Destinations and hospitality brands are catching their breath and are working to rebuild and relaunch strategies that fit the current climate after an abrupt halt to their marketing plans last year. While many tourism destinations and brands have adjusted their safety standards to meet requirements and have created great deals to encourage travel, their success is totally dependent on the travelers’ behavior. DMO marketers are actively following consumer trends in the travel world, making observations, identifying useful insight and then crafting strategies to boost tourism sales, looking to make up lost revenue from 2020.
Our team has worked with top DMOs and state tourism departments for 24 years, so when our clients’ marketing plans shifted from being proactive to reactive last year, we had to take a step back and reevaluate what had changed in the landscape. As marketers, it is our role to take notable observations and read between the lines to understand how people make decisions. This understanding translates into a thoughtful strategy. Here are some insights we’ve found while looking a little deeper at today’s traveler sentiment and what tourism brands can pull from these observations:
Today’s traveler has more hurdles to consider when booking a vacation than they perhaps did pre-COVID, including safety, budget and lockdowns. American travelers have expressed an increase in anxiety around the topic of travel, but the availability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines continue to be a major factor in the return to normalcy for many travelers. According to USTravel.org, half plan to continue to avoid travel until vaccines are widely available, one-third have daydreamed about travel, and a quarter have talked to friends or family about future travel and have researched travel ideas online.
With the observation that people would like to travel but aren’t ready just yet, marketers are using this insight to address a new, lengthened customer journey to get from initial interest to booking. Brands are shifting to sharing inspirational, aspirational, and assuring messaging more frequently, reminding the audience that you’re there when they’re ready at every step of their customer journey.
Tourism hotspots go through great lengths to understand their audiences. But as they plan for the upcoming surge in travel, have their audiences changed? It’s a good time to take a look at both the demographics and the psychographics behind today’s traveler. While some are looking to make up for lost time, others are more interested in learning about risk-adverse destinations, ranging from outdoor trips with an emphasis on social distancing to which properties are increasing their safety protocols. Also, the shift in working remotely opens up a whole audience who were previously tied to their desks five days a week.
Destinations’ potential travelers are looking a bit different these days, and these observations lead marketers to ensure their target audiences include unique attributes reflective of COVID-19 times.
In 2020 and into 2021, the tourism industry has seen a major shift in travelers opting to stay closer to home. In part, this was due to road-tripping becoming the preferred mode of transportation, as there was an uncertainty about air travel. Forty percent (40%) of road trippers travel about 100-300 miles each way, with an increase in those who live in urban areas looking to escape to a less crowded or rural destination.
To read between the lines, marketers are observing that for the current traveler, mode of transportation is an important factor for today’s decision. For many, during the height of the pandemic, road tripping felt like the best option for travel, which shows DMO marketers that the geographical feeder and legacy markets are now very important to success. It is worth noting that 44% of potential travelers are interested in traveling far from home after the vaccine, which makes for a pivotal point to track throughout this year.
The travel and tourism industry is working hard to rebound from a devastating year. But by closely tracking the sentiment and trends, DMOs and brands can deploy marketing strategies that accurately speak to today’s traveler. Our team at Morgan & Co. understands how to turn this data into useful insights. If you’re ready to launch a strategy based on data, give us a call.