2020 hasn’t been easy for the tourism industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization released a report back in September warning that 120 million jobs are at risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But we made it through and with most countries starting to vaccinate, we can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
Pre-pandemic, the tourism industry was incredibly competitive and this certainly hasn’t changed. This is why your tourism marketing needs to really stand out if you want to attract visitors once again and revive the sector.
In this article, we’re going to look at 7 ways to promote your destination in 2021, taking into account the effects of the global pandemic.
Let’s dive in.
How tourism marketing changed in 2020
If you go back and read the predictions for tourism marketing in 2020, written back in December ‘19 or January ‘20, they are in no way comparable to what actually happened. Marketing campaigns had to be shelved, and new cost-effective ideas created in limited time frames.
A survey from MMGY Travel Intelligence and Destinations International found that 95% of destination organizations surveyed in the US reduced or completely postponed marketing spend last year. This is understandable, but it meant that those companies that did create new campaigns had less competition for grabbing people’s attention.
Pre-2020, the primary objective of tourism marketing campaigns was to convince travelers to take the plunge and buy tickets or book hotels. Over the last 12 months, however, we have seen that the focus shifted to staying top of mind for when travel is allowed again.
VisitEngland decided to produce a series of posts connected to films and TV shows which showcased the country, from “The Crown” to “Love Actually”. Their aim? Keep top of mind and be number 1 on the list when people are planning their first trip post-lockdown.
Virtual tours have also become extremely popular in 2020, providing an escape from the day-to-day. Despite existing pre-pandemic, we have seen much more money invested in state-of-the-art virtual experiences from tourism organizations.
EnjoyIllinois.com changed their homepage to feature an image of a forest and cliffs and the caption ‘These views took 300 years to make. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon’ and then encouraged visitors to travel around the state from the comfort of their own homes, offering the option to explore cities, forests, and smaller historic towns.
A number of tourism companies have since started offering virtual tours, from amusement parks to city tours.
What can you do differently to attract tourists?
Better safe than sorry
Customer safety has always been important in the tourism industry but in 2021 it has jumped to the top of the list due to the pandemic. Travelers are much more conscious of hygiene than in previous years, so this needs to be reflected in your marketing plan.
Emphasize the steps you are taking to maintain social distancing and keep high levels of cleanliness. Essentially, your marketing needs to convince your visitors that they will be safe and secure. If you are a tour operator, get those creative juices flowing to design new itineraries that avoid large crowds and focus on smaller group sizes.
Yes, vaccinations are underway and experts are predicting international travel to make a comeback at the end of spring or the beginning of summer. However, even when international travelers are allowed to enter, it might take some time for people to start traveling longer distances again.
You should focus your marketing efforts for 2021 on domestic tourists. Don’t advertise your great weather as this won’t be news for them. Change the focus of your campaigns to highlight off-the-beaten-track activities or secret gems that might not be so obvious – and that would attract a more local customer base. Think about creating a discount for local residents, or a loyalty program that would entice them to become recurrent visitors.
This is an important one. Consumers are now taking a more local outlook and are trying to offset some of the environmental harm that was done by travel pre-COVID. The enforced tourism ‘break’ has given us more time and space to notice how tourism impacts the environment. Over 65% of travelers are making more sustainable choices than in previous years so we can’t ignore this trend.
Travel companies can help their customers to minimize the footprint of their activities and make sure that they contribute to the environment and communities. For example, you could partner with your local train company to encourage visitors to travel sustainably. Make sure any campaigns you undertake are promoted on social media as people are likely to spread the word around sustainability.
Be smart with influencers
In 2019, it seemed that influencers in the tourism world were unstoppable. It remains a successful model and is one of the most cost-effective methods for brand awareness and customer acquisition.
However, 2020 has taught us to work smarter with influencers, otherwise, the backlash can be costly. We have seen travel influencers continue their lives in 2020 as if Covid-19 never existed, and as a result of this, both the influencer and travel companies sponsoring the trips have been understandably hit by bad press.
Investigate local micro-influencers instead, who don’t have to break any regulations to visit you. They tend to have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers and are viewed as experts or specialists in their niche. Their followers are much more likely to buy into whatever they are selling, and they are much cheaper than larger influencers. For more influencer tips, check out our blog article.
Tik Tok Time!
Unless you have been offline the whole of 2020, you must have heard of Tik Tok. The most downloaded app of 2020 is a firm favorite amongst Gen Z-ers and it is spreading to other age-groups. In fact, 30% of its users are over the age of 30.
Its algorithm is very effective in showing users what they like, based on what they have previously viewed, and features everything from beauty tutorials to dance choreography. With TikTok predicted to continue its exponential growth, it would be wise for travel brands to get on board and start sharing content.
First off, you should download the app and secure your username. We would recommend not posting straight away, so you and keep your profile private. Take your time to look through existing travel content, jot down what works and what doesn’t, and get used to the algorithm. Then you can formulate your approach and start testing the platform.
Recommended reading: How to Use Social Media to Promote Tour Packages
Keep an eye on reviews
Of course, reviews have always been crucial. But according to Podium’s ‘2020 State of Reviews’, they have ‘never been so important or influential’. 3.4 is the average star rating consumers require in order to even consider engaging with a business. But the content has now changed. Instead of focusing on keywords such as ‘price,’ and ‘customer service’, people are searching more for social distancing, hygiene, and mask-wearing policies.
So, what do you need to do? Actively request feedback in your post-visit email correspondence. Block out an hour or so a week to go through all reviews and comments on review sites and social media. Make sure that you respond with empathy to all comments, good and bad. Reflect on the more critical comments, and see if there are areas that you can improve.
Recommended reading: The Ultimate Guide to Generating Positive Customer Reviews
In 2020 we all upped our digital offerings to stay relevant and keep top of mind. This needs to continue. Yes, we will start welcoming back visitors this year but there will be some people that don’t want to travel just yet. For this segment, virtual reality is a promising area to explore, allowing potential visitors to experience an attraction, tourist activities, or hotels from the safety and security of their own home – enticing them for an in-person visit. Even the Vatican is doing it!
Have a think of what you could include in a virtual reality tour of your destination. Make sure that your content is optimized for both desktop and mobile, and use social media to promote it. You can also use VR as an extra tool of persuasion during the booking process.
That’s it for our top 7 ideas to make your tourism marketing stand out in 2021. As visitors begin to make their first plans for 2021, make sure that you differentiate your offer from the competition in order to win their business.
One last tip? Continue to engage with your customers and potential visitors. Talk to them, listen, and understand why they want to visit your attraction and what could stop them. By adapting to their fears and requirements, you’re more likely to climb up their 2021 ‘to-do’ list.
You might also like:
- 10 Innovative Ideas to Differentiate Your Tours
- Tourism Marketing Strategies for 2021 and Beyond
- Four Ways to Promote Your Tours to an International Audience
- 5 Ways to Create an Innovative Tourism Experience