• DMO Insights – July 1

    Since April 6, DVA has been bringing you this weekly newsletter in an effort to make your life – and your job – easier, and to help your destination navigate the unprecedented waters of COVID-19 and recover as rapidly and successfully as possible. 

    With so much information, research, news, and data out there it can be overwhelming to try to track down and absorb even a fraction of it each week. So we try to consume as much of that information as possible for you, stay abreast of state and national news and trends, combine it with our own experience and expertise in destination marketing, and distill it into something that is insightful and valuable so we can deliver it to your inbox every Monday.

    I realize today is Wednesday, but I had the opportunity to spend a few hours yesterday with Matt Bean, the editor-in-chief of Sunset Magazine, while he was visiting Central Oregon. I wanted to get his take on the short- and long-term trends (and challenges) facing destinations. It was a rare opportunity to tap into the mind of one of the most influential people in leisure travel in the West, so we pushed back this week’s newsletter and are happy to share what we learned with you.

    Thanks, as always, for reading, and we hope you continue to find value in this newsletter.

    In this edition:

    • Recovery thoughts from Sunset editor Matt Bean
    • Latest research findings from Destination Analysts
    • Will a ‘Second Spike’ hit the reset button on recovery?
    • Face mask exempt cards are a (fake) real thing
    • #StopHateForProfit targets Facebook in July
    • Recent news & useful links


    First published in 1898, Sunset magazine shares “the best of life in the West” including extensive travel coverage with more than 1.25 million subscribers monthly. It’s widely considered the “Holy Grail” with regard to travel editorial content, and we sat down with editor-in-chief Matt Bean on Monday to hear his thoughts on COVID-19’s impact on tourism, as well as his thoughts on recovery and the future of leisure travel.

    If I had to sum up our conversation, I would reference the saying that “The one constant is change.” From Matt’s perspective, this appears to be the situation facing the leisure travel industry for the foreseeable future as the virus itself – and its impacts on travel – fluctuate as we ride the disease curves. He sees no clear timeframe for recovery, but rather a series of fits and starts that slowly return us toward normal with no real timeline established. We are seeing this currently with restrictions being eased and subsequently tightened, and it’s a learning process for everyone as we navigate it for the first and probably not the last time.

    What he does see is that recovery will be different not only from region to region or destination to destination, but also from individual to individual as everyone has their own concerns, motivations, and comfort levels with travel.

    One of the most encouraging things he has seen thus far has come from cities, counties, and states that are relaxing previously strict regulations regarding outdoor dining and drinking, and embracing the concept of al fresco even if it is driven out of need rather than want. This practice, he believes, is similar to what is considered normal in other countries, and he hopes will become another standard that is adopted on a long-term basis as it creates a more casual and communal European feel that is so appealing. 

    Another bright spot from his perspective, which may very well benefit the leisure travel industry moving forward, is how the virus has forced so many of us to slow down and reassess our priorities. This bodes well for travel as individuals realign their values with their actions, and make more time for the things (and people) they care about most. One of his COVID-19 routines has become to grab a beer and a Yeti can cooler, hike up a nearby mountain, and enjoy it from the top of his hike while he reflects on his day – something he rarely had (or made) time for previously. 

    As far as challenges facing the industry particularly in the West, he believes unpredictability will play the biggest role. Not only with the virus itself until a vaccine is developed, but also with the challenges and changes to traveler behavior. Previously popular events and festivals will be faced with uncertainty. A shortened booking curve will present challenges with revenue forecasting for hotels, convention spaces, and destinations. And the biggest question looms in fall and winter when – particularly in the northern climates – people will be spending more and more time indoors. He sees areas such as the desert southwest as being increasingly popular in the fall and winter months – when outdoor activities from recreation to dining are more accessible – and more enjoyable than in their northern counterparts.

    In the midst of so much change and uncertainty in our industry, his parting comments were related to the very root of travel itself. Of discovering new people, places, and cultures, and finding inspiration and renewal from the experiences that travel affords us. He believes travel will continue to be the escape we all want and need, and he is confident that Sunset will be there as it has been since 1898 to help tell the stories, inspire adventures, and connect people over shared experiences. 


    With the number of cases in the U.S. on a steep upward trend, and with some counties and states tightening restrictions once again as a result, it’s no surprise that according to this week’s findings from Destination Analysts the number of American travelers who believe the Coronavirus situation in the United States will get worse in the next month rather than better now stands at 60%, a double-digit increase from just last week. 

    July and August trip cancellations are increasing, and now more than one third (37.4%) of American travelers say they currently have no plans to travel in 2020. 

    On the bright side, 35% say they would consider taking a leisure trip that they have not already considered if an opportunity presented itself soon. And more than half of American travelers say that seeing a travel ad would make them feel happy right now. 

    Optimism gap (still) growing: Last week’s gap between the number of American travelers who believe the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. will get “better” or “much better” over the next month, and the number of those who think it will get “worse” or “much worse,” was 30.8 points. This week that gap has grown to 45.6 points, with more than 60 percent of American travelers believing the situation will get “worse” or “much worse” over the next month.

    Support for Quarantine & Face Coverings: More than 70 percent of survey respondents indicated they support state policies to implement mandatory 14-day quarantines for travelers from states with high case numbers. And with regard to enforcement policies related to the use of face coverings, there is three times as much support as opposition.

    Converting the unconverted: Although a great deal of uncertainty still abounds, so too does the opportunity to convert the unconverted. When asked how likely they would be to take a leisure trip they had not already considered in the next three months if a good opportunity presented itself, 35 percent of respondents indicated “likely” or “very likely.” 

    What travelers want (at least, for now): With more than 60 percent of American travelers expressing nervousness about visiting destinations that might be crowded, it’s not surprising that more than 30 percent of travelers identify “uncrowded” as one of their top three most important destination attributes. Joining uncrowded on the list are affordable/not too expensive (34.9%) and relaxing (32%).

    Ad messaging and content: When picturing the ideal travel ad and the features that would inspire the most excitement to travel right now, nearly one third (31.3%) of respondents indicated discounts/deals. Other top attributes included safety information (28%), info on pricing (22.9%), and ideas for things to see and do (22.6%). With 55.4 percent of respondents indicating they will do “a lot of extra planning” before traveling in the current environment, making that information readily available and easily accessible through advertising, social media, website, blog content, and more will help further eliminate barriers to travel right now. 


    While many are calling it a second spike, it’s actually still a hump within the first wave. Regardless, one thing is certain: the number of new cases is increasing at an alarming and unsustainable rate, and it will likely have an impact once again on leisure travel and destination recovery efforts. 

    With a six percent positive test rate, the United States is behind only Brazil (8%) and well ahead of Germany (0.9%) and Italy (0.5%) with regard to testing among developed nations. Likewise, with 107 new cases per 1 million people, the U.S. is behind only Brazil (163 cases per million) and well ahead of Germany (7 cases per million) and Italy (5 cases per million).

    When isolation and stay-at-home orders were first implemented in late March, they were never intended to eliminate the virus altogether. They were implemented to “flatten the curve” by slowing (and by extension, prolonging) the spread of the virus through our society to avoid overtaxing our hospitals and healthcare systems. 

