Tourism Marketing During A “Slow Opening”

By Trish McCabe Rawls on May 18th, 2020

Everyone who is remotely involved in the travel industry is wondering how you navigate tourism and travel marketing during a “slow opening.” Texas is a special place, no doubt. And it is just one of millions of special places in the travel and tourism industry that has been hit so hard in the past two months. None of us really know how a “slow opening” will impact our future, but as everyone sits and wonders “what’s next?”, we realize there is only one thing we can do: Put on my marketing hat and help those who are trying to eek out a living again market their businesses in the most effective way possible. So here are some ideas to keep in mind as you start getting the engines revving again.

Cleanliness and Safety First

Before COVID-19, I never thought about all the hands that touch a hangar at a retail store. Now I do. Before COVID-19, I may have never wondered if vacation rentals wipe down all the light switches after each guest. Now I do. Consider what your customers might be thinking and then show them what you are doing to protect them. Odds are your business has put in place some type of new cleaning processes to protect your customers. Make that front and center in your messaging. Literally show them your checklist. It’s not sexy, of course, but it will give your customer the peace of mind they need.

Use Appealing Visuals

While the opinions about slowly re-opening can range from a 2-year-old tantrum to a Woodstock-esque love-can-now-abound skip through the wildflowers, most consumers are not going to be attracted to crowds for some time. As they venture out, they will be more drawn to images that are peaceful, quiet and safe. Outdoor spaces are good also since the feeling of being “quarantined” at home makes the brain want to go outside. Create visuals that show how your customer can enjoy time with one or two others. Oh, and don’t have your models wear masks. Now, that’s just my opinion but who wants to be reminded of the situation we’re all in. Destination and tourism marketing is all about making the consumer say to themselves “I want to be THERE!” And none of us want to be wearing a mask. Wearing masks in social media posts is expected and warranted to show that you’re protecting your customers, but if you’re creating print ads or more paid advertising, I’d shy away from it.

Start Local

It’s pretty unanimous in the industry that road trip travel will dominate air travel and people will be looking for more destinations close by. The travel uptick will begin on a local level. People will start to go out to places in their own area. Then people will start to venture farther and farther as things, hopefully, remain safe. So think about your local customers and if there is anything you can do to engage them with special offers or services.

Focus on Family Activities

Even though things may be loosening up, there is still a sense of safety in “sticking close to home” so any activities you can promote that involve families, couples or even multi-generational would be great. Help get the families out of the house.

Be Cost Sensitive

I’m not saying slash your prices, but recognize that many people are unemployed, have taken pay cuts or just need to cut back. If you’re finding things aren’t moving or getting booked, your target market may need a special offer to get them to take action.

Consistent Messaging

Make sure all of your marketing channels reflect the same messaging. So if you made some COVID-19 changes to your website, make sure they now reflect what you’re saying on Social Media or on your VRBO/AirB&B page.

Craft Positive Responses

Whether it’s for people that walk in your store annoyed they have to wear a mask, or customers booking online that request discounts, have your responses ready – and share with all your staff. (It may take a while to realize what the common irritations will be). It’s important to put yourself in their shoes and acknowledge their frustration because they may not put themselves in yours.

Focus Further Out on the Calendar

The need for immediate recovery is obvious, but industry trends are showing that travelers are more comfortable arranging travel a few months out. You could get some things on the books for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s!

Engage Customers Online

Tourism marketing during a “slow opening” is challenging if you just can’t get customers yet. If that’s the case, consider keeping them engaged with your brand by using polls or asking questions. Are you a concert venue? Ask what was their first concert? Best concert? Who would they love to see at your venue? If you’re a clothing store ask what item of clothing they would buy online? Or what piece of clothing they would LOVE to shop for right now? Or which of these new pieces do you like best? Get creative… it will make them feel like they’re shopping and then when they can, you will be top of mind.

Review Cancellation Policies

Consumers will be paying much more attention to trip insurance and cancellation policies. You might want to take a look at yours and see if it’s up to date with the travel industry situation. Are there any tweaks you could make to ease customers?

Cross Promote

Are there any new products or services in your area that your customers would be interested in? Could you do a marketing message campaign with the retailer next door? Or if you’re a B&B — with a restaurant or museum? Get creative. If you can come up with some ideas, you will get exposure on their list and vice versa.

Offer New Services

Are there things you could do that you just never thought of before? Or things you could ramp up that just didn’t take off when you tried it pre-COVID-19. Like retailers conducting personal online shopping with in-person fitting appointments? Wineries offering family picnics on their grounds? Wish list registries for Mom, Dad… anyone! This is the time to try out that new idea.

The travel and tourism industry has had a special place in the hearts of everyone at Creative Noggin for a long time. We’re looking forward to getting things rolling again, too. If you want to ask us a question about how to navigate tourism and travel marketing during a “slow opening” for your specific business, email us at info@creativenoggin.com. We’re here to help in any way we can.