News & Views

Stay Home: A Simple Message

Destinations have one message to future travelers: Stay home.

Visit Estonia had a simple message: “Visit later,” using the strongest possible language in an accompanying hashtag. Check it out in their viral tweet. Their campaign was just one of many encouraging people to respect the sheltering in place and physical distancing that global governments are encouraging. The goal? Halt the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus, by stopping travel.

We know that’s hard to hear, but we can’t fight reality. It’s not good for business immediately, but DMOs realize that taking a hit now will be better in the long run. They are even writing the message in the sky.

Why tell travelers to stay home?

Reports keep coming out about people not sheltering in place, even when ordered to in California, for example. As the list of places where citizens are ordered to stay home increases, it almost seems redundant for destinations to tell people to keep away. Cheap airfare and deals, however, have enticed many into risky business.

For DMOs, however, the messaging to stay away is increasingly important. It’s even essential. No place is safe from the coronavirus, and new cases from outsiders are just as dangerous as spreading the virus among local communities. Containment is key, and any travel will hinder these efforts.

Who is doing it?

Some DMOs are jumping on board, like Estonia, to get the message out to travelers to stay home and come back when the time is right.

Madeira launched its Stay Home, Dream Online campaign on YouTube. Austria is making it clear that tourism is closed for now while Barcelona suggests that locals will come to you via their Instagram account, using the hashtag #StayHome.

Any destinations not on this bandwagon yet are doing a disservice to their local businesses. By prolonging the coronavirus crisis, they are prolonging the recovery time needed for tourism to return more fully to destinations worldwide. It might seem tempting to attract a few spring breakers or budget travelers now, but in the long run, it’s a gainless move.

What to do now?

So, what should DMOs be doing now? It might seem extreme, but it’s what’s needed. Don’t just tell people to dream about your destination – tell them to stay away. Visit later. Stay home. Don’t travel. Avoid your destination now.

Will it feel wrong? Yes. Is it the right thing to do? Yes.

Destinations that manage to isolate and combat the virus more quickly will be better suited for quicker recovery efforts in the coming months. Those that delay this counter-intuitive messaging will be left wishing they heeded the call weeks ago.

How to continue promoting

Just because your DMO takes the responsible role in telling people to stay home doesn’t mean you can’t promote your destination. It seems like a fine line to walk, but it’s really rather simple.

Online campaigns can still position your destination as a place to dream about when the crisis passes, helping keep travelers immersed in images on social media and on your DMO site. Florida and Madeira are just two examples, but others are beginning to follow suit.

Without a clear end to the coronavirus outbreak, the travel industry will likely need to be on pause for a while, so it’s better to embrace reality sooner than later. By taking the responsible route, you’ll shine more favorably in consumers’ eyes as recovery efforts and bookings begin again. The last thing you need for your destination is an influx of visitors followed two weeks later by headlines that travelers do your region tested positive for the coronavirus. That won’t look good in the present or the future.

Again, recovery will be long, but investments now in the future will pay off when the tourism industry comes back to life. In the meantime, don’t mince words and let the world know that your destination is closed, that they should stay away and stay home. The entire world will thank you for it, trust us.

Are you thinking about the future while dealing with the present? At DCI, we’ve spent 60 years handling crisis situations big and small. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more about how we can discuss your DMO’s future in a post-coronavirus world.



Written By

Kayla Leska

Kayla is Managing Director of DCI's Tourism Public Relations Division. She oversees communications strategy for DCI’s tourism clients and directs the firm’s tourism crisis and recovery communication efforts. Kayla leads publicity teams in the U.S. and Canada. She earned her BA in Public Relations at SUNY Oswego.

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