    That worked, and in many instances the burden on the healthcare system ended up being far less than the worst case scenario. But as the curve flattened, as communities reopened, and as individuals relaxed their vigilance, a sharp spike like the one we are currently seeing in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and many other states was inevitable. 

    Now, counties and states have no choice but to make the difficult decision to reverse course on certain restrictions such as those related to bars and nightclubs, making the wearing of face coverings mandatory, tightening restrictions on large gatherings, and closing beaches once again.

    It’s much easier to go forward than backward, and a lot still remains to be seen, but in our haste to reopen the economy – not to mention following the lead of other countries who have successfully slowed the spread – hindsight might tell us that there was a better long-term approach.

    That’s not to say we have been doing things wrong as counties, states, and as a country with regard to policies. The fact remains that among individuals who continue to practice safe social/physical distancing, and who wear face coverings in public spaces, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains very low even as our ability to move about more freely increases. It’s likely more a factor of compliance (or lack thereof) among many people who equate the loosening of restrictions with a decreased threat, permission to resume their normal day-to-day behaviors, or ignorance about the risks of relaxing their guard. 

    For destinations, this means several things, all of which are supported by this week’s survey findings from Destination Analysts. It means that in the near future – once the initial wave of pent-up demand subsides – travelers may become increasingly hesitant to visit communities, counties, or states where there is an increase in new cases. It means that communities, counties, and states with low case levels may be less welcoming of visitors from outside the area, particularly if those visitors come from states with a significant increase in new cases. Which would leave us with travelers from states with little or no increase in new cases, wanting to visit (and being welcomed by) destinations with flat or declining cases. All of a sudden, the pool of travelers and communities eager to welcome them becomes smaller and smaller.

    That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions to every rule, as there surely are. This weekend in Bend I saw license plates from at least a dozen different states, including Arizona, Texas, and Florida, as well as many from California and Washington.

    While these visitors and the dollars they contribute to the economy are needed, we suspect that this initial wave of pent-up demand may decline in the coming weeks unless the number of new cases reverses course. Which leads us to our next story…


    Week in and week out, the Destination Analysts survey findings have included data related to the level of comfort and acceptance that locals have with regard to welcoming visitors to their communities. It has also reflected travelers’ willingness to visit other destinations with regard to perceived safety and comfort level.

    While those two numbers have generally been heading in the direction we want them to over the past several weeks, the trend reversed course slightly this week and we expect to see the latter audience (travelers visiting other communities) in particular take a step back over the next 45-90 days.

    There are several reasons why this will likely happen, but the largest and most important reason is related to individual noncompliance in destinations with regard to social and physical distancing, the use of face coverings, and the record rise in new COVID-19 cases.

    When stay-at-home orders were first relaxed and leisure travel began to return, communities were wary of visitors coming into their destination from other areas (particularly from large metropolitan areas with high case numbers). While that still remains the case in many destinations, the tables have somewhat turned to the point where visitors are increasingly becoming skeptical of visiting destinations where there is a sense (whether real or perceived) that local residents are not taking appropriate measures to protect themselves, their communities, and those who visit.

    As destinations we have been focusing our efforts largely on educating travelers about the policies, procedures, protocols, and other health and safety measures that are in place to ensure visitor safety. However, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the same educational efforts that have been directed toward visitors, also need to be directed toward residents. 

    Not only to provide additional reassurance to visitors, but also to limit the virus’ spread within our communities. While such an effort isn’t necessarily (or typically) the responsibility of the DMO, it does have an impact on tourism and therefore the DMO needs to have a seat at the table if it doesn’t already. 

    In collaboration with city and/or county officials and health departments, it makes sense for DMO leaders to be involved in conversations with regard to the education of local audiences. Working together to prioritize messaging pillars and consistency of delivery, reiterating the positive economic impact of tourism, and drawing a correlation between resident compliance and visitation numbers, will only help expedite recovery and should also help reduce new case numbers in the community.


    This is definitely one of those “I can’t even believe it’s a thing” things. Last week we talked about how Cognitive Dissonance can be applied to many people who choose not to wear a mask or other face covering in public, despite knowing the risks of not wearing one and benefits of wearing one in public. Face coverings have also become a political divider in our country, and mandating their use as many states have recently done will likely only be met with partial compliance.

    At a Tuesday hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., opened the hearing on the state of the coronavirus pandemic by re-upping his past recommendation that President Donald Trump wear a mask to reduce the political divide on that health recommendation.

    Alexander lamented that “this simple life-saving practice has become part of the political debate that says this, ‘If you’re for Trump you don’t wear a mask. If you’re against Trump, you do.’”

    Regardless, it seems some people are willing to go to great lengths in an effort to avoid donning face coverings in public. The Americans with Disabilities Act recently posted a warning for fraudulent face mask flyers in the form of “Face Mask Exempt Cards” that people are trying to use, issued by the fictional FTBA or Freedom To Breathe Agency. If the typos and grammatical errors aren’t enough to raise suspicion, the notion of a face mask exemption card alone should be. 

    For what it’s worth, in a June 18 blog post titled “From the Frontlines: The Truth About Masks and COVID-19,” the American Lung Association states that “Masks are designed to be breathed through and there is no evidence that low oxygen levels occur” and that, “There is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.” It also states that “Mask wearing and social distancing are the keys to controlling the first wave and diminishing or avoiding subsequent waves of the virus. Mask wearing allows us to open the economy up faster. Not wearing a mask around others only worsens the pandemic, leads to more disease, and worsens the economic effects.”


    Just as many destinations have reached the light at the end of the tunnel and the much anticipated point where they have the opportunity – and finally the ability – to resume paid digital campaigns that have likely been paused since sometime in March, many are now faced with a new dilemma.

    In light of current and recent global events related to racism, police brutality, social injustice, and hate speech, the NAACP and other leading civil rights advocacy groups recently launched the #StopHateForProfit movement as a platform to send a message to Facebook that their current efforts to reduce, limit, or eliminate hate speech from their owned social media platforms are simply not enough.

    At the core of the movement is a request that brands demonstrate their opposition to hate speech by pausing their spending on Facebook and Instagram during the month of July. Specifically, the organizers and supporters of StopHateForProfit.org are asking Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg to address the following core demands:

    • Provide more support to people who are targets of racism, anti semitism, and hate
    • Stop generating ad revenue from misinformation and harmful content
    • Increase Safety in Private Groups on Facebook

    Backed by the participation of major brands including Verizon, Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, The North Face, Magnolia Pictures, Eddie Bauer, Unilever, REI, and many more, the #StopHateFor Profit movement is gaining traction (and media coverage) as the July 1 start date approaches.

    Has #StopHateForProfit already achieved its intended result and had a profound impact by getting the attention of Facebook and furthering the conversation and dialogue around racism and hate speech? And is that alone enough? 

    According to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti Defamation League, the answer is no. In an open letter to companies that advertise on Facebook, Greenblatt wrote that while Facebook has listened to their concerns, “Hate, extremism and misinformation still thrive on Facebook in sanctioned misinformation, conspiracy theories, and unmoderated hateful groups.”

    And in a June 21 post on their Facebook for Business blog titled “Where we Stand,” , Facebook voiced its position “against racism and in support of the black community,” admitted that its enforcement of content rules “isn’t perfect,” and outlined some of the steps it is taking to review its policies.

