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Travel Inspiration 101: Show, Don’t Tell

This week, the US Travel Association is pushing its newest campaign, “Let’s Go There,” and, for more reticent destinations, “Let’s Go There Soon.” It’s an exciting time for destinations and travel companies to band together and collectively inspire Americans to start thinking about travel again.

The message over and over, whether from destinations themselves or other organizations and associations is clear: start planning future travel now. It’s a way to help our economy recover but, also, to help all of us recover from the past few months of staying home and getting too-well acquainted with our neighbors, couches, and favorite pair of leisure pants. The US Travel Association wants us to get up, do our laundry, and start planning our next big escapade.

While destinations keep telling people to start planning travel in the future, when it’s safe to do so, they also need to think about showing them why it’s a good idea. COVID has shaken up the industry an much of placemaking messaging has fallen to words and facts, including guidelines for safety and rules for distancing. What’s missing in all of this, however, is the proper visual illustration of what this new travel landscape even looks like.

Let’s take a moment to revisit some tried and trusted tactics that some marketing campaigns seem to have forgotten.

Show us the safety

Does it feel weird to show waiters and hotel concierges in masks? It sure does, but welcome to 2020! We’re in it now, and basic safety precautions are no longer taboo or risqué. Stop telling everyone, “We’re being safe!” and just show us. Safety is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must.

Let’s see servers wearing masks, tables distanced, hotels doing contactless check-in, and hand sanitizer at your local airport. These little nods to the new normal will help make these new experiences, well, more normal. Even though no one wants to be reminded of the pandemic, they still want to travel, and seeing that a destination is taking it seriously is a way to promote responsible experiences. Also, let’s be honest. Do you really think anyone is forgetting about the pandemic in the first place?

Show us people

It’s been months of looking at pretty sunsets and landscapes. We get it. Everyone wants to be outdoors. It’s time to start sprinkling some people into your marketing efforts, even if we’re supposed to be social distancing. The emphasis is on distance, not isolation. We humans are social creatures, and while we have to navigate our interactions with masks (see above on showing us the safety!) and some more distance than we’re used to, we’re still traveling with family or friends in our bubbles.

We’re still interacting with servers and service providers. Let’s not lose focus of the cultural discovery and exchange that drives so much of our travel. Without these human voices, travel just becomes a faceless voyage into another, generic, attractive natural settling.

Show us what’s open

We’re loving the Instagram accounts of cities or regions that promote businesses that are open. It’s refreshing for locals and travelers alike. How many times have you checked the hours of your local bakery on Google only to find that it is closed because of pandemic-related issues? It’s frustrating and doesn’t instill a lot of hope to travel anywhere just to hunt endlessly for an open business.

Yes, it’s tough now. Yes, many destinations are still staggering hours or closed unexpectedly. As a destination, however, there is plenty of possibility to show who is open, to provide round-ups or social media posts that can point potential travelers to places where they can experience your destination. Make it easier for travelers to feel confident that their trip to your destination won’t just be a collage of “Closed” signs.

Show us something different

It feels cringeworthy just to ask for “something different.” It’s a bit cliché to think that destinations can constantly market new or different experiences, angles, or facets in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Still, travelers want it.

They want to see New York beyond the Empire State Building. They want to see St. Louis beyond its arch. The want to see Florida beyond its beaches. Show them Seattle beyond the Space Needle. We’re reaching now to find unique experiences and secondary attractions to fit into this new normal of socially distanced travel. Start promoting that now by showing us these places and people, by highlighting things in your destination that have never been highlighted before. There’s little to lose by experimenting now.

Show us why

Why visit your destination? Well, it’s the crux of everything we do in placemaking, so we get the challenge to answering this question. But now, more than ever, your task is twofold. Why should anyone visit your destination and why should they visit it now? It’s a challenge that you can overcome by showing everything mentioned above.

Curate a clear and active Instagram account. Create unique video content to distribute on Twitter and YouTube. Keep the photos flowing on Facebook along with reasons why your destination is a safe, responsible and rewarding choice. New content might be difficult to obtain, but by tapping into locals, even digital influencers in your area, there are ways to overcome these obstacles.

We’re all on board with the US Travel Association. We all need to band together, to get people thinking about travel and to proclaim, “Let’s go there,” even if it’s not immediately. But a picture is worth a thousand words – a cliché that we’ll let pass here – so keep that in mind as we bolster recovery efforts this fall.

Struggling to find the right words – or images – to tell your destination’s story? We’re with you. COVID has shaken us all to the core but DCI has 60 years of experience riding out these sorts of storms, and we’re here to help. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn how our experience can help guide your strategies moving forward, and to put a friendly face on your destination’s efforts.

Written By

Ashley Kotar

Ashley Kotar is a destination marketing and public relations practitioner who is an ambassador for the power of Millennial travel dollar.

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