From timing to lodging to transportation, the pandemic has caused seismic shifts in the way travelers engage at every stage of the planning funnel. This also means the time is right to revisit who your target audience is (or isn’t) and how you’re reaching them. Here, Miles Account Director Hannah Hintz shares three tips for effectively adjusting your targeting and messaging strategy now.
Close to Home
Recently my worlds of tourism marketing as my profession and traveling as my passion have collided. In this pandemic era, I have been considering and planning for travel differently than before. I always try not to be a “me-marketer,” but the more I talk with fellow travelers and clients, the more I realize I am not alone in how I’m rethinking my approach to travel.
For example, daydreaming during the pandemic, I have put adventures in and around my home state of Colorado first. Not only does driving to near destinations feel like a relatively safe option, but I also find myself craving a sense of place. A recent trip to Santa Fe might not have looked like my annual flight to Sicily to see family, but it felt cultured and complete enough to stand on its own and fulfill my desire for travel experiences this year.
Shift Your Strategy
Travelers are inspired in different ways today; their planning cycle is not the same as it once was. With this in mind, it’s worth opening up your target audience to a broader reach to catch those you might not have been looking for — and, in turn, reach those who may not have known they were looking for you. After a few more virtual conferences spent digesting the data and projections of travelers and sentiment, and many more chats with colleagues and friends, here are a few considerations for rethinking how we approach communication with our target audiences:
- People want to meet you; your destination is likely new to them this year, and probably will be for the next few years to come. Visitors are discovering places closer to home and considering destinations not previously on their list. Introduce (or reintroduce) them to your destination by showing them how to reconsider the type of trip will make them move. You do not have to fly 15 hours to see astounding animals on a safari, and it does not have to be the Italian Riviera to warrant a trip around wine and food. Make getting out of the house and getting in the car an exciting, safe and manageable prospect.
- Communicate openly and on a real, personal level — visitors want to know you and know they will be safe (and taken care of) in your destination. They want to know what to see, what to eat and what the experience will be like. Share the assets and the details of your destination and provide updates on COVID-19 impacts, working with your partners in market. It is better to be direct and honest than leave them wondering — they won’t choose you if you don’t relay these particulars. We are all stakeholders in keeping potential travelers engaged and must stick together.
- Lay your foundation by using your data. If you are not on Google (and represented well), you will not be found. Recognize that SEO and ongoing optimizations can hold immense momentum. Lean into social media and all the targeting and testing available. And keep up on travel sentiment. Your content and the vehicles in which you communicate are key, but your tone and the connection you make are your competitive advantage.
As we’ve all observed, the situation is continually evolving, so it’s vital to stay engaged and ready to be flexible in your strategy. Recently I had the opportunity to chat about this topic on The Future of Tourism Podcast for a Meeting the Consumer Where (and How) They Shop episode with David Peacock of Simpleview and fellow digital strategist Charlotte Moore of RTO4. I enjoyed connecting my personal thoughts with my professional knowledge.
As fellow travel industry members, I’m curious as to how you’ve reflected these times in your work and in your personal travels. How have you contemplated your next trip? Email me your thoughts, as I think it would be wonderful to see where we align and where we differ. After all, we are all individuals striving for the connection of travel and feel vulnerable right now.
I’ve shared my own feelings here, but there are many marketing strategies out there. My colleagues have written a few blogs that go into greater detail; I would encourage you to check out these posts specifically:
Find clear, timely answers to questions about COVID-19 and travel and tourism in Miles Partnerships' Clarity in a Time of Crisis resource center, including essential insights and recommendations for DMOs and tourism organizations.