    The question becomes a moral dilemma for smaller advertisers and brands, many of which are just now returning to the Facebook advertising platform after COVID-19 and have a stronger than usual sense of urgency with regard to generating awareness and revenue.

    In society’s current climate, there is increasingly no gray area with regard to racism, social injustice, and hate speech. There is only support or opposition. But does it make financial sense for smaller brands and businesses to try to hit Facebook where it hurts most in a manner that may also inflict self-harm, or harm to their stakeholders? 

    Ultimately that decision is in the hands of every individual advertiser, and it may very well be different for every one of them. DVA has developed this #StopHateForProfit Situation Analysis to serve as a resource to help destinations and other clients make an informed decision when it comes to how or whether to participate in the movement, continue with planned paid digital efforts, or something in between. 


    Recent News

    The coronavirus is reshaping who can travel where – Washington Post – June 26

    Younger people are a factor in surge, analysis shows – USA Today – June 26

    Arizona town will go ahead with summer events, sans masks – AZCentral.com – June 28

    Only two states are reporting a decline in new coronavirus cases – CNN – June 28

    How the White House coronavirus response went wrong – The Atlantic – June 29

    CDC urges Americans to socially distance July 4 as cases surge – USA Today – June 29

    Useful Links

    Key Survey Findings – Week of June 28 – Destination Analysts – June 29

    AirDNA Covid-19 Data Center – AirDNA – ongoing

    Guidance for promoting the health & safety of all travelers – U.S. Travel

    That’s a wrap for Wednesday, July 1. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out at any time with questions.


    Justin, Mary, Gary & the entire DVA Team

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  • DMO Insights – June 22

    I got a COVID-19 test this morning. Not because I have any symptoms or have been in close contact with anyone who has a confirmed or presumptive positive test result. And not because I thought I could be an asymptomatic carrier. My family has been about as diligent as you can be with regard to practicing self-care. We still haven’t been to a restaurant, we wear face coverings in public, and as my son likes to say, we do our best to “keep our distance so we don’t get the allergy.” 

    Rather, I got the test because my mother, who is a 72-year-old lung cancer survivor, is coming to visit this week and I wanted to provide her with some additional peace of mind due to her elevated risk factor. 

    The test itself was surprisingly simple and minimally invasive. I pulled into the urgent care parking lot at 8 a.m. and was back home an hour later. After answering a few questions over the phone from my car, a nurse came out to ask a few more questions and take a nasal swab. A few minutes later, a doctor came out to listen to my heart and lungs, and in 48 hours I should have the results in my inbox. The whole visit took about 30 minutes from start to finish. All in all a very small inconvenience for some important peace of mind ahead of mom’s upcoming visit.

    In this edition:

    • Face coverings work. So why do they divide us?
    • BLM + BIPOC + LGBTQ+ = You Are Welcome Here
    • Latest research findings from Destination Analysts
    • Road Trip! As RV sales surge, are you prepared?
    • Signs the virus that causes COVID-19 may be weakening
    • Recent news, useful links & upcoming webinars


    Science tells us that face coverings work. According to a recent study, the “Best way to reduce coronavirus transmission is by wearing a face mask.” In California, Gov. Newsom recently mandated the use of face coverings in public, and in a letter to Arizona’s governor, nearly 1,000 members of the state’s medical community recently implored the governor to mandate face coverings in public as cases and hospitalizations surge there. 

    So why do so many people refuse or choose not to wear them, and what can (and should) DMOs be doing to help encourage their use among visitors and residents alike? Is it possible that in fact we generally agree on some very common and controversial topics (i.e. face coverings reduce COVID-19 transmission), and are really only divided on the surface?

    To answer these questions, I simply asked my wife, who holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Houston and manages the e-Campus Psychology Program at Oregon State University. She quickly pointed out a number of factors – any or all of which may be at play – including defiance, conformity, arrogance, stigma, ignorance, access, entitlement, and even pandemic fatigue. But at the heart of the matter, she suggested a likely culprit: Cognitive Dissonance.

    According to Psychology Today, the theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people are averse to inconsistencies within their own minds. It offers one explanation for why people sometimes make an effort to adjust their thinking when their own thoughts, words, or behaviors seem to clash with each other. 

    When someone does not wear a face covering in public (behavior), yet they know that an uncovered face increases their risk of COVID-19 infection or transmission (thought), they are in a state of cognitive dissonance. The individual has two choices: change the behavior or modify the belief. Changing the behavior simply means starting to wear a face covering in public. Modifying the belief means rationalizing the behavior by minimizing or discrediting scientific findings, citing the small risk of infection, or defending their personal rights. Smoking and speeding are two good examples of cognitive dissonance. Both increase your chances of injury or death from the behavior, yet many people still choose to do them and find ways to rationalize the behaviors as a means of resolving their own dissonance. 

    There are several reasons why this week’s Destination Analysts survey findings show an increasing number of Americans (56.8%) are uncomfortable with visitors coming to their destination, and the use (or lack thereof) of face coverings is one of them. So how do we, as DMOs and marketers, help?

    While the decision to change behavior is ultimately up to the individual, we can and should be taking steps to minimize the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of doing so. Some of the tactics DMOs can implement include:

    Educate locals and visitors: Travelers are less likely to visit a destination where they perceive safety and compliance to be marginalized. Locals are less likely to encourage or support visitors to their community if they feel like proper protocols and safety measures are not in place. The education of both audiences is critical not only to the resumption of travel, but to making sure that both sides of the picture are comfortable with it. Share and disseminate information and literature. 

    Normalize the behavior: Depicting people (both visitors and locals) wearing face coverings is the easiest way to help. This can be done through imagery on the DMO website (Leavenworth, Wash. is a good example), organic social media posts and stories, digital advertising, and email communication with stakeholders and consumers.

    Reduce the stigma: Look for opportunities to make simple but meaningful changes. The semantics of referring to face coverings, which is a more encompassing and less stigmatized term than masks, can make a big difference. Likewise, city, county, or even statewide mandates can remove the stigma by making the use of face coverings a requirement as opposed to a choice.

    Lead by example: This may go without saying, but as destination marketers and leaders it is imperative that we set a good example for others to follow by practicing what we preach. 


    Countless statues of controversial figures are being toppled nationwide. Brands like Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, and Eskimo Pie are pivoting or disappearing altogether. And just yesterday, a noose was found hanging in the pit garage of black NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace. In short, we have seen the good, the bad, and unfortunately the ugly from individuals and society over the past few weeks. While the long-term changes still remain to be seen, if there is a silver lining to come from recent events it is that awareness is high, conversations are happening, and changes are already taking place. 

    So what happens when Black Lives Matter, the BIPOC movement, and Pride Month all converge, and are all making headlines at the same time? One answer, and one that DMOs have the ability to incorporate into their existing inclusivity messaging, is the You Are Welcome Here campaign recently launched by Out Central Oregon in Bend. 

    This symbol is one version of the Pride flag, called the “Progress” Pride Flag, and it includes specific colors that represent the transgender community (pink & blue) and the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community.

