The coronavirus crisis has thrown travel marketing departments into disarray as they navigate a world in which travel is stalled indefinitely, borders are being closed and the public is being asked to hunker down.
Marketing experts offer different takes on how brands should react in terms of scaling back and adjusting their message, but most seem to agree that falling off their target market’s radar is not a good option.
Robert Li, director of the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism & Hospitality Research at Temple University, said brands should not shut down completely, but he added that strategies should differ depending on the sector and situation.
“I think destinations cannot simply abandon marketing at this point,” he said. “Right or wrong, you have to keep some kind of communication with your source markets. ... In some cases, it also helps to clarify some of the messages, such as travel bans. Always be genuine and empathetic.”
James Rodriguez, Oceania Cruises’ executive vice president of sales and marketing, said Oceania is scaling back its marketing, but “looking for new and creative ways to connect with our guests and travel advisors via social media and personal messaging.”
“Given the current global environment, brands must stay in sync with the emotions and mindsets of their guests and partners,” Rodriguez said. “This doesn’t necessitate a change in strategy or philosophy but does require us to think differently in our approach in how we consistently communicate the right message at the right time. While our ships may not be at sea at the moment, our guests and travel partners are relying on us to keep them dreaming about their next voyage. And that’s what we intend to do.”
“It allows clients to dream about that vacation, and when they are ready to truly vacation, they have more knowledge about the product,” she said. “No hard sell, just educate.”
The point is to stay top of mind.
“It is important to market yourself during this time frame and not become a hermit,” Freed said. “Staying in front with your clients and prospects is the key to the rebuilding process. The stress that world events are creating for us today will encourage people to take a break and vacation.”
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