As the economy ramps back up over the summer, one industry that will take some time to find its footing is travel. Many companies have canceled all non-essential travel, conferences are on hold and many people are still reluctant to travel for leisure. In response, several rural areas around the country have started considering how they can use marketing to offer vacation options where travelers feel safe from contracting the coronavirus and can spread out and enjoy themselves.
“Travelers will have a strong desire to get out to and explore the great outdoors, including less-populated destinations,” said Diane Shober, Executive Director for the Wyoming Office of Tourism. Several states have begun launching travel campaigns that emphasize their natural beauty and wide-open spaces, and the new normal in travel could also mean more eco-friendly options and less conferences based in cities.
Several States Create Destination Marketing Campaigns Touting Their Rural Destinations
“Back to normal seems like a daunting uphill climb,” reads a new magazine ad for West Virginia. “In West Virginia, that feeling of freedom instantly returns in wide-open spaces. Safe. Uncrowded.” Similarly, in a video for Travel Wyoming, a voiceover says, “We’ve all been feeling a little empty. And alone. It’s going to be a while before things get back to normal. But maybe a little more emptiness is what we need.” By emphasizing both the beauty of their locations and the fact that vacationers will still be able to adequately social distance because of the open space, West Virginia and Wyoming are offering travelers the best of both worlds.
Wisconsin similarly shows images from afar of tranquil lakes and woods, asking viewers to imagine future happy memories, indicating that it’s not quite time to get out there yet.
Conversely, some travel marketing insiders believe that directly referring to safety or isolation may turn off travelers who would prefer to get on with it and not focus on the negative. A new travel campaign out of Alabama includes commercials of natural vacation spots around the state like Little River Canyon, but the campaign does not allude to the pandemic in any way, except in some social media posts. “The message looks ahead, not back,” said Lee Sentell, Director of the Alabama Tourism Department.
Marketing A New Kind Of International Travel That Is Slower And More Eco-friendly
Post-pandemic travel in Europe could look very different, especially travel in cities where tourism has boomed in the recent past to the point that some cities may welcome the slower pace. “Of course, it’s completely devastating – but it’s also provided a much-needed chance for introspection,” said Sam Bruce of Much Better Adventures, who is a co-founder of campaigning group Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency. “Things needed to change. It’s an opportunity for everyone from tourist boards to tour operators to reset and to look at how things can be better – for the planet, for local communities and for travellers.”
For example, Venice, a city literally sinking under the weight of its visitors and the effects of climate change, is hoping to encourage fewer visitors and longer stays. Some tourism officials and tour operators in Europe are also encouraging travel in more rural areas, and promoting “slower travel” like train or cycling trips and traveling off-season. Marketing travel to more remote European regions will have to be done cautiously, with Sam Bruce noting “We will look to spread tourism to areas that would genuinely benefit. But it has to be done in the right way. We risk a flood to remote places that aren’t prepared and could be taken advantage of.”
Conferences May Consider Moves To Less Populous Areas In The Future
According to The Wall Street Journal, “From March 1 through April 25, spending on leisure and business travel in the U.S. was $119 billion below its level last year.” By mid-March, conference cancellation costs were in the billions, and many businesses have planned to opt out of conferences and business travel for the rest of the year. Conferences may stay virtual, which has been a mixed bag for attendees and planners, or conferences may transition to a combination of virtual and in-person events, at locations deemed appropriate for social distancing.
“Every organization hosting events will be thinking about their physical experience, as well as their digital and virtual experience” said David Moricca, CEO of video broadcasting tool Socialive. Many of these mixed solutions may include hotels that are in less populated areas. USA Today reported, “Marriott also sees this as an opportunity for hotels with large, outdoor spaces or in mountainous areas to see an increase in event activity.”
Differentiation Is The Ticket When It Comes To Travel Marketing In The New Normal
There are a lot of open spaces, lakes and mountains in America. Convincing wary travelers, just emerging from quarantines, that one specific open space is the best vacation spot will be the objective of travel marketers around the country. As with all the changes in consumer habits emerging in the “new normal,” brands will need to differentiate themselves to stand out for consumers, particularly in crowded marketplaces.
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