    This local unity campaign, which speaks to business owners and consumers, residents and visitors, is another way for destinations to position themselves as being inclusive to people of color, transgender people, and LGBTQ+ people. It lets all people instantly know they are welcome as your guests and patrons. Not only is this valuable for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC tourists, it also tells residents where they can choose to shop and do business.

    From a local business and tourism perspective, You Are Welcome Here is centered around three pillars:

    • Welcoming BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people
    • Celebrating diversity
    • Creating positive change

    This is one step that can be taken to promote your business and also to promote safety, inclusion, and solidarity with people of color and LGBTQ+ customers. More than 120 businesses including Visit Bend have already “applied” for the program, and walking around downtown on Sunday afternoon I couldn’t help but notice the prevalence of Your Are Welcome Here stickers at local businesses. 


    Americans’ concern about personally or friends/family contracting COVID-19 increased this week. Now half of American travelers feel the coronavirus situation will get worse in the US in the next month and less than 20% feel it will get better. Americans’ perceived safety of various travel activities also worsened this week, returning to the levels they were at 3 weeks ago, and this has caused some to reverse their travel readiness. As seen in this week’s findings from Destination Analysts, we still have a long way to go to get over the hump.

    Optimism gap (still) growing: The gap between the number of American travelers who believe the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. will get “better” or “much better” over the next month, and the number of those who think it will get “worse” or “much worse,” continues to grow. And not in a good way. This week, 50.6% say it will get “worse” or “much worse,” while just 19.8% think it will get “better” or “much better.”

    The reality of want vs. need: When it comes to the gap between activities that are important to our lifestyle, and those activities we have recently done, no gap is wider than leisure travel. 58.5% of American travelers say leisure travel is important to their lifestyle, with only 12.1% having recently done so. By contrast (and not surprisingly), Americans are spending more time on activities that are of lower importance to them as a whole, such as social media, binge-watching TV shows, reading, and gardening.

    Openness to visitors: After reaching a nine-week low last week, the percent of American travelers who say they do not want visitors coming to their own community right now returned to 56.8 percent. Observing unsafe behavior by their fellow residents appears to contribute to this sentiment. Trust in people to behave safely should increase comfort in travel and tourism overall.


    As Americans return to travel, road trips are replacing air travel as the transportation method of choice for many this summer. With more people expected to choose the comfort, safety, and predictability of their own transportation for the time being, USA Today recently reported that “RV vacations could see boom as coronavirus camping restrictions lift.” 

    Increased interest in RVs as a method of travel, coupled with many manufacturing facilities closing for extended periods of time during stay at home orders, has created a demand unseen in the industry in years. And with 46 million Americans planning to take an RV trip in the next 12 months, many of them this summer and fall, destinations should be prepared for an influx of Airstreams, Winnebagos, R-Pods, and more. 

    With that in mind, right now is the time to make sure your destination has the capacity to meet demand without over-taxing existing infrastructure and services, damaging the environment, or disrupting local residents. A few things to consider include: 

    • Dedicated parking/camping overflow space to minimize overcrowding at dedicated campgrounds, destruction of sensitive environmental areas, or parking on city streets
    • Additional RV related services, particularly waste disposal
    • Maps, literature, and instructions (online and offline) for RV travelers, many of whom may not be used to traveling by RV

    National Geographic Traveler recently published a “What to know about traveling by RV this summer” guide for both first timers as well as for seasoned travelers who are unfamiliar with RVing in a COVID-19 world. This guide is one of many resources available through the media, the RV Industry Association, and Go RVing. When it comes to planning and preparing for increased RV travelers this summer and fall, it’s better to be prepared and not need it, than to need it and not be prepared. 


    As first reported in The Sunday Telegraph (UK), there are signs that coronavirus is weakening and could disappear on its own, even without a vaccine. According to Italian infectious diseases specialist Dr. Matteo Bassetti, the virus appears to have become less potent, perhaps due to genetic mutations. Effective social distancing measures, combined with a lower “viral load” on humans as a result of global efforts to contain the virus, may be contributing to its downgrade from an “aggressive tiger” to a “wild cat.” Dr. Bassetti cites the fact that “even elderly patients, aged 80 or 90, are now sitting up in bed and they are breathing without help. The same patients would have died in two or three days before.” While it’s unlikely that coronavirus will disappear on its own anytime soon, it’s possible, according to Dr. Bassetti and others, that it will be eradicated before researchers find a vaccine.


    Recent News

    How to plan a summer ‘Safecation’ – Today.com – June 19

    Yes, wearing masks helps. Here’s why. – NPR – June 21

    11 ways the pandemic will change travel – Washington Post – June 15

    Iceland now feels like the coronavirus never happened – CNN – June 19

    Business travel won’t be taking off soon amid coronavirus – Wall Street Journal – June 15

    Useful Links

    You Are Welcome Here – Out Central Oregon

    Key Survey Findings – Week of June 22 – Destination Analysts – June 22

    AirDNA Covid-19 Data Center – AirDNA – ongoing

    Guidance for promoting the health & safety of all travelers – U.S. Travel

    Upcoming Webinars

    Maximizing the utility of geo-location data – Destination Analysts – June 23, 8 a.m. PDT

    Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Findings – Week 15 – Destination Analysts – June 23, 8 a.m. PDT

    5 local campaigns from DMOs starting to re-open – CrowdRiff – June 25, 12 p.m. PDT

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  • DMO Insights – June 15

    March 11 was the last day I worked in my office. It has now been more than three months since I last spent a day working in a real office – not my home office where the dress code and grooming standards are marginal at best and my office mates include a four-year-old, a psychology instructor, and a Betta fish named Sweet T. 

    We gave employees the option of returning to the office effective June 1. We even went so far as to put together an elaborate return to work policies & procedures manual for staff, and made sure we had plenty of sanitizer, wipes, and masks available throughout the building. Yet here we are on June 15, and all of us continue to work remotely (and surprisingly productively) to do our part in minimizing exposure and risk for ourselves, our families, and our community. We will re-evaluate on July 1 and see where things stand then, but will continue to have a remote work option in place for the foreseeable future.

    I have heard several unfortunate stories of agencies similar to ours having to make difficult decisions ranging from drastic reductions in staff, to closing their doors altogether in the wake of COVID-19.

    But as DVA has done since day one – 30 years this month – we have sought to continue to make ourselves valuable, relevant, and hopefully indispensable to our destination clients when they need us most. And that’s largely due to the relationships our clients have allowed us to foster with them over the years. We have continually strived to bring a broad industry expertise and POV, treated each client as though they are our only client, and functioned as strategic business partner as opposed to “just an ad agency.” 

    It would be an understatement to say that we feel humbled, grateful, and privileged to be in a position to help guide our clients through the current climate. And at a time when everything from birthdays to graduation ceremonies are taking place virtually, we’re celebrating our 30th anniversary this month with some virtual high fives and an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm for many more years to come.

    In this edition:

    • Hope for the best – but prepare for the worst
    • What Black Lives Matter means to DMOs
    • Latest research findings from Destination Analysts
    • Recent news, useful links & upcoming webinars


    Last week we reported that an increase of new COVID-19 cases was not a cause for panic…yet. But as the number of cases continues to spike in many states (18 states reported increases last week including five with a week-over-week increase of more than 50%), the possibility of a regression becomes a very real threat. And in Oregon, one of those states with a greater than 50% increase in cases last week, Gov. Brown hit the pause button on allowing several counties to advance into the next phase of the state’s recovery plan.

