a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario, schedule deadlines with generous buffers, and prepare yourself for several more months of problem-solving and pivoting. Taking these extra moments to consider a plan b, (and c, and d, and e) prepares you for scenarios that may come up and alter your predefined schedule.

Tip 3: Expect differences in consumer travel readiness

With differences in opinion and regional pandemic recoveries, you will likely uncover disparities in consumers’ comfortability with traveling. In order to manage the range of travel sentiments, work to communicate that your destination will be ready whenever visitors feel ready to travel. This gives travelers agency: those that are uncomfortable with traveling remain in their travel-dreaming phase, while those that are ready to travel know that your destination is taking precautions to safely welcome them back. 

Tip 4: Clarify safety protocols with your community

Welcoming visitors into your community will require active community collaboration. Confirm your communication about safety protocols with your public health agency to ensure that all messaging is consistent and clear. Travelers and locals alike should be able to understand safety expectations such as mask mandates, hand-washing, social distancing, and testing.  

Ensure that local businesses are in the loop about the precautions. Keeping everyone up-to-date with your community’s practices will help to curate an excellent, safe, and consistent experience for guests. 

Tip 5: Focus on digital communication

Prioritize digital communication for reach and flexibility. Consider this: if your community’s pandemic precautions change at the last minute, you have the flexibility to update a social media post in seconds, which is not feasible for traditional media. The mass—and targeted—reach and quick dissemination of digital communications allow you more flexibility to problem solve and react on-the-spot to changing circumstances. 

Tip 6: Take advantage of slower travel seasons

When travel slows this winter, avoid slowing down with it! Use your down-time to analyze your strategy and take time to reignite your creativity. This slow period offers you the time to prioritize the business development ideas that have been left on the back burner during busier seasons. 

Take your time to research, refresh, and think creatively about the future. Reconnect with the values of your organization, and brainstorm new and exciting ways that you can promote your community. Soon, travel will ramp back up and the stresses of peak-season communications will return; savor this moment of preparation, in all its unpleasantness, before our much-anticipated return to normal. 

2020 certainly created unusual, unexpected, and unprecedented challenges. For the next six months, as the road to recovery stretches before us, we suggest implementing tactics rooted in flexibility to reflect the uncertainty we’ve come to expect. Buckled in, together, we’re hopeful our long journey to normalcy ends soon.

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