From Pivot to Permanent: Messaging For the Long TermOctober 15, 2020
Pivot. The word of the year. So many travel professionals, advisors, industries and citizens have done just that over these past months.
We’re getting to the point, however, where all of the pivoting and creativity in the travel industry just isn’t that new or novel anymore.
Whether it’s virtual events, mask-wearing, social distancing efforts, or in-depth cleaning, it’s tough to pitch these topics to the media and expect them to be impressed. They’ve been covering these things for a while and, to be honest, they’re a little jaded.
While these activities are important as COVID-19 continues to weigh on the tourism industry, it’s equally important to keep an eye on the future. Some things will change permanently, and it’s important to start taking stock of them now so that we can do everything we can to ease visitors back into traveling again. After 9/11, for example, who would have thought that removing shoes at the airport would become an industry standard? Yet here we are.
So what sorts of changes should you be communicating on going forward? Here are a few of the basics.
Clean. Clean. Clean. We get it, we’re going to keep things clean at airports, but the changes will be more long-lasting than that. In an effort to reduce contact, airports are embracing more facial recognition programs – something that will stick around and be even more effective once mask mandates fade away. Duty-free shopping will rely more on click and collect services to streamline the process. AI technology – yes, robots – will become more prevalent for cleaning and communication services as we move forward.
We don’t even blink at taking off our shoes or removing our liquids, and one day we won’t flinch when a robot checks us on or offers to distribute some hand sanitizer. And it’s not just airports! Rail travel, taxi services, buses, trams – the future of travel will look different, and your destination needs to keep this sort of messaging up to date so visitors can know what to expect from now on as they plan their travel.
Oh, are your hotels clean? Again, we get it – and we appreciate it. Visitors, however, aren’t likely to register the deep cleaning their room received, but they will notice other changes that will continue to be part of the hotel experience.
The most notable has to do with checking in to a room. Seamless and effortless check-ins via mobile apps are now becoming mainstream, allowing one less point of contact between guests and staff. Even before booking, however, guests are likely to notice how much lower prices are than before. While not permanent, competitive rates will be part of the foreseeable future. It’s rough for the hotels but great for attracting visitors as we emerge from the pandemic.
At the same time, social distancing has led even more people towards homestays like Airbnb, meaning hotels will have even more competition in the future with these platforms as travelers become more sensitized to homestays.
As travelers, all of these pivots are positive ones, but of course it means continued financial challenges for hotels.
In major cities around the world, people are dining in improvised outdoor patios, once reserved for cars to park. It’s all very temporary – or is it? Some cities like Paris are embracing temporary street closures, creating more pedestrian-only space in the city for these restaurants to continue serving once we escape the pandemic. The geography of dining will likely keep one foot outdoors for the foreseeable future.
Otherwise, people who travel are embracing ordering on apps, for example, in an effort to reduce contact with wait staff. A solid pivot. Higher end gourmet take-out options have also become more of the norm as people still aren’t dining indoors everywhere. These changes may be small, but the shift in practices will just be one more thing that COVID has thrust upon us that, like everything else, we’ll just be accepting as ordinary.
And if we’re lucky, changes like paid sick leave for work staff may become permanently integrated into many restaurants, helping rethink how American restaurant workers are treated.
Time entry and reduced visitation, while not always amazing for institutions themselves, are enhancing the visitor experience by streamlining it and reducing unwanted crowds. Many museums are adopting these practices as permanent fixtures, and it’s something to celebrate.
By avoiding long lines, institutions like the Smithsonian can provide safe, secure entry to their museum with free timed entry. A shorter wait and fewer people inside at one time? Who wasn’t advocating for this before COVID-19?
If your museums are doing something novel to welcome visitors back – beyond offering hand sanitizer – be sure to put it forward to the media. It’s not likely that we’ll go back to cramming into galleries as we did before – for health or comfort – so future visitors need to understand what to expect, and the travel media is waiting on new stories to tell all the time.
How will places like theme parks and other major attractions pivot and look different in the future? Don’t expect Mickey and Minnie to be wearing masks forever, and while a Japanese amusement park encourages guests to “scream inside your heart,” chances are we’ll be hearing those screams again in the coming years. Still, it’s important to communicate on how attractions both big and small will welcome people back over time, and what to expect.
If like mask mandates and social distancing are only temporary, what then, will be permanent? Every destination’s attractions are different, so be sure to note when something new or interesting is folded into daily practice. Travel media will want to hear about each pivot – and so will future visitors!
Thinking to the future and how you’ll pivot to meet it? Excellent! DCI knows that travel will return in the future, even if it looks differently. Get in touch with Kayla Leska at [email protected] to learn more about how our 60 years of experience can help your destination shape itself in the new normal that’s ahead of us.