    It’s still too early to postulate whether or not a second shutdown will be needed. And let’s all hope we can avoid a scenario that CNN described this morning as “Why a Second Shutdown over Coronavirus might be worse than the first – and how to prevent it.”

    Here’s what you need to know about the very real possibility that the U.S. could have no choice but to take a step back in reopening progress among individual states or even nationwide in light of loosening restrictions, relaxed vigilance among citizens, exposure and spread through Black Lives Matter protests, and the increase in cases that is being attributed in part to all of the above.

    Yes, some of the numbers can be attributed to the virus’ normal spread through society, which is detected with greater frequency as testing becomes more widespread and contact tracing helps identify others who may have been exposed through close contact with an infected individual. 

    Due to delays in testing and reporting, a more accurate depiction of the severity of spread can be seen through hospitalizations and deaths, which should remain consistent whether infected individuals are tested or not. In Arizona, for example, where the Governor’s stay-at-home order expired on May 15, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen 49% from May 26 to June 9. Given the virus’ incubation period of up to 14 days, much of that increase can be attributed to relaxed restrictions and social and physical distancing.

    What this all means is that there is a bona fide risk that the general public views the loosening of restrictions as a sign that it’s okay to let down their guard. All I have to do is go to the grocery store to see this firsthand – as the number of people I have observed wearing face coverings has dropped off dramatically in recent weeks.  

    As far as DMOs are concerned – specifically as they progress through the various phases and stages of non-essential travel recovery – the ongoing education of and communication with visitors and stakeholders is of critical importance if we want to avoid squandering the last three months of sacrifice. Visitors from outside the area need to be educated on safe practices that may differ from those in their home city or state, reminded that the act of keeping their guard up and maximizing the enjoyment of their visit are not mutually exclusive, and encouraged to be mindful and respectful stewards of the destination they visit. 


    Since we first started bringing this weekly newsletter to you back on April 6, it has focused solely on COVID-19 and its effects on the travel industry as a whole and on DMOs specifically. I didn’t think anything would or could shift the media spotlight away from 24/7 coverage of the largest global pandemic since the Spanish Flu. 

    Then Black Lives Matter happened. Well, it didn’t “happen” so much as it reached another tipping point – one that appears to finally have the support and momentum to effect real change. Anyone with a pulse knows just how prevalent the movement surrounding social justice, Black Lives Matter, police brutality, racism, and other related topics is right now. 

    There is a role for DMOs to play in this effort and the conversation surrounding it. This includes a DMO evaluating its own plans, messaging, markets, audiences, and partnerships to determine where – and how – it can continue to fulfill its mission while supporting social justice for all, putting a peaceful end to police brutality and racism, and further advancing the mission of groups that advocate for Black, Indigineous, and People of Color such as the BIPOC Project

    From the DMO perspective, this process begins with listening, and then by acting on what we hear and learn. 

    Listening is the first and perhaps most important step in this process, and when done correctly a wealth of actionable knowledge and insights will fall out of it. There are a few pieces of low hanging fruit that a destination can utilize as initial steps in this process, including:

    • Adopting a dIversity inclusion statement
    • Engaging and consulting with BIPOC community leaders such as a diversity coalition or a higher education office of diversity & inclusion for guidance
    • Developing a diversity & inclusion advisory group to help guide future communications
    • Facilitating regular diversity & inclusion workshops or webinars for tourism partners

    The listening process and the learning process will likely run concurrently, as we have so much to learn by simply listening. While the race conversation has been circulating in tourism for years, including this 2018 story about “Making visitors feel welcome by fighting racism,” it has recently seen a resurgence. Here are a few current resources specific to the tourism industry and racial justice/racism to help spur the ‘learning’ process:

    “Black CVB leaders write an open letter to colleagues” – PCMA – June 11

    “Let’s have the race conversation and change tourism once and for all” – Skift – June 10

    “How the travel industry can do its part in the fight against racism” – Travel Pulse – June 2

    “Don’t miss this seminal moment for racial justice, travel industry” – Skift – June 1

    “Visit Jackson CEO offers statement on Black Lives Matter” – Northside Sun – June 5

    As a white upper middle class male in his late 40s, I know I have a lot to educate myself about when it comes to social justice, racism, police brutality, and more. And I am committed to doing so from both a personal and professional perspective.

    But something I do know is that at it’s very heart, travel is the privilege of exploring and connecting with new places, people, cultures, and lifestyles that are often different from our own. And tourism is about returning the privilege by welcoming and embracing these same people, cultures, and lifestyles to our own communities. We therefore owe it to ourselves and to everyone else to be informed and educated as travelers, DMOs, and as human beings.


    Just when we were making great progress within the tourism industry and traveler sentiment with regard to the return of leisure travel in a COVID-19 world, this week’s findings from Destination Analysts prove that intent and behavior will likely continue to ebb and flow with increases and decreases in the number of cases, and the corresponding news cycles that surround them. 

    Optimism gap grows: Just as the number of American travelers who believe the COVID-19 situation in the U.S. would get “better” or “much better” over the next month was set to surpass the number who believe it would get “worse” or “much worse,” those numbers headed in opposite directions this week for the first time since early May. This is likely due to recent spikes in the number of cases, the current political and social climate, and whispers about the possibility of a course correction with regard to recovery efforts and loosening restrictions.

    Change of plans? The number of American travelers who say they have no plans to travel in 2020 rose 2.4% this week, and has risen 5.6% since the end of May. While this number continues to fluctuate greatly from week to week, it’s worth noting that each of the remaining months of the year saw at least some decrease this week with regard to upcoming plans to travel. If this trend continues, expect to see deep discounts and attractive offers becoming more prevalent through the summer and fall months.

    A familiar face: More than 60 percent of American travelers say their next leisure trip will be to a destination they have previously visited, and 37.7% reported that destinations they are familiar with are either “more” or “much more” appealing in the current environment. A good reminder that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” and focusing on repeat guests as opposed to new customer acquisition is a strong tactic over the short-term.

    ‘Pandemic etiquette’ & visitation: It’s not surprising that 61.2% of American travelers say they would be “less interested” or “much less interested” in visiting a destination if they were to see media images that depicted crowds, a lack of social or physical distancing, or poor pandemic etiquette. This is something to keep in mind when choosing images to accompany media outreach or when updating the image library in a press room, for example, but also across all marketing channels including social, digital, and traditional.


    Recent News

    “Why a second shutdown might be worse than the first” – CNN – June 15

    “As coronavirus cases pass 2 million, what’s the impact of reopening?” – LA Times – June 12

    “Being careful doesn’t mean not traveling” – AFAR Magazine – June 12

    “Don’t confuse travel’s reopening with recovery – a long road lies ahead” – Skift – June 15

    “Americans are more likely than Canadians or Brits to keep their travel plans” – Skift – June 15

    Useful Links

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus – Destination Analysts – June 15

    Key Survey Findings – Week of June 15 – Destination Analysts – June 15

    AirDNA Covid-19 Data Center – AirDNA – ongoing

    Weekly Coronavirus Impact on travel expenditures in the U.S.  – U.S. Travel – June 11

    Guidance for promoting the health & safety of all travelers – U.S. Travel

    Upcoming Webinars

    Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Survey Findings – Week 14 – Destination Analysts – June 16, 8 a.m. PDT

    A Deeper Dive Into KPIs for DMOs – U.S. Travel Association – June 19, 9 a.m. PDT

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  • DMO Insights – June 8

    What a week it has been. As a nation, we now find ourselves in the throes of two prominent crises. The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, has been with us for almost six months now. And the social injustice, systemic racism, and police brutality crisis that has been with us for much, much longer but now seems to be gaining the traction it deserves. 

