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Travel & Tourism during COVID-19 pandemic: An Opportunity or Catastrophe?

11/04/2020
COVID-19, like any other historic pandemic, makes impacts across different industries, and tourism is no exception. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has already claimed that “This is by far the worst result in the historical series of international tourism since 1950 and would put an abrupt end to a 10-year period of sustained growth since the 2009 financial crisis,”, but, wait, is it all actually that bad? There is certainly a way to see the light at the end of the tunnel if you consider the following tips to stay ahead of the game! As the economy started reopening, now is the best time to focus on domestic travelers.

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What you should do to take advantage of the pandemic

Tell stories

Storytelling is definitely one of the most rapidly growing aspects being adopted by businesses these days.

According to Moscardo, tourism businesses have actively started adopting this concept in different ways, shapes, or forms for the past 5 years. One of the clearest and obvious ones are in guided tours and attractions – for instance, to mark the 20th anniversary of One April in Boston in 2020, what was decided by Spyglass Books, LLC, and Walking Boston is to produce the historically accurate series of art, so that the tour participants would be provided with an opportunity to view the paintings by simultaneously standing in the president-day locations. Ain’t it great? Not only did they monetize history but also found an unusual way to pull the customers!

Another quite notable example is the launch of the “United Stories” campaign by Brand USA as a way to attract travelers. Farr claims that the partnership with content creators, influencers, and storytellers for generating welcoming and warm stories told by locals is meant to attract tourists to visit various beautiful destinations across the country. All being captured and branded with #UnitedStories hashtag, so why not create your own one today associated with your brand?

Watersports and tour operators also have so many stories to share with their audience! For instance, Winding River Canoe has taken an extra step in storytelling by not just organizing the canoe experience for their customers during the evening time, but they would actually have someone who would be telling river tales while having everyone gathered around the fire. What a great way not only to entertain but also to monetize the experience!

Build on the experiential turn

The only way to measure the success of your business is to see if consumption meets the production, and in tourism that is especially important by being able to address the experiential economy. The more pleasant experience being gained by travelers, the better industry gets recovered, and the more likely your business goals get accomplished, it is a win-win-win situation! Here is what you can do take the experiential turn:

  • Find a way to see how the experience can be customized, according to the customer, some of the data to consider:

o   When are their Birthdays? Maybe they are looking to celebrate it with you?

o   Who are they? Lone wolfs? Couples? Family with kids?

o   Are they returning customers? What makes them come back?

  • Provide a unique experience:

o    Satisfy authentic-seeking needs and wants, as people tend to escape from modernity by providing the links to the following:

  • Place
  • Time
  • Cultural events
  • Sample foods specific to a region

o   Make special arrangements and outline offerings when it is a public holiday

o   Organize limited-edition packages for bringing in the exclusive component

Develop Social Media presence

Now that you have developed your own stories, and you have built on an experiential turn, why not to snap it all and let others know about the opportunities you offer to experience?

Social media should not just be considered as just another marketing medium for generating sales, but rather this should be considered to be used for creating brand awareness by building enthusiasm versus being just promotional, according to Doncsecz. To that end, it becomes another force to take advantage of; however, being consistent is key in it, and here are a few tips on how to make this happen.

Tagging

Creating your own location within social media profiles will allow your clients to tag you when sharing their experiences with their followers and friends! Because if they have had a pleasant experience, and they are active on social media, why would not they share their experience by tagging you on it? It will increase your visibility online, and thus drive more leads!

Become a Social Listener

With the extent of technology presence these days, especially with new generations being grown up together with them, what seems to be typical approaches for communications may no longer seem valid, and people may outreach you using modern channels like social media. But what happens if someone tries outreaching you where you do not respond? That is frustrating on both ends!

Not only these days it is encouraged to respond to customers’ inquiries via direct messaging on social media, but also observe if there is any engagement taking place in the comments of posts you share so that you do not miss out on an opportunity to connect with your audience. People are curious to find out if your business still operates despite the pandemic!

Allow User Generated Content (UGC)

Word-of-Mouth is still considered to be the best marketing tool to be leveraged for attracting new perspectives. Allowing your users to generate content might be a great way to influence decision-making for others when planning the visit. It is a perfect way to let people snap and post their pleasant experiences during the COVID pandemic!

COVIDTravel

Do not forget about Relief Programs for Businesses and Employers!

Depending on your state regulations you would be getting the matched support. For instance, the state of Maryland has already issued the “Maryland Strong” program providing an opportunity to reopen travel companies following the safety protocol, and Washington state claims that the recreational travel activities are included in the last phase of “Four-Phase Plan to Reopen Economy”!

On another note, some states also posted regulations on providing government support to local entrepreneurs. For instance, The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will guarantee up to 80% of the total amount of investment for the companies impacted by COVID-19, and the “Resilience Microloan and Grant Fund” program in Michigan has already secured funds for providing recovery loans and grants as a way to assist with reopening business.

Lessons to learn

Overall, it seems that COVID can provide a lot of lessons to learn from, but also to take advantage of. Most of the things covered here are not new by all means, but a pandemic is probably the best time ever to have it implemented. The world has already gone digital, so why should not the travel & leisure segment consider the benefits offered by it?

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