This month, countries have begun reopening their borders to travelers, beginning the long-awaited road to recovery for the global tourism industry. And while domestic travel is predicted to be the predominant means of travel for the immediate future, willingness to travel internationally will recover and destinations need to make sure travelers feel comfortable and confident to travel to them when it does. Across Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, the UK, Denmark, and the Netherlands, at least 50% of consumers say they’ll engage in the same amount, if not more, of international travel following the pandemic, with at least 13% in each saying they’ll engage in more (1).
However, travel will look markedly different, as the attitudes and behaviors of travelers will significantly shift following the pandemic. Among the largest of the shifts, the biggest priority for travelers, regardless of age, income, or country of origin, will become safety. 58% of consumers say a personal feeling of safety is the top confidence booster in making them feel comfortable to travel again, while only 28% say reopening borders will give them that boost of confidence (2). This means that preparing your tourism infrastructure, from airlift to hotel capacity, and simply announcing your country is open won’t go far enough in convincing travelers it’s safe to travel to your destination specifically.
Some countries are choosing to provide financial incentives as an extra boost of assurance - Cyprus, for example, is pledging to cover all costs for anyone testing positive for the coronavirus while on vacation on the eastern Mediterranean island nation and Abu Dhabi is working to create competitive packages that go beyond just flights and hotels (3)(4). While this may certainly incentivize some travelers to visit, we believe destinations can assure travelers they are safe in an emotionally compelling way that’s both cost effective and doesn’t take months to implement.
Here are a few ways you can start doing that today:
Mobilize Your Locals
Over the past few years, immersing in local experiences has been a key driver in tourism, with 55% of travelers opting to explore destinations by meeting locals and 34% of global travelers wanting to have locally relevant experiences(5)(6). While it’s possible this movement may diminish slightly in a post-COVID world as people continue to physically distance themselves, that doesn’t mean locals can’t be an important tool in reassuring travelers it’s safe to travel to their home country. Consider ways you can mobilize your locals by giving them a page in your marketing playbook to do what they do best, tell the world what’s great about your country and why others should visit, including the health and safety protocols that have been put in place to safeguard tourists. Whether it’s mobilizing local content creators to capture your country from the locals’ perspective or letting locals takeover one of your social channels for the day, your people are one of your greatest assets in providing travelers both the rational and emotional reasons to visit.
Leverage Social Media To Create Dialogue
If there’s one thing we can be certain of, it’s that travelers will have a ton of questions ranging from whether they’ll have to quarantine upon entry to whether a certain beach will be open and accessible. While this information should be readily available on your website and via your government’s health and safety advisories, it’s important to acknowledge that travelers will have an overload of information as well as conflicting advice from reviews. To help minimize confusion and create transparency, consider ways you can build a dialogue with potential travelers. As consumers are increasingly getting their news from social media, with 55% of U.S. adults saying they get their news from social media “often” or “sometimes” (an increase of 8% from the previous year), it’s likely that travelers will be turning to these same platforms to learn about travel after the pandemic (7). Whether it’s an open forum for travelers to ask questions or a chatbot that is able to answer tourists' questions, this can help build a two-way meaningful relationship and affinity with travelers while simultaneously getting them the valued answers they need.
While safety will be a key priority, that doesn’t mean we can’t get a little creative in how we communicate it. With every destination not only working off the same brief, but also creating similar protocols and procedures to safeguard travelers, it’s more important than ever to differentiate your destination from others. As social media is a key source of travel inspiration for travelers, consider ways to communicate your health and safety protocols in a fun and engaging visual way. Whether it’s social vignettes on Instagram stories or an animated social video series with personable and relatable characters, we can make health and safety part of the conversation in a way that’s digestible, easy to understand, and relevant.
As an agency born on social media, we’ve personally witnessed how just one travel enthusiast with a camera can build trust in and drive consideration of a destination much more effectively than a traditional marketing team with a substantial budget. In fact, 33% of travelers report having chosen a destination based partially or primarily on social media research (8). This means that influencers should be an integral part of your recovery toolbox. Once your destination is safe to travel to and you’ve aligned on your core source markets and segments, invite influencers with reach among these audiences to visit your country and show their followers (your potential travelers) that your country is not only safe to travel to, but offers the same great experiences they’ve come to expect.
As countries begin to reopen with cautious optimism, it’s important that we begin to reassure travelers that our destinations are safe to travel to now. In the fight for visitors’ minds and hearts, now is the perfect time to experiment with new formats, lean into your existing assets such as your people, and have a little fun with it. Most importantly, these are quick and easy ways to do so that won’t take up a significant portion of your recovery budget.
- Global surveys of consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis
- Road to recovery: 4 things travel brands should know
- Cyprus pledges to cover costs for virus-hit tourists
- Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi ready for tourism rebound, says senior official
- Solo Travel Statistics and Data : 2019 – 2020
- Booking.com Predicts the Top Travel Trends for 2020
- More Americans Are Getting Their News From Social Media
- MMGY Global's Expert Insights on Booking Holidays Through Social Media