The world has suffered many losses and setbacks over the last year and one such industry which has suffered enormously is the travel and tourism sector. According to UNWTO data, it's predicted that 120 million jobs are at risk, and an estimated $3.4trillion (according to World Travel and Tourism Council) in global GDP could be lost as a result of COVID-19. Despite the tragic impact it has had on the industry, leaders, companies and destinations within the sector have stayed strong and together are working towards a joined-up approach to build a stronger, more sustainable and resilient tourism economy.
What is the way forward for the travel industry?
Travel and tourism businesses and destinations will need to adapt to this ever-changing landscape and reinvent themselves for the next normal, whatever that may be. This means transforming the sector and coming out stronger in the process. So, we pose the question: What should destinations be doing now to prepare for return to travel summer 2021?
Travellers will be far more aware of good practices of health and hygiene in a destination. To alleviate any stress or worries, destinations need to be transparent in communication about the health and safety measures in each region. Providing the latest travel news updates, safe travel practices and official health regulations on physical distancing should be communicated through social media channels, websites etc. so travellers can easily access this information and they understand how crucial responsible travel is.
Promoting domestic and regional tourism
In terms of recovery, domestic travel will be the quickest to recover followed by short haul regional travel. As a first step, destinations should direct their PR efforts to encourage domestic and regional travel. Inspire residents to explore nearby towns and cities and discover the attractions available. Destinations need to think about creative PR campaigns that incentivise residents to explore their surrounding areas, offering promotions and discounts and providing trails and maps to off the beaten track activities, helping them to re-discover their own country and region again.
Re-building consumer trust
Travellers will look to authorities to provide clear, accurate information in a timely manner ahead of any trips planned. Destinations will need to inform visitors with the facts and better information to give them peace of mind prior to travel and build confidence. With inconsistencies and depleting trust, consumers will rely on word of mouth, trusting recommendations and experiences of their friends and family over advertisements.
Partner with local communities
With significant losses suffered across the board for destinations, especially those that severely depend on tourism, it’s important for tourism boards to work even more closely with local communities. Its beneficial for both parties ensuring that tourism is re-invigorated while providing residents with an income. Local partners will be key to creating immersive experiences that are authentic and attractive to travellers.
Lesser-known destinations can flourish
Now more than ever travellers are looking for more ‘off the beaten track’ endeavours, this is a unique opportunity to promote those emerging destinations that are less travelled. This also takes the focus off the hotspots of each country and spreads the economic wealth. That being said, it’ important that these destinations are ready for travellers and have all the health and safety protocols in place to welcome travellers, whilst also protecting local communities.
Virtual tourism is on the rise
Where possible, offering virtual experiences to re-inspire travellers is key. Showcasing parks or virtual tours through museums or for a simpler option share recipes of national dishes or treats reminding travellers of what they can soon enjoy. This is a perfect way to engage with potential visitors offering them inspiration and encouraging them to travel to the destination once the travel restrictions have lifted and people are safe to travel. This is a trend that continues to grow and has become an important part of the sales and marketing process.
The road to recovery will not be easy but where there will be challenges there will also be many opportunities. Destinations will need to be able to adapt, work closely with local communities and travellers to build back the tourism sector which will ultimately be stronger. Restoring travellers’ overall sense of safety and comfort is key for destinations and transparency in communications will be of the utmost importance.
Let our expert Siren team guide you through the communications process of the return to travel.