Destination Marketing in 2020

This content originally appeared May 7, 2020 as part of the Future of Marketing weekly email series. Subscribe here.

It is clear it will take time for the travel and tourism industry to recover – but the longing for escape and adventure is real. As the wanderlust kicks in, people are seeking alternatives to long-distance travel – prompting new at-home experiences, nearby adventures, and user-generated campaigns in the travel and tourism industry.  

Ghost travel hints repositioning

The travel and tourism industry anticipates a loss of $500 billion in 2020. Airlines are on survival mode, pivoting to extended rebooking policies, flight change waivers, essential transport, and stricter health procedures. Solo travelers are sharing #emptyplane experiences on social media – and airlines are highlighting the voice of employees to push awareness campaigns. 

American Airlines expressed the brand’s heritage in a 40-second video leveraging user-generated content (UGC), its first campaign since 2016. The ad positions the airline to show their support for essential workers who are flying to provide necessary care and equipment. 

Both, Swiss Airlines and Alaska Airlines shared their crews “glowing up” on #swissatheart and #iAmAlaska. The UGC video campaigns respond to the #dontrushchallenge – a popular TikTok trend. 

While the immediate future of travel remains up in the air, many businesses face the opportunity to strengthen (or reinvent) brand positioning as virtual and domestic tourism slowly increases.

Armchair travel  

Virtual tourism provides a rapidly growing opportunity to promote destinations and develop new e-commerce strategies. Google reported consumers are searching for distractions and nearby activities – exploring equipment and local escapes with terms such as “walks near me” and “bored.” An opportunity to highlight the best local walks and experiences. 

Meanwhile, TikTok users are recreating comical videos of airport normalities on #travelfromhome – demonstrating a longing for adventure.

Contactless business is now a norm. San Antonio Zoo created a drive-thru experience – complete with stop-and-go snacks and a pre-recorded audio tour on their website. Countries are releasing hashtag campaigns including #DiscoverPuertoRico, which offers at-home salsa dancing and cocktail-making classes. “It could be an opportunity to develop a new kind of tourism,” shared Ander Fuentes, a local tour guide in Spain, “because, in the last 10 years, the tourism boom has been in quantity – not in quality.” 

Long-distance travel has stopped and may take time to resume. Focus on rebuilding your local community and promoting local tourism. Highlighting local stories from the past will keep content relevant, and build demand when the world re-opens.

Storytelling for brand resilience

People crave stories they resonate with, learn from, or feel inspired by. As travel restrictions halt itineraries – the desire to experience, explore, and seek inspiration can begin to feel more like a necessity than a luxury.

Switzerland unveiled its #dreamnowtravellater campaign in a nostalgic video ad; the hashtag highlights captivating images and stories of people’s adventures around the world. Go Pro also launched a UGC campaign – asking fans to share photos and creative videos to #HomePro for a chance to win special prizes. 

While user-generated content gains momentum for its cost and psychological benefits, billboards are also predicted to surge as car travel revitalizes. A study by Skift reported forty percent of Americans say their first getaway will be a road trip less than 100 miles from home – an opportunity to boost awareness with out-of-home advertising

Some leaders will reap the benefits of “hybrid marketing” to deliver more holistic brand experiences – using a combination of virtual and in-person strategies to boost awareness and generate demand for the “real thing” in the future.

#brandcrush: Crystal Cruises

Crystal Cruises takes users on a weekly virtual voyage aboard one of its luxury vessels with various continuously updated themed experiences. The company leverages social media by inviting users to explore a wide array of “live streaming events, virtual conversations, podcasts, #CrystalFamily hashtag, and more.” From Monday through Sunday, Crystal Cruises hosts an event each day of the week, including: 

– A Storyteller Podcast on Monday;
– Pantry Prep on Tuesday;
– Wellness Wednesday with Crystal’s certified fitness instructors;
– Thirsty Thursday highlighting creative cocktails from the cruise’s lounges;
– Friday Nights at the Galaxy – a live Facebook event showcasing the talents of Crystal’s onboard performers;
– Sail Away Saturday, where guests share photos and videos from their past Crystal cruises using the hashtag #CrystalFamily;
– and live cooking lessons on Sunday with their longtime culinary partner, Chef John Ashton.

Despite challenges, Crystal Cruises found various ways to engage their most loyal customers from a distance – giving a sense of adventure from the comfort of home.