    In this edition:

    • More COVID-19 cases do not equal panic…yet
    • The ethics of traveling during recovery
    • Un-Phased – aligning recovery phases/stages and what they mean
    • Latest Destination Analysts Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report findings
    • What does (or should) travel marketing look like during recovery?
    • Recent news, useful links & upcoming webinars


    As the number of new daily COVID-19 cases inches up in many states and counties, or ebbs and flows in others, there is the fear of regression and a return to increased restrictions on travel and day-to-day life. While that’s not entirely out of the question, it’s not likely either – at least not for the time being. 

    Florida recorded more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases per day for five consecutive days last week, including a record 1,419 on June 4. Yesterday, Oregon broke its single-day record for new positive cases with 146. By contrast, on June 6 New York saw its number of new positive cases dip below 1,000 for only the second time since March 16.

    But the increase in positive COVID-19 cases, while an indicator that the virus will continue to live and spread among us for the foreseeable future, is by no means a sign that things are getting worse. It is, however, due to a number of factors that would naturally produce a greater number of positive results, including:

    • Increased testing capabilities & capacity
    • Thorough contact tracing 
    • Isolated outbreaks at individual businesses
    • And yes, relaxed personal/social vigilance as restrictions ease

    In the wake of continuing social justice demonstrations, the Washington Post declared this weekend that “Social Distancing is Over” and that society is now basically running “a natural experiment that scientists could never have ethically undertaken.” Will we see an increase in the number of cases due to little or no social distancing precautions being taken during these demonstrations? Or will we learn, as has been the case so far with the infamous Lake of the Ozarks pool parties over Memorial Day Weekend, that we can gather en masse as a society without fear of a communal spread? Only time will tell, but for the time being, increased cases do not mean it is time to sound the alarm.


    Last week, National Geographic published a thought-provoking story titled “With trails opening, is it safe – or ethical – to go hiking this summer?” that explores the struggle many destinations – and many travelers – face in this regard.

    Which begs the question of whether it is safe – or even ethical – for Americans to travel this summer and risk contracting or potentially exposing others to the virus in the process. The answer is not as black and white as we think it is, and it’s probably a little bit of both depending on who you ask. 

    This question has been repeatedly raised with regard to the public traveling during COVID-19 recovery, and also as it pertains to marketing and promoting travel. For many destinations, it is a complex issue that is part science, part cost-benefit analysis, part economic survival, and partly the exercise of free will.

    While I can’t speak for everyone, if someone chooses to go hiking or to travel right now, and if county, state, or federal health officials tell us it is safe and acceptable to do so, it does not mean the traveler lacks morals or ethics. 

    Ultimately, the decision is left up to the individual who is traveling, and the destination they plan to visit, to determine what is safe, acceptable, and even ethical. But what it doesn’t excuse anyone from is their obligation to visit, recreate, and otherwise travel responsibly, from respecting local rules and restrictions to protecting the safety of themselves and those around them. 

    This issue is partly the responsibility of the health authorities to establish policies and protocols, partly the responsibility of the destinations to communicate critical information and set shared expectations of both the traveler and the DMO, and largely the responsibility of the visitor to ensure they are aware of local regulations, accepted best practices, and the environment surrounding them.


    Is it just me, or does anybody else wish that states could align their recovery phases so that Phase 2 means the same thing in California that it does in Washington? Except that California refers to their “phases” as Stages, which further compounds the confusion. Much like my personal frustration with the Metric vs. Imperial weights & measures systems (can’t we all just pick one system and stick with it?), I wish states could have come together early on to define the recovery phases or stages together and develop a consistent set of criteria, measurements, and plans for each phase. 

    But that train left the station long ago, so we’re left to read between the lines of each state and each phase or stage, to determine what it means for each state and when. With DMO clients spread across four Western states, it can sometimes be difficult to stay on top of which state (or individual county) is in which phase (or stage). 

    Generally speaking, the phased recovery approach follows the same five stages. And while there may only be three or four Phases in any given state, these are the broad stages contained within them:

    1. Isolation and stay-at-home orders: which were first implemented in early/mid-March
    2. Initial/limited reopening: allowing for additional essential services, outdoor recreation, etc.
    3. Expanded reopening: further easing of restrictions to allow for more freedom of movement
    4. Broad reopening: to allow for large gatherings, unrestricted travel, return to business, etc.
    5. All clear: or as close thereto as we will get as a society moving forward

    With some exceptions, most states are currently in or close to being in the third step of this model – Expanded Reopening. And while many of us are hoping for an “all clear” sooner rather than later, using China’s recovery as a benchmark we can anticipate that the Expanded Reopening phase will be with us for a while – perhaps even through the summer –  before broad reopening follows. 


    There’s no question that as travel restrictions loosen across the country, many Americans are eager to set out and explore. As American travelers’ feelings about their health, financial, and travel safety continue to improve, more Americans report that they are already traveling or ready to travel according to this week’s Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report. Among respondents, 70 percent will take at least one leisure trip in the remainder of 2020, and 40 percent say their next road trip will take place this summer. You can download the full findings presentation deck HERE.

    On the road again: According to the survey respondents, 53% of American travelers are either ready to travel or are already traveling, an increase of 3% over last week, and further indication of the momentum that is building around the return of leisure travel activity. 

    Summer travel plans: More than three quarters (76.4%) of American travelers have a “very well developed” or “somewhat developed” sense of where and when their next leisure trip will take place, we know that much of that travel is scheduled to take place over the June-August timeframe. And while demand for commercial air travel appears to remain relatively flat through the first quarter of 2021 as expected, 40% of American travelers have plans to take a road trip between now and the end of August.

    Further recovery into fall: Perhaps the biggest early indicator of a rebound or recovery is the current intention of travelers to take a trip in the fall. While those plans could accelerate or slow between now and then, 61.8% of American travelers say they have at least tentative plans to travel during September, October, or November. This represents a 5.2% increase over last week, and a 14.1% increase over two weeks ago.


    Navigating the various phases/stages of recovery can be confusing (see related story above) to DMOs and travelers alike. So what should your marketing and messaging look and sound like during recovery? Here’s a quick primer, which we are always happy to discuss further as your interest allows:


    As with all communication, creative and messaging should be developed and deployed with the following goals in mind:

    • Inspire visitors to plan and prepare 
    • Increase safety & compliance
    • Set shared expectations
    • Increase trust between businesses, visitors, residents, and government


    Messaging tone should be direct, and consistent with past style, tone, and sentiment. While specific messages are different for every destination, as a rule, the tone of recovery messaging should be:


    Confident Apologetic

    Reassuring Ignorant

    Calming Inciting

    Humble Arrogant

    Welcoming Hesitant

    Sincere Disingenuous

    Want Need

    Eager Desperate

    Unwavering Wishy washy

    Respectful Dismissive


    Phase 2 recovery tactics should focus on digital/electronic channels, with updated messaging and content to address common visitor concerns, behaviors, and interests as travel resumes.

