Without question, the travel and tourism industries have taken quite a hit in 2020 thus far, due largely to the impacts of COVID-19 and widespread shutdowns. While it may feel like your company is alone, the data makes it clear that you are not. According to a recent report by Skift, between 90 and 100% of businesses surveyed in several travel-related industries cut their marketing budgets completely in response to dramatic revenue loss. Travel marketing during Coronavirus may feel like a losing battle, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
By pivoting and carefully strategizing next steps, chances are very good that your company will see a return on its marketing investment. With thought leadership, activating the dreamer phase for vacationers, and value-adds now, you can put yourself in a great position in the future.
How to Conduct Travel Marketing During Coronavirus
Skift reports that nearly half of those companies surveyed are struggling to reallocate their marketing budgets during these unprecedented times. Being in the position to do any travel marketing is, of course, positive. Knowing what to do with those likely very limited funds is another matter entirely, however.
Worries many travel companies have include whether pitching their exotic locales and adventure-filled experiences might come across as tone deaf at this particular moment in time, and whether doing so could cause more harm than good. If you’ve had to deal with cancellations and rescheduling, many of your available resources might have been transitioned to PR and bookings and away from marketing. If your public-facing team is still busy, how can you slowly shift funds and talent back to marketing?
These and other concerns have kept many brands from moving forward with travel marketing during Coronavirus. It is also difficult to plan a marketing strategy when no one knows the future of this pandemic, nor what the reactions of state and local governments that dictate our movements might be. As of May 2020, many states have begun slowly reopening, but massive restrictions are still in place. Furthermore, many travelers are extremely wary about leaving the safety of their homes.
According to the Skift report, 32% of those companies surveyed believe that their travel marketing spending will return to pre-COVID-19 numbers sometime in early 2021. This is actually a good sign, as it indicates some hope in resumed travel and profits before that time. Skift also suggests that domestic leisure travel will be the first tourism vertical to make a comeback. If your brand lies within this realm, that places even greater importance on a marketing focus.
Create a Recovery Plan
Skift’s survey indicates that by the end of April 2020, 42% of those companies queried had not created a plan for recovery. This is a huge opportunity lost. While it’s tricky to know precisely when that recovery will happen, having a plan in place will enable you to pull certain levers at certain moments.
For instance, say you plan to reengage your marketing budget at 75% of its pre-COVID-19 level when bookings hit 25% of their usual numbers for this time of year. Having that decision on paper, backed by research and careful budgeting, will provide you a well-thought-out roadmap for moving forward.
Skift suggests taking this slow time to also closely monitor consumer attitudes and behavior about your location, property type, or activities offered. Conduct surveys, check out reviews, and ask recent guests about their experiences. Now is the time to improve on the excellent services you already have on tap and learn how travelers might like them even more in a post-pandemic world.
Travel Marketing Changes Throughout the Recovery Cycle
Include in your plan the types of marketing you will use at different points in the recovery cycle, as well. For the time being, it’s still best to avoid pushier advertising that encourages travel, as this may upset some customers.
Focus instead on providing insight into your property or location, allowing travelers to see their value. Write blogs, post videos, and create virtual tours that showcase why what you have to offer is so wonderful, and illustrate your status as a thought leader while doing so. When it comes time to book later, your brand will likely stick out.
If you’re a larger company, include some immediate travel marketing that offers thanks to first responders or otherwise has a service-oriented slant. If your employees have been on the front lines, working the reception desk so nurses and doctors can get a good night’s sleep at your otherwise empty hotel, document this and find a tactful way to let the public know. Your company’s values matter more now than ever, and it’s okay to use that in a tasteful marketing campaign.
Pivot: Now, Later, and Forever
The buzzword “pivot” has been tossed around a lot in the business world since the outbreak of Coronavirus, and for good reason. Companies are struggling. It has been difficult, and at times, nearly impossible, to make ends meet. The more a company is able to pivot and offer different services or be of more use to consumers in this new reality, the better off they are.
Restaurants now offer delivery and take away, bakeries assemble cookie-decorating kits for pickup, and home improvement stores let you call in an order for patio furniture and then load it into your truck for you. If your travel industry business has been able to pivot in any way, you’re likely reaping the benefits.
Take, for instance, a hotel-turned hospital, or a luggage company now making face masks. Though profits are surely still limited for these companies, they are doing better than they would if they made no changes.
While we all hope to enjoy a safer world that permits travel soon enough, the lesson of learning to pivot is one we would all do well to learn. Find ways to better serve your customers and those in your communities now, whether through education or stewardship.
Once reopening begins in earnest, work to offer the cleaner environment travelers are going to demand going forward. Encourage hand washing with more restrooms in the pool area. Place hand sanitizer stations throughout your resort. Hire more maintenance workers and housekeepers to allow for more frequent cleaning. These changes will help you remain compliant, protect your guests, and help you to draw in more customers, if you include them in your travel marketing plan.
Even as things return to “normal,” whatever that new normal looks like in the future, continue to pivot. The world is not static, and the temperature of travelers must be taken regularly to ensure you are providing the best possible products and services. Commit to wiggle room in your marketing plan and budget from now on to allow for the unexpected.
Skift reports that data on past recessions and other economic downturns favors those companies that have continued to invest in themselves during the hard times. While it may be difficult to fathom spending money with revenue just trickling in, having a marketing plan of some kind is critical. Don’t let your customers forget about you, and showcase why you’re worth a visit once it’s safe for guests to do so. Know, too, there is likely to be a surge of consumer demand after this crisis abates, so prepare for that, as well.
In short, do what you can with what you can. If you need help figuring out how to work with the travel marketing budget you have, contact us. Galileo Tech Media is a trusted partner of many travel-industry businesses and has a fully remote team, enabling us to be fully operational during these tough times. We look forward to the opportunity to assist you.