Marketing and Tourism in the age of COVID-19

by Daniel Thomas

Travel bans, closures and trade challenges affect businesses globally due to COVID-19 Coronavirus. What can marketers and destinations do in the meantime?

The situation on COVID-19 is serious. And while different countries are responding at different stages, we all face similar challenges.

If you've monitored the global headlines over the past several days, closures, cancellations and bans are happening regularly around the world. For most countries, more will be coming.

Many of our client partners are in the travel and tourism industries. Others rely heavily on global trade and manufacture. So with that in mind, these are our thoughts on what happens now, what happens next, and what it's helpful to focus on at the moment.
 
Evaluate your situation

Start by doing an assessment of your overall marketing plan and your media buy. Are there things you can push back? Is there another market or message you can focus on? Is there another brand who might need media space now, and can you make a swap? Is there an option to donate your media? Have you reviewed scheduled posts and/or events? It's time to put your creativity and strategic thinking to work.
 
There's no need to go dark

Stay active, but be mindful. Marketing is all about momentum, and you want to stay top of mind for when people are ready to get back out there (which WILL happen). Show your commitment to whatever market you are in—because once the tidal wave has passed, you want people to remember that you were still there through it all.

Keep doing SEO. Review your analytics. What are they telling you about things like web traffic and engagement, and how can you use those insights to create your path forward? Think about how you can take advantage of certain channels—like social or CRM—to provide real time information and updates. Show that you are still invested in the conversation with your audience.

Evaluate your message

Strong calls-to-action may no longer be the best call. "Book Now" or "Buy Today" won't be effective if people don't want to book or you don't have your offering available as it usually would be.

But you can still use your message to build an authentic relationship with your audience. Invite them to learn more, get inspired or discover something new about what you offer.

The traveler and customer journeys have never been linear. People go to different touchpoints multiple times before making decisions. Despite the fact that travel and trade has slowed and in some cases halted, people are still on their own buyer journey—and you should be right there with them.

They may not be in a Plan, Book or Buy phase, but they most definitely will be in a Dream phase, thinking about what they can experience in the future. So, give them something to dream about! An inspirational photo. A video from a past event. A way to plan for the future.
 
Be responsible

Don't promote events that are canceled or encourage behavior that might go against current recommendations from health departments. Do understand the mindset of your customers right now. Think how you can use your voice and platform to make a positive contribution.

Your website and digital channels are #1

Transition to your website and online channels being your priority means of communication. Ensure your key messages are prominent. Don't worry if your analytical reporting is telling you conflicting results to this strategy: your data is historically-focused, you need to plan for a forward-focus strategy.

If you were planning for a new website, now is the time to build it so it’s ready when things return to a greater state of normality. Implement a deep-dive audit of your digital assets to ensure you know what barriers you have and what the focus needs to be. Again, be forward-facing.
 
Q3 and Q4 are the new reality

Focus on what you would normally do later in the year. Put a priority on that. Be ready to implement it tomorrow.

What if (and when) travel bans lift or supply chains return to normal? Would you be ready immediately? Look for elements of your Q3 and Q4 plans that could be moved up. Also analyze your results during these periods and ensure you can drive incremental results. Do you actually need to spend more, and if so, can you drive incremental profit, visits or results?
 
Trade marketing has a longer recovery lead

By all means there are creative ways to scale back, but an immediate termination of your efforts will have a significant impact. Remind yourself that trade marketing is a 18—36 month strategy.

Remember the old saying, it takes you 10 times to get a new customer vs. retaining an existing one? Stop your efforts and it will take twice as long to get them back.

Delay trade show attendance and replace with sales missions (where appropriate) or 1:1 trainings or webinars. Increase your CRM or introduce a trade version newsletter. Join forces with another business, attraction or hotel to share costs or joint market.

Things will bounce back

Band together, be resilient, stay strong

As a team of strategists, we plan to have a webinar series where you can ask specific questions online and we can share insights, be a sounding board and help to be pragmatic with your marketing. We'll keep you posted with dates and times.

About the Author

Daniel  Thomas

Daniel Thomas

President & CEO

I lead the team here at TimeZoneOne. I can help you come up with marketing strategies that increase revenue and deliver results and true ROI for your business.

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