Global Tourism is Changing Forever. Are You Ready?
Destination marketing organizations need to ensure they’re set up for success in a post-pandemic world.
by Eric Pateman
Never in my lifetime, nor likely in the modern history of tourism, has an opportunity like this presented itself.
Yes, it has been a disaster. The world has stopped travelling. But on the other hand, it’s an opportunity for destination marketing organizations to start fresh, and to leave behind some of the challenges and hangups of the past such as over-tourism, the wrong demographics, etc. It’s a chance to do deeper research, go after a newly defined traveller and travel market and ultimately, increase reach and market share.
The Importance of the Domestic Market
The value of domestic travel has never been stronger or more appreciated. I’m hearing from tourism departments around the world that local travellers are pushing into outlying local regions and driving significant demand. Here in British Columbia, Canada, markets such as Whistler, Tofino and the Okanagan have seen huge influxes in domestic travellers. Some are having banner years.
Throughout the pandemic, people stayed closer to home, but those who had the means still wanted to splurge. They opted for more wine, more food, better quality accommodations and more frequent trips. And as restrictions in many areas begin to lighten up, domestic travel is having a significant impact.
For years, domestic travellers have been written off as being short-term visitors who aren’t willing to spend much, but it turns out that’s not the case. There will certainly be an uptick in international travel when restrictions ease. However, there is a massive opportunity to maintain a large percentage of the domestic market now that they have discovered what is in their own backyard.
The Danger of Relying on Overseas Travellers
Cities are struggling, especially downtown core areas, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Occupancy rates in business destinations will remain down for some time to come, and large-scale international travel is still likely a year off and even then, will come back slowly.
With so much uncertainty around COVID-19 variants, ongoing booster vaccines and vaccine passports, nobody should be counting on a flood of international tourists anytime soon. Instead, we need to think of revenue from international tourism as the gravy, not a primary income source. If they show up, great; if not, you should have a strategy in place that can support you all the same.
Time to Reconsider: Who Are You, and What Do You Want?
Now is the time to pause and reevaluate your marketing strategy. What are your priorities? Who do you really want to attract?
High traffic tourist destinations like Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Paris and Machu Picchu have never had to worry about drawing enough international tourists. They are overrun almost by default. Before reopening their doors, they will need to focus and be more selective. Who is their ideal visitor, and what is the best way to reach them? It’s time for these destinations to set a new standard for tourism in their markets and create limits on tourism to maintain the integrity of the destination.
Other countries, regions and cities also have an opportunity to decide what they want the “new normal” to look like. That means understanding the resources required to advance, and making the investments needed to get there.
If you aren’t already taking these steps to recapture more than your fair share of the domestic and international travel market, you’re risking missing out entirely:
- Define your unique selling propositions (USPs)
- Be clear on how many many visitors you want to attract, and who they are.
- Be creative and authentic in your storytelling.
- Increase rates and profitability.
If you’re not sure what this process looks like for you, or need help getting started, let’s talk.
Opportunities for Destination Marketing Organizations
I’m seeing three main opportunities for DMOs to boost their ROI and increase their average visitor spend in the coming months and years:
- Target the sophisticated domestic market. As we’ve learned throughout this pandemic, plenty of domestic market segments have money to spend on travel, and are looking for ways to treat themselves close to home.
- Use food as an accentuator. Everyone needs to eat. While indoor dining remains closed in many areas, there are still opportunities to encourage increased spending on local food. Patio dining, agritourism experiences and creative takeaway all improve visitor experience and add a cultural piece. Think deluxe beach picnics, cheese and charcuterie boxes with local wine pairings, etc.
- Go after business groups. It is unlikely that people will return to their offices en masse anytime soon, but they will still be looking for retreats or corporate meeting spaces.
National marketing organizations are seeing the value of the domestic traveller, and changing up their strategy, their product offerings and their marketing spends as a result. As I’ve been saying all along, this isn’t a short-term thing: A heightened domestic market may be here to stay.
When the world begins to travel again, everyone will be angling to get this piece of the pie. The smartest players in the tourism space are already working on understanding who they want, when they want them and most importantly, how to also keep some of the lucrative domestic market that they have been so successful in capturing.
Don’t let your organization fall behind! If you are still unsure about your destination’s strategy for reopening to tourism, get in touch — I’d be happy to help if I can, or at least to point you in the right direction!
Photo by Nils Nedel