On the Path to Rebuilding Traveler ConfidenceMay 11, 2020 | By: Ashley Kotar
Rebuilding traveler confidence will be a long process for an already weary tourism industry – but we’re providing jolts of caffeine to help keep industry professionals alert. Many destinations are scratching their heads wondering where to begin, and the sole solace is that no one is alone in this collective confusion. A few tips, however, will help orient your thinking.
We’re keeping our finger on the industry’s pulse, watching every story and study that has come out over the past few weeks. One thing we’re noticing is that there are a few trends emerging that destinations may want to be familiar with in designing future campaigns. Simply saying, “Come back,” won’t cut it, as every city, state, region and nation is saying the same thing.
Instead, we need to dig deeper to find more relevant and engaging ways to rebuild traveler confidence. Let’s take a look at four themes to get started.
As the world slowly begins to imagine coming out of this crisis, there will be polarizing groups. We’ll see those who are afraid and need reassurance to travel, and then there will be those who are pining to live life to the fullest.
Travel PR professionals will need to think about these shifts in perspectives to understand what kind of travelers their destination appeals to post-COVID-19. How can campaigns effectively and tastefully tell those stories once we reach recovery? They’ll need to target YOLO – you only live once – travelers who will be sparing no expenses on a luxurious trip, taking a once-in-a-lifetime trips and crossing off bucket list items.
Seems like an ideal situation for a destination, right?
The reality is less ideal and most of our research at DCI into both consumer and business events travel shows more hesitant attitudes. It will take some time before consumers and business travelers work up the confidence to travel internationally in the numbers that we may be used to in the industry.
Health and hygiene
For those who aren’t as courageous, the process will take some more investment. Health and hygiene will be a major factor to help rebuild traveler confidence, especially for long-haul and long-duration vacations. Communicating a destination’s efforts to comply with new standards/demands will be an imperative story to tell.
For example, the ill-fated cruise industry is already looking to the future to reposition its ships to a more health-conscious population. A recent article detailed how cruise companies are communicating on very concrete changes that passengers will see going forward, once the industry returns.
What will this look like? Well, for starters, it seems clear that buffets aren’t the best way to attract people post-COVID-19. Perhaps robots and other technologies can replace various roles once filled by humans, like sterilization systems and food service. Whether it’s at airports or seaports, health screenings may now be mandatory before boarding, and travel companies and destinations worldwide will need to find engaging ways to communicate these chances to travelers once they hit the road – air or sea – again.
Wide open spaces
Along with health and hygiene, destinations will need to embrace a wider view of travel when it comes to the spaces that travelers occupy. We’re dreaming of no more middle seats in planes, but there are other very real ways that the industry will need to adapt and communicate to fearful travelers.
For example, a recent Skift article tapped industry experts who have started to creatively reimagine the future as impacted by COVID-19. While it seems like only yesterday that coworking spaces were all the rage, with the spirit of social interaction-induced creativity at its core, it’s conceivable that any shared space (be it office space, restaurant, hotel, etc.) will have to meet a list of demands.
These demands can include openable windows, mandatory outdoor space, wider doorways and corridors, contactless elevators and even legally mandated distances between seating areas. These ‘demands’ are speculative at this time, but the ways that destinations make strides to meet them will help with traveler confidence.
Looking at some of the top travel trends projected for this year – environmental stewardship, purpose-driven travel, smarter destinations, etc. – will we see these trends more or less in our destinations’ narratives? All our chips are on more, because it’s clear that these trends will crop up even more following the pandemic. As the environment rebounds, creating very visible positive changes, travelers will want to keep the momentum going and prioritize responsible-travel – or at least that is the hope among the green-conscious.
We’ll see more interest in trends that were already budding, like slow travel on trains, spending more to stay at hotels that meet certain LEED or ecological standards, and finding other ways to practice more sustainable travel. An unsung trend at the moment may lead people to be more interested in becoming ‘citizen scientists’ and contribute to research that propels our society forward. Leisure and purpose can go hand in hand, and destinations will need to communicate these new trends going forward.
Telling a destination’s story as it relates to these trends will resonate better with travel-timid audiences during recovery efforts. We all need to rebound traveler confidence so that people will be excited to book again. After all, the most beautiful hotels and exciting experiences are only as good as the travelers who reserve them.
Curious how your destination is prepared to take recovery to the next level? DCI has more than 60 years of destination marketing experience. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn how we can put COVID-19 behind us and step into the future with successful marketing strategies for your destination.