Small to Mid-size Tourism Boards and COVID-19 Recovery

Here at Expedia Group Media Solutions, our continued mission is to help support our advertising partners as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis. One of the ways we are doing that is through our COVID-19 webinar series, which everyone is welcome to join.

Our first four webinars shared insights from industry leaders on a variety of topics – from how tourism organizations are navigating the COVID-19 crisis, to how the travel industry is preparing for recovery. All past webinars are available, on-demand, to any travel marketers looking to strengthen their marketing efforts and bolster their recovery.

Recently, we held the fifth installment of our series, “Recovery and Relief: Rebounding Tourism from COVID-19,” in two separate time zone appropriate webinars. Hosted by Monya Mandich, who leads the Expedia Group Media Solutions marketing team, each webinar featured its own panel of leaders from smaller destinations across the globe – from Frankfurt to Palm Springs to Queensland.

Together, they shared insights on how tourism boards and destination marketing organizations (DMOs) around the world are beginning to reopen to travelers, how the industry is gearing up for recovery, and how organizations of all sizes can plan to attract, reassure, and welcome back visitors.

Speakers included:

• Monika Tonkin, Director, Domestic Marketing Operations, Tourism Northern Territory
• Maddison Tanner, Marketing Program Leader, Tourism and Events Queensland
• Rodrigo Esponda, Managing Director, Visit Los Cabos
• Colleen Pace, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau
• Jasmin Bischoff, Marketing Director, Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Below are some of the key themes that our panelists discussed, along with their unique perspectives.

Building Trust + Focus on Cleanliness and Hygiene

One key component to restoring tourism and inspiring travelers is having a clear understanding of how traveler preferences have changed during the COVID-19 crisis.
Marketing program leader for Tourism and Events Queensland (TEQ), Maddison Tanner, spoke to this point, sharing how her organization addressed some of the highest-priority consumer needs, including cleanliness and hygiene, flexibility in making purchase decisions, and the desire to reconnect with friends and family post-lockdown.

One way they are achieving this is via their “Good to Go” campaign, launched in collaboration with Media Solutions. Maddison explained how the DMO’s activity has been in line with the Queensland government’s roadmap to easing restrictions. Following the opening of intrastate borders on June 1, TEQ launched their campaign with the key message of “Queensland, you’re good to go.” The campaign encouraged Queenslanders to get out and “explore their own backyards.”

DMO Recovery Webinar Queensland

She also offered a look inside TEQ’s phased approach to recovery and how their marketing strategy was centered around what consumers were thinking and feeling – and ultimately, what they prioritized most. By tailoring the creative of their ads to ensure relevance for all audiences and addressing consumer needs and priorities, TEQ has been able to keep Queensland top of mind for travel dreamers and travel shoppers. They initially began by targeting intrastate travelers, and as border restrictions begin to ease, they plan on targeting interstate and outbound travelers, and in the future, New Zealand-based travelers and other international markets.

Because traveler sentiment data has revealed that potential visitors have a strong interest in knowing that their destination of choice is taking safety measures, Visit Los Cabos created a campaign in collaboration with Media Solutions centered around health guidelines. Rodrigo Esponda, managing director for Visit Los Cabos, offered a glimpse inside the #LosCabosRules campaign, which drives home key messages such as, “Wear a Mask,” “Connect Remotely,” “Wash Your Hands,” and “Practice Social Distancing.”

Colleen Pace, chief sales and marketing officer for Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau described her DMO’s “Safer Together. Greater Together” Pledge. Launched during the organization’s pre-recovery phase, the commitment addressed traveler sentiment, focusing on how all partners are following local, state, and CDC guidelines.

DMO Recovery webinar Greater Palm Springs

Inspiring Travelers

The director of tourism marketing for Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board, Jasmin Bischoff, shared how her organization’s marketing efforts have evolved during COVID-19 with a focus on engaging domestic travelers.

Post-lockdown, the tourism board faced a challenge: Most travelers were opting for the country rather than the city. They wanted to help encourage travelers to come back to the city. Following the reopening of restaurants, hotels, airports, they began a three-phase approach that reassured travelers with an emphasis on hygiene, while aiming to draw travelers back into the city by first focusing on German travelers, followed by European travelers, and finally, overseas travelers.

Jasmin also offered an in-depth look into some of the campaigns Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board have launched, which position Frankfurt as an attractive destination and cultural metropolis while simultaneously keeping traveler priorities and preferences top of mind.

Colleen outlined Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau’s response and recovery plan. Their strategy began by pausing media and focusing on providing resources and public service announcements, followed by a “pre-recovery” phase which included sharing inspirational messages that tapped into travelers who were already dreaming of their next visit. She also described their current phase — the “Recovery” phase — which entails campaigns focused on welcoming back travelers from drive markets. Finally, they plan to launch a national recovery phase that targets both drive and fly markets beginning January 2021.

Data-Driven Insights

Travel is essential to people, businesses, and the world. While global search data continues to fluctuate, we are seeing green shoots in traveler interest and intent. Two Media Solutions sales leaders, Wendy Olson Killion and Jennifer Andre, shared some of Expedia Group’s latest global search data and encouraged destinations to reach out directly to receive a customized look at the traveler data most relevant to their region.

Rodrigo explored the search data that his DMO has been tracking – noting there was a dramatic drop in searches for Los Cabos early in the pandemic, followed by a very steady recovery. Exit polls show that 60 percent of travelers are booking less than a month out. He also shared the five strategic pillars Visit Los Cabos is launching to help recovery efforts.

These include:

• Marketing campaigns for domestic, international, and local markets
• Communication strategies with an emphasis on safety
• Promotions such as webinars
• New products responding to market trends such as wellness
• A strategic program to help airlines recover

Monika Tonkin, director of domestic marketing operations for Tourism Northern Territory, spoke about her organization’s data-informed recovery efforts. The organization is currently in the “Adapt and Recover” phase, which taps into the “COVID-19-driven desire to experience nature.” Australians are seeking destinations that feel safe – such as wide, open spaces: Travelers looking to experience nature and/or go camping on their next trip have increased by over 4000 percent. This makes the Northern Territory a highly desirable destination. The DMO has used this data to inform their marketing efforts, launching a campaign that taps into travelers’ desire to travel safely, locally, and experience the outdoors.

DMO Recovery Webinar Northern Territory

Above are just some of the topics covered in, ” Recovery and Relief: Rebounding Tourism from COVID-19.” To hear from these experts yourself, we invite you to view the on-demand installments. Check out the full webinar series and join critical conversations on the state of the travel industry during the COVID-19 crisis.