COVID-19: A Resource for Destination Marketing

As the COVID-19 virus situation changes daily, we are all increasingly aware of its current and potential impacts on global and domestic travel. The travel industry, including destinations, airlines, hotels, attractions, and more are anxiously monitoring the situation to determine how to address and respond to consumer safety and concerns.

While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on the domestic travel industry remain uncertain, it is clear that due in large part to constant media coverage, speculation, and misinformation spread across multiple channels particularly social media, have fueled a sense of worry and fear among the traveling public.

The U.S. Travel Association currently lists COVID-19 as a low risk situation, and has not issued any travel restrictions, advisories, or warnings in the U.S. That being said, most major media outlets are recommending delaying or canceling any non-essential travel. In response to heightened fears in a dynamic and quickly evolving situation, DVA recommends that DMOs take some simple yet important steps to help travelers stay informed, educated, and active.

It is also worth noting that while many travelers have and will continue to alter or cancel their travel plans, we believe there are a few silver linings to be found:

  • Travelers with plans to visit larger metropolitan cities may forego those plans in favor of visits to less crowded, more wide open destinations.
  • Travelers with existing air travel plans may shift their focus to destinations within driving distance, and may be more likely to drive greater distances than they might otherwise.

With this in mind, DVA has provided the following resources, recommendations, and materials to help you navigate the short- and long-term uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and its impacts on leisure, business, and group travel.

WHAT TO DO

  1. Make sure you, your team, and your stakeholders stay updated and informed. The World Health Organization is a great resource to help cut through the media clutter.
  2. Let travelers know that you are still open for business, though consider keeping advertising spend relatively flat for the next few weeks as the situation evolves.
  3. Be a vocal advocate for safe and responsible travel. As part of responsible messaging, we recommend you address the travel concerns within your region. Presently, Oregon is considered low risk. Dedicated content addressing this on your website will help contain fears of traveling.
    • Should you choose to post information on your website, we would also recommend a Facebook post to support this information. You can ‘pin’ this post to the top of your page.
    • If messaging is placed on your site, be sure to include contact information, so travelers can seek more information about the situation in your region.
  4. As this is a rapidly evolving situation, be sure your team is nimble in messaging and able to address the situation as it evolves and impacts are felt in your region.
  5. Consider shifting your messaging to drive markets, rather than flight markets.
  6. Address this situation with your constituents. If travelers are canceling their plans to your region, it is not because they are going somewhere else, but rather they are being cautious about the unknown impacts this could have on themselves and their families. While we recognize many local hotels and businesses cannot take a similar stance on cancellations as many major US airlines, some degree of understanding will pay itself forward in the times ahead.

WHAT NOT TO DO

  1. As media coverage continues to fuel consumer anxiety, now is the time to avoid pouring fuel on your marketing fire. We don’t recommend significant increases in spend until there is a little more clarity around containment.
  2. Be aware of your holistic messaging efforts. Campaigns, posts or other communications should be considered for relevance in the face of the current climate. We do not want to appear tone deaf, indifferent, or ignorant of the situation at hand.
  3. While the topic is uncomfortable, we don’t recommend ignoring the situation. Providing clear, transparent information, providing resources, and communicating a message of safe and responsible travel will show your commitment to the health and safety of your visitors and their families.

IMPORTANT RESOURCES

World Health Organization – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak

World Health Organization – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) travel advice

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Travel Oregon – COVID-19 Travel Information

U.S. Travel Association – Emergency Preparedness & Response: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

AAA Travel – COVID-19 Information for Travelers

Travel + Leisure – Everything you need to know if you’re traveling during the Coronavirus outbreak

CNN Travel – Travel advice for Coronavirus: everything you need to know

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