DMO Insights – August 26

In this edition:

For the first time since we started working remotely at DVA on March 12, I took a day completely off work last week. And by taking the day off, I mean I put my phone into airplane mode at 7 a.m., headed up into the mountains, and didn’t turn it back on until 7 p.m. This is also one of the reasons why, for the first time since April 6, we didn’t send out an issue of DMO Insights last week. 

As for taking a day off work, it was strangely calming even if it was only for 12 hours. Though I would be lying if I said it didn’t also give me a little bit of anxiety, particularly when a day’s worth of emails flooded my inbox upon “re-entry.” But it was a much-needed break and a way for my wife and me to celebrate our anniversary by focusing our efforts and our energies where they needed to be – on each other and without distraction.

My point is not that I took the time off, or that it was my anniversary. Rather, it’s that the lines between work life and home life are as blurred right now as they have ever been. 

Like it or not, I am not as important – or at least not as mission-critical on an hour-by-hour basis – as I often think I am. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a valuable and very involved role to play daily at DVA, and have actually been busier over the past six months than I have been in recent memory. But when you hire people who are smarter and more talented than you, and you empower them to make decisions and do great work, the results are both humbling and gratifying as a small business owner.

So, while it was my first day completely off work in five months, I plan to make more time for doing things outside of work that help make me more productive, more motivated, and more focused at work. In fact, maybe it’s time for me to actually put my money where my mouth is and take one of those work-cations we wrote about in the August 12 issue of DMO Insights and remain bullish on for our clients.

Thanks, as always, for reading, and we hope you continue to find value in this newsletter. If there is a particular topic that you’d like us to explore in-depth, please drop me a note at justin@dvaadv.com and we will be sure to work it into an upcoming issue.

LATEST RESEARCH FINDINGS FROM DESTINATION ANALYSTS

In this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts (PDF available HERE), Americans report feeling safer in many areas that affect their travel behaviors and sentiments. Health and financial concerns related to the pandemic dropped to levels not seen among travelers since mid-June. More than half of them also feel comfortable going out in their own community, and their decreasing sensitivity to tourism within their own communities is likely a result of that. The perceived safety of travel activities has increased, as has holiday travel optimism, and almost 30% said they would be comfortable getting on an airplane in the next month. 

Optimism gap continues to grow: The number of American travelers who think the pandemic will get worse in the next month dropped 6.4% to 42.7% last week, while the number who think it will get better over that same timeframe increased 3.8% to 22%. While the number of Americans (20%) who believe the situation will be resolved by the end of the year is a bit surprising, the number who feel comfortable undertaking leisure activities (40%) is not.

Travel in 2020: Among Americans with leisure travel plans for the remainder of 2020, more than 70% say those plans involve traveling to a previously visited destination, an increase of more than 10% since mid-June. Additionally, 53.9% say they will be taking regional trips for the rest of the year, with almost half of those travelers (45.5%) indicating that regional trips will be their only form of travel in 2020. Likewise, a third of travelers plan to take at least one staycation before the end of the year. All of this reinforces the belief that local, regional, and drive market audiences hold the most promise for destinations, with some incremental opportunity to be had in direct flight markets.

Cities still have opportunity: While it remains true that destinations offering less crowded and more rural setting, or an abundance of outdoor recreation and activities, stand to benefit from shifting traveler behavior, larger cities are not as “off-limits” as once feared. While beaches, small towns, mountain destinations, and National Parks remain popular destinations, 37.8% of respondents indicated that a city would be the first trip they will take when they begin feeling it is safe to travel again for leisure.

Fall & family travel bump: In our August 5 edition of the DMO Insights, we talked about how Fall Family Travel is Poised to Surge with so many schools making the switch to distance learning for the upcoming term. Now, we have the research to back that theory up. When asked whether uncertainty about in-person education made them more or less likely to travel this fall, 37.2% of respondents answered ‘more likely’ (20.2%) or ‘much more likely’ (17%). It’s another indication that Labor Day won’t serve as the usual bookend to the travel season this year, and that more families will be extending their “summer” travels into fall.

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ALREADY POPULAR PRE-COVID, MULTI-GEN TRAVEL EXPECTED TO SURGE 

From a psychological standpoint, human interaction – or the lack thereof – is one of the biggest mental hurdles many people have had to face during the pandemic. Don’t get us wrong, there are many hurdles ranging from unemployment or working from home, to child care, homeschooling, travel restrictions, and so much more. But after spending so much time apart from our loved ones and family, the yearning to reconnect with those closest to us is as strong as ever.

Multi-gen travel was already among the top leisure travel trends prior to COVID-19. According to the Family Travel Association, multi-generational trips account for more than a third of leisure travel. In their 2019 Family Travel Survey, the FTA found that 53% of respondents have taken a multi-generational trip in the past, and 65% of parent respondents plan to take, or would consider taking a multi-gen trip in the future. And that figure doesn’t include another popular trend, skip-gen travel, which involves grandparents taking their grandchildren on trips while the parents stay home or travel elsewhere.