    Boosted Organic

    Boosting organic social media posts increases the reach of organic social content, and provides opportunities for retargeting with additional information and a specific call to action.

    Paid Digital

    A mix of upper-funnel awareness display ads, mainly across Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Audience Network, supported with retargeting ads to reach lower funnel audiences with a more specific call to action. Implemented over three phases as follows: 

    Step I: Local and short drive in-state

    Step 2: Incorporate legacy and broader drive markets

    Step 3: Begin more regular marketing with regard to markets and messaging

    Paid Search

    Continue existing paid search efforts while broadening keywords to include popular current search terms related to safety and travel, such as “safest vacation destinations,” “travel destinations coronavirus,” “[YOUR DESTINATION] coronavirus,” and others. Revise/update search ad copy to quickly communicate key messages of safety, etc.


    Develop specific landing page or pages tied to recovery campaign, incorporate creative and messaging to create a seamless customer journey. Update homepage, visitor updates, and other appropriate pages of the website (ongoing) to reflect the current status of visitor services in the destination, including but not limited to the following key content:

    • What’s open and what’s closed
    • Rules, regulations, and restrictions
    • Tips & recommendations
    • Visiting responsibly
    • Visitor resources

    Consumer email

    In addition to the destination’s standard cadence for direct-to-consumer email marketing, develop a standalone email/newsletter to be distributed upon your entry into your reopening phase. Similar to the website, incorporate travel inspiration and provide planning resources as appropriate. 

    Our clients have likely heard some or all of this before, but it’s a good reminder that messaging, tone, and tactics can and do shift, and need to be revisited periodically or sooner as circumstances warrant.


    Recent News

    “Tourist towns balance fear, survival in make-or-break summer” – AP News – June 3

    “Social Distancing is Over” – Washington Post – June 5

    “With trails opening, is it safe – or ethical – to go hiking this summer?” – National Geographic – June 5

    “Global vacation rental bookings skyrocket after surge in domestic tourism” – AirDNA – June 5

    “Vrbo exec says travelers have new ‘confidence’” – USA Today – June 5

    Useful Links

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus – Destination Analysts – June 8

    AirDNA Covid-19 Data Center – AirDNA – ongoing

    Weekly COVID-19 Travel Data Report – U.S. Travel – June 4 

    Guidance for promoting the health & safety of all travelers – U.S. Travel

    Upcoming Webinars

    Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Survey Findings – Week 13 – Destination Analysts – June 9, 8 a.m. PDT

    Best Practices for Communicating Health & Safety Guidance – U.S. Travel – RECORDING

    Delayed Recovery Curve: Getting Back on Track – Knowland Group – June 9, 11 a.m. PDT

    On Track Recovery Curve: Getting Back to Growth – Knowland Group – June 10, 11 a.m. PDT

    Leading Recovery Curve: Getting Your Groove Back & Keeping It – Knowland Group – June 11, 11 a.m. PDT

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  • DMO Insights – June 1

    I can’t believe it is June. On March 12 when DVA began working remotely, June seemed so far away. Yet here we are. In some aspects the last 12 weeks have gone much quicker than I thought they would, and in some aspects they have passed much slower.

    If you’re anything like me, or most Americans for that matter, the COVID-19 situation and its impact on my life in general and on the travel industry specifically has been a roller coaster. A while back, I started looking at my own journey through the lens of the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief (that’s what happens when you are married to a psychology instructor). Though typically associated with relationships or the loss of a loved one, the principles of this cycle can be applied to many other situations, including destinations and DMOs. It looks something like this:

      Denial: avoidance, confusion, shock, fear

      Anger: frustration, irritation, anxiety

      Depression: overwhelmed, helpless, hostile,

      Bargaining: struggling to find meaning, reaching out to others, telling one’s story

      Acceptance: exploring options, new plan in place, moving on

    Fortunately, most of us (and our destinations) have entered the acceptance stage and are ready (and finally allowed) to move on. And while getting to where we are today has been a struggle, and will no doubt continue to have its challenges moving forward, grief is an important process for our mental, emotional, and even physical well-being as we emerge from COVID-19 and look toward brighter days that lie ahead – or in some cases are already here.

    In this edition:

    • Sophie’s Choice: solving the visitor/resident dichotomy
    • Latest Destination Analysts Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report findings
    • Rural destinations remain a popular choice
    • Useful links & upcoming webinars


    States, counties, and cities are reopening. Visitors are once again allowed to travel or will be able to do so soon. Destinations are actively recruiting travelers or encouraging travel planning. While it’s not quite Sophie’s Choice, the decision about when, where, and how to ramp up advertising efforts and go to market in support of leisure travel must weigh two important factors:

    • The need to quickly resume leisure travel in an effort to stem losses and spur your local hospitality industry
    • An obligation to remain sensitive to fears and concerns (whether real or perceived) of the communities in which we live

    We are seeing this story unfold to varying degrees in the destinations we work with (and even in those we don’t work with yet) throughout the West. While some DMOs are taking a more aggressive approach to promoting and encouraging travel, others are allowing that process to evolve more organically. And while no two destinations – and therefore solutions – are alike, the basic premise remains the same: communities need visitors, and vice versa.

    In a previous version of this newsletter we talked about the “Interdependence Economy” that exists between a destination’s tourism industry and a community’s residents. This theory is based on the premise that many of the things residents enjoy most in their community – restaurants, retail, attractions, and more – are supported by both resident and visitor dollars. If the visitor dollars go away, which we are witnessing firsthand right now, so will many of the things residents love.

    On one hand DMOs are eager to restart their tourism economies as soon as they are allowed to do so. As we head into late spring and summer, there is a “we want them back, and we want them back now” sense of urgency among most destinations – many of which will be actively marketing summer travel for the first time – to recapture as much lost revenue as possible during peak travel season.

    On the other hand, many residents are hesitant to welcome visitors back to their community for two primary reasons: 1) concerns over the health and safety of themselves and their community, and 2) the desire to enjoy their town during peak spring/summer travel season and without the presence or “inconvenience” of visitors. The first of these factors is pretty straightforward, and is largely based on DMOs following federal, state, county, and city guidance on how and when to safely allow travel to resume. The second factor is less clear, and some might even say selfish “have your cake and eat it too” attempt. I am just as guilty as the next person in that regard, as I have enjoyed getting outdoors and recreating with fewer crowds than a typical springtime here in Central Oregon. But it doesn’t take long for residents to realize that those empty trails also translate to empty hotels, restaurants, breweries, and shops, layoffs and furloughs, unemployment hassles and hardships, and more. And while the short-term enjoyment may be high, eventually the grim long-term prospects of that situation prevail.

