Just about every industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, none more so than travel. The vast majority of tourist destinations across the world have been shut down at some point throughout the second quarter of 2020, while social distancing restrictions continue to greatly reduce the capacity for travel businesses to earn revenue.
That said, spending months stuck indoors has left many in desperate need of a vacation. Countries and cities are also taking precautions to support summer travel. Regardless of how bleak things may look, travel marketers should start preparing their strategy to begin their recovery process.
Here’s how you can get started:
Keep Investing in Brand Awareness
Depending on where your business is located, you may still be unable to accept new bookings. However, that’s not a reason to leave your marketing strategy on pause until you can. There’s a lot you can do to build brand awareness in the meantime to keep your business at the forefront of prospect customers’ minds for when they can book with you.
Take to your social media channels to deliver your brand message and remind your audience of why your business is so great. Look at what other travel brands are doing to keep an active social presence during any ongoing lockdowns. Sunset Marquis, for example, has weekly Facebook Live events featuring their chef offering at-home cooking tips.
Regardless of whether you can’t welcome any bookings or earn revenue from such brand awareness efforts, it will set you up to start out strong when things open up. You can likewise take this opportunity to promote gift card purchases as many of your loyal customers may want to support your business during this time. Gift card purchases can further ensure a steady flow of customers when you finally open for business.
Offer Security and Incentives
Times are still very uncertain, which is why few people are willing to make travel plans right now. If you want to convince your audience to purchase, you need to offer security and incentives to make it justifiable. According to a recent Fuel Travel survey, here are the factors that would most likely persuade consumers to book a future vacation during the coronavirus outbreak:
While a lot of people wouldn’t book travel right now for any reason, that number will gradually go down as time passes. There are also a plethora of tactics you can implement immediately to encourage future bookings, namely:
- Offering free cancellation
- Allowing bookings with flexible dates
- Offering discounts
- Clearly illustrating the safety measures you’re taking to prevent infection
- Offering extra perks with their stay (free food, drinks, amenities, etc.)
- A travel insurance policy for disruptions caused by the virus
If your business is located in an area that relies heavily on tourism for income, you could take advantage of any city or country-wide ordinances aimed at protecting travelers. The Cyprus government, for instance, has vowed to pay for the vacation of tourists if they get coronavirus after their stay.
Target Local Audiences
Your target in-market audiences need to shift for a while after the coronavirus. It could be quite a considerable period of time before people are allowed to fly to certain countries, and even longer before people feel safe going through the whole process of flying. With that in mind, it makes sense to target local audiences who can reach your destination by driving.
Even if most of your target audience are foreigners, you can bring in a lot of new revenue from nearby locals. People in your area want to go on vacation this summer, but will likely be restricted as well. Your business can be the solution that helps them “get away” and enjoy the summer without going far at all.
Adjust your Marketing Message to the New Normal
Now is a really important time to reevaluate your marketing message and adjust it to fit the realities of coronavirus. The first thing you should do is illustrate that you’re taking the virus seriously. Promoting old videos or photos of large groups of guests sharing food at a buffet is an example of something that might make your audience uncomfortable now. Be sure to go through all your content and look at it through the eyes of someone troubled by a pandemic.
When creating new marketing material, try to deliver a message of hope instead of just focusing on caution. Help your audience see that things will eventually get better and that they can have their travel plans worked out for when they do.
You can also market your business better by focusing on things people have missed most during the pandemic. For example, instead of promoting in-room amenities to an audience that’s been stuck inside for months, it makes more sense to feature outdoor activities they can participate in at a safe social distance. To get some inspiration, here are some of the different topics consumers said they’d like to hear about from hotels during the outbreak:
Double Down on Paid Media
Now is a really good time to perfect your paid media strategy. Display ads are a great way to showcase your brand awareness efforts and keep your business relevant and in the limelight. Paid search ads are also a fantastic option to focus on. Fewer businesses are investing in paid ads right now, which means cost-per-click (CPC) is going down. This is an opportunity to get more visibility for your ads without having to pay more to compete with other businesses in the auctions. This strategy is particularly valuable when targeting bottom-of-the-funnel audiences looking to book hotels or other travel services for a later date. In your ads, use discounts, amenities, and other incentives to convince people it’s an ideal time to book.
Adapt Your Strategy as Travel Demand Grows
There many strategies you can execute on right now to prepare your marketing strategy for when governments give the green light for travel. The real key to recovery, though, is flexibility. There’s no way to know for sure how much business you’ll get this summer or when things will really start getting back to normal. You need to follow the trends post-pandemic and adapt your strategy to match them.
Start by regularly aligning your marketing plans with your revenue manager. How much you should spend on advertising really depends on how much you can hope to earn. Search volume on your highest-converting keywords can be a good indicator of how many sales you might expect to see this summer. As time goes on, pay attention to your sales projections and invest more aggressively in bottom-of-the-funnel targeting as demand increases. Adjusting your strategy means slowly investing more in lower-funnel and less in upper-funnel initiatives, based on realistic revenue potential.
Once demand starts to go up consistently, you can confidently wind down your brand awareness efforts and focus more on converting leads. For advertising, this means bidding high on brand keywords, investing in retargeting ads, and using other tactics to convince your audience to buy now. Even as things get back to normal, you should still promote special offers to differentiate your business and maximize new sales at the beginning.