As news of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to cast a pall over the travel and tourism industry, you may be wondering what, if anything, your company can do to help your customers. While you can’t rid your region of cases of the virus or ensure that travelers will be safe when en route to your hotel or resort, you can provide valuable information that may help them in their decision-making. Coronavirus and the travel industry may be reluctantly linked, but fighting back with thought leadership and knowledge may both help your clients and reinforce your value.
Coronavirus and the Travel Industry
Within the past few months, “Coronavirus” has risen dramatically as a search term, in terms of both absolute and relative volume. It is one of the most talked-about topics worldwide in the news at this point, particularly where prevention is concerned. People are being encouraged to stay at home, avoid cruises and airplanes, and rethink their vacations or other travel.
Online, most searches are no longer focused on the what of Coronavirus, but rather the where. Information about prevention is also a top search at this time, according to Google Trends. Some very destination-specific searches have even begun to rise in the SEO ranks. Travelers want to know if their trip to Disney World, Washington state, or on a particular cruise or airline, is a good or a bad idea.
As the tourism industry approaches vacation time, it is likely that it will see an increased focus in search on destinations typically associated with this sort of travel. In addition, searches about travel insurance have surged and will likely continue to do so, as long as Coronavirus is a viable threat.
Interestingly, searches for “cheap flights due to Coronavirus” have also risen quickly; opportunistic travelers will certainly try to take advantage of low rates. One of the top searches on Google in certain parts of the world is “where is there no Coronavirus,” indicating that some travelers are looking for safe places to explore.
Repercussions on the Travel Industry
Clearly, the repercussions of Coronavirus are proving largely harmful to the travel and tourism industry, especially from a financial perspective. A recent study of Chinese travelers revealed that 32% of respondents had no intention of traveling for the foreseeable future, even once the Coronavirus threat had quieted. Researchers think it will take 3 to 6 months from the perceived end of the virus’s major impact for travel to pick back up in China.
In many cases, travelers still intend to take trips, but have turned inward. Interest in North American travel by U.S. citizens is 14% higher than usual. This comes in tandem with a 40% drop in U.S. interest in European destinations, and a 50% drop for sites in Asia.
Cancellations, like those reported by Get Your Guide for Italy, are much higher than usual. The site indicated a 25% cancellation rate within the last week or so, which is five times higher than average.
All of these statistics are jarring and paint a bleak picture of travel in the time of Coronavirus. While no one can stop the virus from spreading to certain parts of the globe, the travel industry has the unique opportunity to offer trustworthy, useful information to customers or potential customers. In doing so, their perceived value will also increase.
How Can the Tourism Industry Help Travelers?
Travel industry businesses can provide immense value to travelers during the “dreamers” phase of vacation planning (when customers conduct extensive research while planning their trip). This is possible through great, informative content that helps consumers make vacation decisions and plan the trip of their dreams.
In the same way, travel businesses can provide advice, facts, and statistics to help clients travel safely during the Coronavirus outbreak.
For instance, if you operate a hotel in Italy or China that has been impacted by the virus, you might take this time to post blogs on your website or send newsletters to your mailing list offering alternative vacation ideas, statistics on Coronavirus in your area, and suggestions for how customers can get around safely if they do decide to venture out.
Say your business is located in a largely unaffected area like Michigan. You might choose to produce content about some great tourist destinations in Detroit, as well as some tips about safely visiting those sites. Explain to travelers that they can see the Henry Ford Museum, but that they need to wash their hands properly and avoid touching their face. By showcasing what travelers can do, and can do safely, in these trick times for tourism, you can prove immeasurably valuable to consumers.
What Not to Do
In creating content for the time of the Coronavirus crisis, it’s important to avoid being opportunistic. Don’t paint a bleak picture of travel everywhere but where your hotel is located in an effort to drive sales. Of course, you should also avoid misleading travelers as far as the threat in your area.
Be forthcoming about whether it’s safe to patronize your business at this time. Customers will appreciate it, and you’ll likely reap the rewards in brand loyalty sometime down the line anyway.
Help with Coronavirus Content
Need more assistance planning your content strategy during a tricky time for the travel industry? Our expert SEO firm offers SEO copywriting, keyword research, and other SEO-based services and can provide guidance as you work to help your customers travel safely. Contact Galileo Tech Media today to learn more!