It should come as no surprise that tourism has been hit especially hard these past few years. The pandemic has created an ongoing and dynamic situation that has made it difficult for tourism, and many other industries, to find its footing much less survive. Even now, after vaccines have been developed (though struggling to reach people depending on where they live), and it looks like something resembling the old normalcy might be on the horizon, the virus throws a curveball or sucker punch from nowhere to put everyone off balance.
What does this mean for the tourism industry and how it can even attempt to market itself in such a world?
As all living things must when the world changes around them. Adapt or… you know what will happen.
Despite that solemn note there are tourism companies that have adapted. Companies that have developed new techniques and approaches or at least adopted them from other industries. As it is in nature, time will tell if these adaptations and trends bear fruit. After all the world is constantly changing, the only thing we as people and businesses can do is try to change with them. Even if, perhaps especially so, the changes in the world are so drastic and fast coming.
Know Your Customers
Perhaps this is something you have heard before but it nonetheless bears repeating especially in this day and age we have to contend with. Know and understand, not just your customers but who you would consider an ideal customer. The customer who, in the right numbers, reliably and consistently provides you with the most revenue year in and year out.
Learn the demographic information of your ideal customer. Know their motivations behind their booking decisions. Know how they prefer to make their bookings.
When you brainstorm strategies and ideas make sure you ask yourself questions like: “Why does the ideal customer travel?” “Where do they go to do research about this or that destination?” “What are their preferred booking methods?” “What tends to frustrate them while they perform research? Perform booking?”
Your answers to the above questions will form building blocks. From those blocks you will construct 3 ‘customer personas.’ These personas will be what you design your marketing strategy, branding, and websites to focus on reaching and convincing.
Though you will need to make sure you do not lose what makes your company and what you offer unique. What the heart of your business is. Try to figure out how to convey what you offer in a way that personally appeals to the customer personas you have developed.
Emphasize Customer Safety
They say ‘you cannot put a price on peace of mind.’ This especially holds true now for many, including the tourism industry.
Perhaps it goes without saying but customer safety has always been a priority of the tourism industry. Sometimes an especially high priority depending on the location and the activities. But ever since covid came along safety has become the top of every businesses’ priorities. Or at least had better be for both the customers and that business. Tourists are more aware than ever of things like hygiene, sanitization, and contact between people as well as what those people might be carrying.
Whatever your marketing strategy, make sure it emphasizes the lengths your business has gone to see that social distancing and hygiene being maintained. That your facilities and personnel are held to the highest of standards for cleanliness, hygiene, and sanitation. Effectively you will need to assure potential customers that they and their families will be as safe from covid in your care as possible. As much as if they were in their own homes if need be.
Similar to restaurants,tour operators should plan how to manage service for smaller groups.
With the surge of infections, particularly of the Delta variant, it is difficult to say what the impact will be on a tourism industry that seemed just getting back into the swing of things. International travel bans both old and new are still of great concern. Whatever the future holds, it is very likely that people will avoid long-distance, recreational travel for some time.
For the rest of 2021 and beyond you should tailor your marketing strategies to reach tourists of a more ‘domestic’ nature. Meaning tourists who will not be travelling far. This could mean tourists from your area, state, or country, or at most from a neighboring region or country. If your expected tourists are coming from somewhere “closer to home” then you will not need to waste time, resources, and webpage space advertising your weather. They will likely already be familiar with it.
Instead emphasize how the experience you offer is one not widely known to mainstream tourism. How overlooked but nonetheless worthwhile it is. This way you can hopefully better reach customers in your local area.
Consider offering customers within your area special deals like discounts, special packages, or some form of loyalty program. If your customers live nearby and have the right incentives in addition to good experiences with you they might become repeat customers.
Of course we don’t mean you should make you and your business mobile. Instead we mean make your business accessible on mobile devices. Think with Google discovered that of the people who use smartphones in the United States, 48 percent of them are perfectly fine using said smartphones as well as other mobile devices to research, plan out, and even book their vacations. No desktop device involved. The percentages pan out similarly in European countries like France and Britain, which sit at 44 percent and 45 percent respectively.
This means that both your marketing campaigns and the websites people use to research and book your services absolutely need to be mobile device compatible. In fact they should be more than simply compatible. Users and potential customers have to have as easy a time using the mobile versions of your educational and booking websites as they would the non mobile versions. Perhaps even much easier.
According to the above cited Think with Google study, 33 percent of the surveyed users said that brands whose websites gave poor or slow experiences on mobile devices left a negative impression.
One of the results of COVID and sheer lack of travel has been an increased awareness of the environmental harm tourism can and has caused. The unavoidable halting of tourism all across the world has left would-be travels with more breathing room to realize how their actions have affected the environment. According to statistics compiled by Condor Ferries, which operates in the UK, 65 percent of tourists have chosen to be more environmentally conscious in their travel decisions.
As a tourism services provider you can show customers that you are willing to help them be less impactful to the environment while still having an enjoyable experience. As an example of making your business more sustainable you could form a partnership with a train or ferry company in your area. Thus tourists can reach you in a sustainable fashion. Incorporate your sustainability into your marketing then use social media to reach more customers with it.
These may also be the times for you to experiment with less conventional tools of marketing and advertising. Both because of the changing digital landscape you are working with and the budget constraints you are likely working under.
SEO or Search Engine Optimization somewhat treads the line between conventional and unconventional tools as various businesses across different industries have incorporated it into their methodologies. We have talked a great deal about SEO on this site in other articles and we advise looking at them as well. To make it short, try to find ways to place your web pages and advertising content higher up in search results to better raise awareness of your brand and what you have to offer.
Better than unmoving images, no matter how scenic, are dynamic videos. Whether it’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube, or Instagram, videos go a long way in giving potential customers a taste of the tourism experience you offer. Tik Tok especially exploded over the course of 2020. In addition to being 2020’s most downloaded app it is very popular with Gen Z users and growing in popularity with users over 30 who themselves make up 30 percent of Tik Tok’s user base.
So far Tik Tok’s algorithm has proven itself very proficient at matching users with videos they will enjoy. Consider downloading the app but do not start posting things right away. Practice, both with the app and with making Tik Tok videos. Also try to see what is popular in the travel and tourism categories
Virtual tours were already becoming more popular and more common even before the pandemic hit. Look into how digital tours are made then look into doing some of your hotel, destination, and offered activities. Think of it as a preview or teaser for potential tourists of the full experience once they are actually present.
Travel influencers can still be an effective and useful marketing aid for their value though you will need to be careful in picking which influencers to work with. This is because of influencers who went about their business and videos acting as if the pandemic was not happening or at least did not affect them. The result was backlash and negative press directed at both the influencers and the sponsors behind them.
Because of changes in the digital landscape and the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, now more than ever tourism businesses need to look to the future. To try new ways of doing things and new tools to use. To look at both customers and themselves differently.
Adaptation is the name of the game. It always has been.