    Which may explain why we are now seeing that nearly two-thirds (64.6%) of American travelers feel neutral or better about advertisements encouraging travel to their home community, and almost one-third (30.5%) feel happy or very happy about it:

    We talked about the NIMBY Mentality in a previous newsletter as well – the notion that Americans want to travel and are feeling increasingly comfortable with the idea, but don’t want people visiting their community. While we haven’t seen recent data related to travelers’ feelings about people visiting their community, we are seeing sings that people are becoming more and more comfortable with marketing their community, and we expect those two to trends continue to improve and closely mirror each other moving forward.


    This week’s Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report tells us that Americans are not only eager to travel, they are increasingly ready to hit the road. Americans continue to exhibit greater feelings of safety, both about travel and about fears of catching the virus in general. Not coincidentally, the number of American travelers who have at least tentative plans to travel at some point in 2020 grew to nearly 70 percent, with many of these trips likely to take place sooner than previously reported. You can downloaded the full findings presentation deck HERE.

    Majority of American travelers are ready to…drumroll please…travel: According to the survey respondents, just over half of all Americans have now declared themselves ready to travel or are already traveling, a significant increase from previous survey findings and an indication of the momentum that is building around the return of leisure travel activity. This return to travel is being led by the “early adopters” who are already traveling, followed closely by the “proof of concept” audience that is now ready to travel with few or no hesitations, the “wait and see” audience that still needs more time, and eventually the remainder of travelers.

    Still slow, but steady through fall: The months of July through November saw increases in the number of people reporting they have travel plans, hovering in the 18-20 percent range for each of those months. The number of travelers who said they “have no plans to travel in 2020” dropped significantly over the past week, from 32.6% to 25.6%. This group largely consists of the “wait and see” audience, whose hesitations about travel will continue to decline as long as no major setbacks are hit along the way.

    Travel as an emotional security blanket: Emotional well-being may be a factor in the number of Americans who are planning to resume travel sooner rather than later. After spending months in isolation, more than two-thirds (66.5%) of American travelers say that leisure travel will be very important or important to their emotional well-being over the next year. Roughly the same number of respondents (67.7%) indicated that leisure travel will be very important or important to finding joy over the next year. We have known the emotional and psychological benefits of travel for some time, and last week’s newsletter even referenced National Geographic’s story about why “Planning your next trip can make you happier.” But after spending months of researching, planning, and dreaming about travel from the confines of our own homes, it would appear that travelers are now ready to turn those plans into actions and reap the emotional benefits that come with exploring once again.


    Urban and metropolitan areas already had the chips stacked against them with regard to recovery, as travelers generally view them as less safe due to population/crowds, lack of open space, greater number of COVID-19 cases, and more. In fact, only a tenth (10.5%) of American travelers surveyed by Destination Analysts listed “exploring a city or urban area” among the travel experiences they would find most relaxing in the coming year. By contrast, taking a road trip (35%), Staying at a beach resort (34.4%), and visiting a national, state, or regional park (42.6%) were among the activities most frequently mentioned. Not coincidentally, they are all activities typically associated with more rural destinaitons.

    Rural and even suburban communities were already poised to see an increase in popularity among travelers as a result of COVID-19, largely due to the health and safety concerns tied to large cities as mentioned above. But the uphill struggles facing metropolitan destinations have unfortunately only been compounded over the last week. Cities large and small across the country have been the site of recent protests related to the tragic death of George Floyd. While these protests were well-intentioned and in many cities existed as the peaceful demonstrations they were meant to be, sadly a number of these protests – particularly in large metropolitan cities – have been and continue to be marred by violence, looting, fires, and even rioting. Without being too opinionated, it’s just one more example (school shootings being another) of how political agendas can and often do take precedence over social justice. And while these injustices are in no way meant to be a comparison to traveler concerns over COVID-19, expect these events to also play a role in shaping traveler choices particularly when it comes to the safety of the destination they choose to visit.


    Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Survey Findings – Week 12 – Destination Analysts – June 2, 8 a.m. PDT

    Prepare for the Bounce Back – Destinations International – June 3, 8:30 a.m. PDT

    Reimagining Major Travel Experiences – Miles Partnership – June 4, 12 p.m. PDT

    COVID-19 & The Impact On Travel Marketing – Expedia Group – June 4, 10 a.m. PDT 

    “Why the LGBTQ community may be the first to travel again” – Skift, May 27

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  • Walla Walla travel industry launches ‘Peace of Mind Pledge’

    May 15, 2020

    The questions about travel have already started rolling into Eritage Resort from potential visitors. “People want to know when we can start to book reservations,” said Terra Luthi, who manages the luxury wine country destination. In preparation she plans to join a movement out of destination marketing organization Visit Walla Walla called the “Peace of Mind Pledge.”
    Announced this morning, the campaign is intended as a demonstration by local businesses of their commitment to the health and safety of guests. The pledge is voluntary and rolls out well before economic reopening phases that authorize nonessential travel. But Luthi, also a board member for Visit Walla Walla, said tourism and hospitality operators “want to keep Walla Walla top of mind while giving local businesses a platform to demonstrate their commitment to reassuring travelers that Walla Walla is a safe and healthy community eager to welcome them.”
    The initiative, bolstered by support from the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce and Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, asks lodging properties, restaurants, wineries and breweries, tour operators, activity providers and other businesses, to demonstrate their commitment to meet — and possible exceed — best practices as they emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic closures.
    Those include many of the practices that will already be issued by local, state and federal operations as well as trade organizations relevant to each business. They also include acceptance of the additional cost to businesses that will come as a result of prioritizing health and safety, implementing health and safety policies and protocols specific to individual businesses and employees, and increase transparency in the process.
    More than a dozen businesses have already committed after the offer was extended Thursday.
    Justin Yax, partner and public relations principal for Visit Walla Walla-contracted firm DVA Advertising & Public Relations, said health and safety concerns will likely be one of the biggest hurdle destinations will face with return of leisure and group travel.
    Organizations like Visit Walla Walla “have the ability – and the credibility – to assume a leadership position with regard to traveler reassurance, and according to research are second only to ‘friends or relatives’ when it comes to who travelers trust to provide them with the information they need to travel safely right now,” Yax said.
    “In the case of Visit Walla Walla, the Peace of Mind Pledge brings together partners from all corners of the Valley’s tourism industry, unites them around a critical need, and delivers it from a position of trust and authority that helps mitigate down one of the biggest barriers to travel right now.”
    Under Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased approach to reopening, broad nonessential travel could begin to return late June at the earliest.
    Travel research firm Destination Analysts, which has published findings of its Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report every week since March 13, reports more than 70% of American travelers are excited to return to travel when they feel it is safe, the Peace of Mind Pledge announcement said.
    “There’s no question that consumers will be making their travel decisions in the coming months based in part on the safety of a destination, whether real or perceived,” Yax said. “Eventually I believe programs like this will become the rule rather than the exception, but right now Visit Walla Walla is one of the few destinations I am aware of that is doing so. That says a lot about the community, and the individuals and businesses who rely so heavily on tourism.”
    Walla Walla is well-positioned for recovery in that it’s home to wide-open spaces and driving distance from major markets where weekend getaways are more likely to be part of initial travel plans for visitors than longer vacations.
    “This is what our travelers are going to want,” Luthi said. “We want people to stop wishing and start traveling.”
    For more information on the program, visit wallawalla.org/peace.
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