What Can Tourist Boards Do During The COVID-19 Crisis?

Tourist boards face their toughest destination marketing challenge

Written by Lemongrass Marketing on 23rd Mar 2020

The introduction of the recent travel restrictions by governments to tackle the COVID-19 situation has left Tourist Boards and DMOs facing one of their toughest challenges when promoting their destinations. There have been a variety of responses across the travel industry and so we have compiled some of our top tips to help Tourist Boards best communicate to the public, plan their content and look forward to the future of travel.

1. Clear and current communication on the website

People now more than ever are seeking information on the safety of travel, both locally and internationally. With the additional travel restrictions, travellers are looking for answers online to all of their travel questions and concerns on whether it is safe to travel.

Recent data provided by Google’s Insight team has shown that search queries relating to Coronavirus have reached an all-time high, and similarly search terms for ‘is it safe to travel to’ have increased significantly in recent weeks.

It is crucial that tourist boards provide useful information and up to date travel advice on their website to help best inform locals and those looking to travel to the destination, keep up to date with the relevant government guidelines.

Destinations such as Canada and the Vienna Tourist Board have been amongst some the first to set up dedicated pages on their websites, sharing emergency hotline information, transport updates, how to stay safe and any potential travel restrictions.

Having a dedicated page on the tourist board website which can be updated regularly with the latest information will allow the website to score more highly with Google search for those keywords and also enhance brand trust with those looking to eventually travel to the destination. Frequently Asked Question pages like the ones set up by Tourism Australia, are also a good way of directly answering any questions that your audience may have.

gondolas in a venice canal

2. Inspiring and informative content on social channels

Social media has become a key source of information for users and is one of the first places people go to for answers. Therefore it is an important channel of communication for tourist boards. Due to the real-time and fast sharing nature of channels such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, it is a helpful place for tourist boards to share any breaking news and updates of COVID-19 as the situation unfolds.

Content about COVID-19 on social media should be clear and leave no room for uncertainty. Visit Faroe Islands have taken a clear stand with their messaging on social media by updating their Instagram biography to let people know that the Faroe Islands are closed and reiterating this message on Instagram posts and tweets.

With the current levels of uncertainty and worry, people are looking to be comforted and content should take on a reassuring and sympathetic tone of voice. Visit Las Vegas produced a simple yet effective video for social media that perfectly demonstrates how tourist boards can achieve this. The #OnlyYou video’s message is that health comes first and Las Vegas will be there to entertain once it safe again.

people taking photos of the mona lisa with smartphones

3. The Virtual Consumer Experience

One emerging consumer trend which is grabbing substantial attention in the current travel climate is the virtual consumer experience. Digital experiences which can be used as platforms for status-accruing experiences.

With many destinations on lockdown and visitor attractions closing their doors, in the short-term there has been a growth in media requests for attractions that people can visit virtually, through methods such as videos, or live cams.

Google Arts & Culture teamed up with thousands of museums and galleries worldwide to bring everyone online exhibitions and virtual tours of some of the most famous museums around the world. People are now able to leisurely ‘walk through’ New York’s Guggenheim Museum or even admire Van Gogh’s art work in Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum, from the comfort of their sofas.

Live cameras also are a great option to experience attractions and San Diego Zoo have numerous online camera links on their website which help encourage visits to their website and potential future visitors to the zoo.

If tourist boards have any experiences or attractions that can be viewed virtually, or if there is the ability to create content that could create this illusion, this is a great strategy to promote the offering of the destination and encourage future visits. A great example of this is the Vienna Tourist Board who have a dedicated page on their website promoting virtual experiences in the city.

woman cycling in the countryside with smart glasses

4. Staycation Landing Pages 

Destinations which are not currently in lockdown, or are coming towards the final stages of lockdown, would benefit from a page on the tourist board website which promotes activities that locals, or those within close proximity distance from the destination, can enjoy.

This staycation planning content will appeal to those looking for activities, attractions or experiences nearby to them that they can enjoy. The content can always be repurposed in the future to travellers from further afield once travel restrictions are removed, especially as a key travel topic of interest has always been ‘how to experience a city like a local’.

Looking at locally focused content could also be a good way to share any community programmes or volunteering initiatives that the tourist board is taking part in during these challenging times. This is a great way to encourage local participation where possible and also help build brand relationships with future travellers.

boat in a fjord

5. Looking Forward

Despite it being important to share regular updates on the current COVID-19 situation, people are still seeking positive content that allows them to escape the current travel reality and focus on future trips and holidays they would like to book.

This is a great time for content creation for videos and blog posts that tap into the dream phase of the customer journey, hero content set to inspire future bookings. The content will need to be sensitive to the fact that people may not be able to visit right now due to travel restrictions, but it could act as a virtual tour of the destination or attraction that is being promoted.

Once the situation stabilises and travel restrictions are removed, people will be looking to travel again. When they do start to enquire about holidays, they will try to source the best travel deals available. Having a series of packages in collaboration with hotels, restaurants and attractions and making these easily accessible through the website will be the best way to stand out when that time comes.

Many publications, both print and online, are still sharing articles and stories on destinations which are not yet accessible due to restrictions, as a means to inspire readers. As Lisa Minot, Travel Editor at The Sun told us: “the appetite for travel is still there, looking forward is the key. This is going to end and people will travel again.”

hand holding small globe with mountain landscape beyond

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We’re Lemongrass Marketing – we help travel brands grow by delivering PR and content strategies based on digital audience insights. Let’s talk about your next PR, Digital PR and content campaign. Message Mirjam@lemongrassmarketing.com or call +44 (0)1865 237 990.