Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Developing a Revamped Marketing Strategy for a Post-COVID-19 Changed Reality
By Reem El Shafaki
With growing optimism that the worst of the pandemic is over and destinations cautiously preparing to re-open, one important question comes to mind: should destinations dust off their pre-COVID marketing strategies and prepare to implement them or must they shred them to pieces and start over from scratch?
The short answer is: neither. Destinations will need to adjust their strategies based on some of the lingering impacts of the pandemic. Most have already adjusted down their goals to account for the impact of the pandemic and started adopting new marketing tactics. However, it’s time to considerably revise your destination’s or your company’s marketing strategy.
13-Signals of a Post-COVID-19 ‘New Normal’
By now we’ve all heard the term ‘new normal’; that post-COVID, things won’t go back to the way they were, but that a new reality will emerge. At DinarStandard we produced a brief on the 13-Signals of a Post- COVID-19 ‘New Normal’ for the global travel and tourism industry.
The trends that stand out the most for the industry include the fact that safety and hygiene will continue to be important criteria in travel and tourism decision-making by consumers; travel innovations, especially with regards to contactless travel, will continue beyond the crisis.
Additionally, the spike in demand for domestic travel, due to international travel restrictions as well as health concerns, could continue, which requires destinations to tailor their products and marketing messaging to their local markets. The share of the sustainable travel segment will grow within certain traveler segments as they become more conscious of the impact of travel on the environment and the communities they visit. Travel tech startups are in a better position than other travel startups to raise funding and a few were successful in securing funding during the pandemic. Some tourism businesses have broadened their business models by adding services that are not dependent on tourism. Air Canada for example launched a free at-home streaming service for its loyalty program members, which could eventually become a paid service.
In terms of governments, some of the key trends include the prioritization of crisis preparedness; regulation of hygiene and safety certifications, given the multiple safety stamps being offered by international organizations such as the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) as well as the private sector, such as the Hilton and Accor. Incorporating sustainability in tourism plans given that the forced pause in tourism has allowed governments, especially in cities previously suffering from over-tourism, to start planning sustainability regulations to implement once tourism re-opens.
Incorporating Signals of the ‘New Normal’ for Travel & Tourism into your marketing strategy
I recently shared the marketing strategy framework below as part of a tourism destination marketing strategy training for tourism specialists in OIC countries. While following the steps to develop your marketing strategy, be sure to incorporate insights from the signals of the post-COVID-19 new normal within your strategy.
1. Vision & Goals
Since a vision is more long-term, your destination/company’s vision will likely remain the same; however, make sure to adjust down your goals to account for the drastic decline in travel, otherwise you will have unrealistic goals which cannot be achieved in today’s reality.
2. Situation Analysis
Conduct an updated SWOT Analysis to assess your strengths and weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats, in light of our new reality. In addition to the obvious challenges brought along by the pandemic, what are some opportunities and threats?
3. Competitive Landscape
Some of the questions to ask include: how are my competitors fairing? What have they done to survive the pandemic? Have any of them pivoted their business or expanded their business models? Re-assess the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors at the tail end of the pandemic. You can simply create a table listing the strengths and weaknesses of each in separate columns. Or you can plot them in a matrix. Below is one example of a competitor mapping.
4. Target Markets
Your old target markets might be weary of visiting your destination any time soon, maybe it’s because they have to take a long-haul flight and have safety concerns or because of border imposed restrictions, or economic challenges. In the shorter term, focus instead on low hanging fruit in terms of traveler segments that are more likely to recover faster. Examples of these segments are visiting friends and family (especially if you have a large number of your population that has migrated to other countries). Another segment is those keen to take a ‘workation’. With working remotely becoming the norm, it is worth targeting that segment. We recently advised Indonesia to launch a ‘work from an island campaign’ while focusing on homestays once tourism is ready to open.
5. Branding and Positioning
While your branding is less likely to require a rehaul, chances are you will need to make adjustments to your positioning. A positioning statement is a brief description of your target market, what you are offering, and how it’s unique from competitors. It’s recommended to have different positioning statements for each of your target segments. For example, for your remote work segment, your positioning statement can be something like this: “For the remote-work warriors who want the freedom to work from a tropical destination and bring along their families, we provide comfortable accommodation with all your connectivity needs, in addition to safe outdoor activities for families in beautiful tropical surroundings.”
6. Marketing Mix
Your marketing mix at minimum should address the four P’s: Product, Price, Place (distribution), and Promotion. You will need to revise each of these. What new products do you need to introduce? During the pandemic, many travel companies pivoted or expanded their business offerings. For example, Viator, a tours and activities company, launched a #RoamFromHome project which offers a mixture of over 100 free and paid virtual experiences conducted by tour guides and hosts; while Faroe Islands (located halfway between Iceland and Norway) took their virtual experiences a step further, allowing virtual visitors to control local hosts with a joypad, commanding them to turn, walk, run and jump as they showed beautiful places. Meanwhile, Choice Hotels partnered with colleges to provide temporary student housing. Another example is a sustainable tourism company in Thailand that started selling products made by local villagers.
7. Monitoring and Controlling
As with any plan, you need to establish some KPIs (key performance indicators) so you can assess your success along certain time intervals. These indicators should help you assess how far you’ve achieved your goals (which in turn need to be measurable).
In revising your marketing plan, keep in mind to involve all your stakeholders, which in the case of a destination are the local tourism industry, professional associations, government bodies, the local community and of course, tourists.
I hope that by going through this process you’re able to discover some hidden gems of what your destination can offer to newly discovered traveler segments.