Given the already strong trend of multi-gen travel pre-COVID, it’s not surprising that the notion of extended family travel is emerging as a top post-COVID trend as a means to reconnect with family and make up for lost time. In fact, it’s among the biggest travel trends that experts expect to see toward the end of 2020 and into 2021, particularly as more people return to air travel. 

According to the research from Destination Analysts, more than 68% of American travelers identified “spending time with loved ones” as one of their top travel priorities for the remainder of 2020 and beyond. Many travel agents, tour operators, and other experts including Jessica Griscavage, director of marketing at McCabe World Travel in Virginia, foresee a big surge in family and multi-generational travel once people are willing to book trips again. 

“They didn’t get their spring breaks, they’re unsure of their summer trips, or maybe they didn’t get to go to mom and dad’s 50th anniversary or grandma’s 80th birthday,” said Griscavage. “All of these families haven’t been able to be together, so I think we’re going to see a lot of family and multi-gen travel but in a different way, a safer way.”

Making up for lost time, canceled vacations, and missed celebrations aren’t the only driving factors. The uncertainty of what lies ahead is also contributing to the increased interest in multi-gen and skip-gen travel. 

That’s not to say that extended families should start making plans for a large destination reunion, but it does mean that destinations should be prepared to market to the multi-gen and skip-gen audiences with specific messaging, itineraries, and advice and expectations for visiting safely and responsibly. 

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UGC, TRAVEL SHAMING, AND COVID CALL OUTS

If you subscribe to the Scott’s Cheap Flights newsletter as I do, you’re used to receiving weekly travel deals and inspiration delivered to your inbox. This week, founder Scott Keyes took a different approach and addressed a topic we have been hearing and reading a lot about lately from clients, media, influencers, and travelers: the rise of travel shaming

One of the biggest appeals of social media is as a platform that allows us to share our personal accomplishments, activities, travels, and so much more with others. And when it comes to travel specifically, user-generated content is often cited as a leading source of trip planning inspiration and motivation. Which is one of the reasons why the authenticity, objectivity, and credibility of UGC is so important, and why companies like Crowdriff have been quick to bridge the gap between destinations and the individual travelers who are generating content for their personal feeds. 

But during a pandemic, at a time when travel remains frowned upon by some, widely discouraged by many, and in some cases is still prohibited, sharing posts and stories from our travels can do more harm than good when it comes to backlash on social media. It’s being likened to peer pressure but on a much larger – and even global scale.

From an individual traveler perspective, travel shaming, COVID call-outs, and other negative outcomes from posting travel related content, as recently reported in the New York Times’ “Shhh! We’re Heading Off on Vacation” story, have many who are already traveling or are ready to return to travel doing so in stealth mode. In fact, the act of shaming people who are choosing to travel right now has transcended beyond social media to in-person call-outs, confrontations, and even notes left on cars with out of state license plates lambasting people for choosing to travel right now. 

“It may feel productive to castigate one another for being too cautious or not cautious enough, but shaming is often counterproductive because it leads to defensiveness. Being shamed does not change behavior and in fact, may exacerbate it. Before we cast shame on someone taking her family on a weekend getaway, ask yourself if she’s truly being irresponsible in her travels or if our objection is that it seems like she’s looking for joy during a dark time.”

Scott Keyes, founder, Scott’s Cheap Flights

For individuals, one of the joys of social media, particularly as it relates to our personal travels, is the ability to share our experiences with others. Removing that portion of the experience for fear of backlash can, in turn, lessen the psychological benefits we derive from the experience itself. The simple act of posting a current travel-related photo or story runs the risk of eliciting negative feedback from friends and followers. Add in a searchable hashtag or geotag, and all of a sudden that sphere of influence and potential criticism has expanded by magnitudes.

For destinations, while the situation is different from state to state and from destination to destination, the backlash can be even worse. Merely encouraging travel to your destination right now often results in negative comments and shaming from residents and locals. It’s something we touched on from a destination’s perspective in the last DMO insights, where we talked about managing your social reputation. But whether it’s your own paid or organic social content, or reposting or repurposing user-generated content specific to your destination, the line between love and hate is razor thin and is very much black and white at a time when it really shouldn’t be. 

We’ll dive deeper into this topic in next week’s DMO Insights, particularly as it pertains to utilizing a content-forward approach to generate awareness, inspiration, and conversion without a strong call to action, but until then we’ll leave you with one more piece of advice from Scott Keyes.

“Those who are comfortable traveling right now shouldn’t accuse critics of wanting everyone to lock themselves at home until there’s a vaccine, nor should travel critics assume that travelers are taking no precautions,” said Keyes. “We’re all stressed out, and a bit of generosity towards one another can go a long way.”

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Recent News

Shhh! We’re heading off on vacation – New York Times

Multi-generational trips will appeal to the whole family – USA Today

Interesting new trends in travel – Travel Pulse

Riding the second wave: creative marketing ideas for destinations during the pandemic – Hermann Global

Useful Links

Key Survey Findings – Week of August 24 – Destination Analysts

Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report – Destination Analysts

COVID-19 August 10 Travel Insight Report – MMGY Global

Coronavirus and Travel: Everything You Need to Know – Conde Nast Traveler

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