Travel and tourism have been hit harder than just about any other sector by the coronavirus pandemic, which means it will need to market itself in very creative and powerful ways to recover as the crisis eases.
Of all the sectors affected by COVID-19, there is little doubt that travel has been the worst affected.
It was this very factor that effectively ‘seeded’ the virus around the world, as it found its ways out of China and eventually into Europe, chiefly in northern Italy. By February half-term, tens of thousands of Britons staying in Italy, France and Spain unwittingly brought it back with them to the UK, often infecting several people before any symptoms emerged.
The subsequent shutting of borders, lockdowns and sights of clear blue spring skies with scarcely a jet contrail in sight testified to the huge hit the tourism sector was taking, alongside the grim stories of cruise ships with dozens of cases.
Naturally enough, UK tourism firms have been among the first in the queue for furlough payments. But what comes next?
Marketing Overseas Travel
Overseas travel has been a hot potato issue to the introduction of quarantine laws since the UK infection rate fell blow that of many other countries.
Thankfully for the travel sector, the blanket ban has been short-lived and ‘air bridges’ have been announced to help connect the UK with a number of other countries. Short haul destinations now include Spain, Italy and France, from where it is believed most of the original infections came into the UK. All three have matters largely under control, bar local lockdowns – for Leicester read Lleida.
A key issue for marketers – and the travel companies themselves – will be persuading people it is safe to take such a trip. Digital marketing will need to highlight the safety measures in place at the various destinations.
Marketers should take the view that this will not put people off going, but actually reassure them; after all, the very nature of this virus is that it is a threat across the globe, so it is not as if people will imagine staying at home would constitute a risk-free scenario.
Indeed, it is important to consider the ‘new normal’ in any marketing. Only in very narrow ways will people be ‘getting away from it all’. There will still be plenty of occasions in which social distancing will apply, while no doubt face masks will be required in some settings and, of course, options that might otherwise be available like attending sporting fixtures or indoor theatre will be off the agenda.
Marketing Domestic Travel
In view of the issues that might cloud overseas travel, Britons may find they are best served by focusing on the domestic options available to them.
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Marketing for domestic tourism may have been given something of a boost by the advocacy of this option by government ministers, although of course, the political persuasions of some might see this as a deterrent from a staycation.
Nonetheless, the idea of a staycation certainly has considerable appeal. All the following could be used by marketers as a great way of appealing to UK holidaymakers:
- Certainty: While the ability of Britons to travel to various countries has seemed to change every week, there is more clarity about the right to travel in the UK.
- Many Britons are wary of travelling overseas at this time, particularly to hard-hit countries such as Spain.
- Celtic nations opening up: The lifting of distance restrictions on travel in Scotland and Wales and the opening up of hospitality has allowed people to start planning trips again from later this month.
- The patriotic angle: Just as buying British during an economic downturn can be seen as a positive way of keeping money circulating in the domestic economy, so Britons can feel positive about helping their tourist industry.
- The possibility of going somewhere remote in the UK to really feel they are getting away from the world’s troubles – with the attendant benefit that a day without seeing other people means no chance of infection.
- Bucket lists: People may have Niagara Falls, The Great Wall of China and Table Mountain on their bucket list, but this might be seen as a chance to add a few UK treats, be it walking a long distance path such as the Pennine Way or Hadrian’s Wall, or simply visiting a corner of the UK they had not previously explored.
This combination of ideas can be very powerful in marketing domestic tourism. If people are more interested in visiting somewhere in the UK, there may be no time better than the present, particularly if the rate of infection continues to fall.
The Scottish and Welsh Questions
There are, however, a few areas of doubt regarding Scotland and Wales. Firstly, there are some remote areas – particularly in the Scottish islands – that may be wary of seeing tourists return. Their isolation has enabled them to virtually eliminate the virus (as the Isle of Man and Guernsey have done), but their health resources are limited, so they may not be so keen to welcome visitors from areas where the virus is still in circulation.
Moreover, as with countries overseas, there may be some wariness with changes over regulations; Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has controversially claimed the right to close the border with England if Scotland virtually eliminated the virus and a second wave arrives further south.
However, there is a flip side to the capacity for devolved nations to act differently. Some countries, notably Spain, are still on the Scottish blacklist. That means there may be more scope for marketing domestic holidays to Scots who would normally head for the Iberian Peninsula.
The Digital Marketing Element
There can be no doubt that digital marketing will have an increasingly major role to play. The growth of eCommerce in tourism has long been apparent and its dominance of the travel sector was an inevitable development. The COVID-19 crisis has simply accelerated this and ensured that more holidays than ever will be booked online.
Given the extra time being spent online, the possibility of encountering marketing material promoting holidays is greater than ever, making this a golden opportunity at a time when people tired of the stress of the crisis will be very happy to enjoy a break.
How can BeUniqueness help?
At BeUniqueness, we can help firms to develop a strong digital marketing campaign, whether this is through using blogs, PPC, social media management or video. With a strong digital marketing campaign, we can help any SME firm to produce an impressive marketing return on investment.