There’s finally a sense of optimism in the tourism industry. As things begin to slowly open up, many tourism operators are planning to get back to their core offerings. But where to begin?
As borders open, and we move to a post-covid tourism industry, some markets and destinations will open sooner, perhaps much sooner, than others. Do your research (and dust off your crystal ball) and identify which of your tours and markets will open first.
Here’s where some tourism marketing strategy can be really important.
For outbound tour operators that run trips in numerous different places, you’ll need to know what the entry requirements are for those destinations and make sure to communicate them on your website. Don’t assume your guests will do the legwork, so if they need a vaccine certificate or covid test, include those government links and even a checklist.
But as you know, things can change in an instant, so plan to have a no-risk booking policy if the situation changes and trips don’t run.
Here’s where a good email list can be really valuable. Start reaching out to your past guests now and let them know which tours and destinations are available, what they need to do to travel and when they can go.
Continue that same effort with your social media channels to build buzz, show off great photos and videos and get your guests into the travel mindset again.
Adventure travel, nature tours and open spaces will be what people are most interested in as they begin travelling again. These tours will resonate best as people seek travel to improve mental health and get back to feeling normal. Kayaking tours, fly fishing, eco-tours and hiking and camping will all be in strong demand. If you don’t have an offering like this, now is the time to create one.
The marketing messaging on your website should reflect this new type of travel experience. Get rid of those crowded market photos and big groups. Aim to show very small groups, individuals, and lots of nature. I suggest doing an audit of your website and social channels and make sure everything is aligned with this new messaging.
Large groups, and big bus tours will be out for a while. Small groups, fully private tours and multi generational family travel will all be in. If your tour groups are in the double-digit size, I’d suggest reworking those numbers till they’re smaller. If you do offer mixed groups, make sure you’re offering single supplements, as people will want more space when they travel now.
For many tour operators who were shut down in early 2020, and are planning to reopen in late 2021 or early 2022, it’s been nearly two years since you’ve marketed your tours. A lot has changed. For many, it may be like starting over.
You’ll need to go beyond those people who are already on your customer list or follow you on social media, and get the word out.
Getting travel press should be a key part of your rebuilding process. PR positions you as an authority in your niche, has a positive effect on your search engine optimization, or tourism SEO, and is a powerful way to grow awareness and ultimately, bookings.
Many travel writers have done little to no travel in the past year-and-a-half. They’re itching to get back on the road and to get working again. They tend to be early adopters, more adventurous and more likely to take risks than your typical guests. They are also keenly watching which destinations are opening and they’re making travel plans. Find some strong stories and get pitching travel writers, and yes, I’d be doing that now, before things fully open up.
Some targeted Facebook Ads can also be good here to let people know about your destination and tours. The key is really to grow awareness and build some buzz.
Now that you’ve built up some awareness, you need to capture those leads when they move further down the funnel. Often people are inspired by a travel story or Facebook ad, but later when they are in the travel planning mode, they’ve long forgotten the operator who did the story or ad in the first place. So they begin searching for ‘kayaking in Greenland’ or ‘Iceland hiking tours’ or whatever they’ve seen, and start checking out the tour operators who pop up. If you’re not up there, your hard work may have just gotten a booking for your competitor. So here’s where the one-two punch of tourism SEO and Google paid search ads come into play, to get those guests when they’re searching for what you offer
I recently attended a webinar by marketing industry thought leader Jay Baer. He predicts that by the third quarter of 2021, enough things will be open, that a new dynamic will come into play, something he’s coined the ‘marketing maelstrom’. The businesses that have been the ‘winners’ of the pandemic, like bicycle, boat, RV sellers and the many more who have seen triple-digit growth, will not want to give up their newfound wealth. Conversely, the businesses that have suffered the most, like airlines, tourism and hospitality, will now be fighting to regain their markets. What does this mean? They’ll all be throwing piles of money into marketing, so expect everything from web design and tourism marketing agency fees, to Facebook Ads and Google pay-per-click costs to increase dramatically.
So, get organized and start tourism marketing now!
If you need help developing a post-covid tourism marketing strategy, drop us a line.