There is no doubt that COVID has changed the way humans interact with travel.
Research and insights globally and in Australia, talk of the many behavioural changes that the industry anticipated (at the start of the COVID19 outbreak) and are now experiencing, as we recover and start to live in our COVIDNormal.
Commentators talk of the following overarching characteristics of our new visitors, as they plan and book their travel into the future:
- People will travel with social distancing and health safety measures in place (and expect the industry to support them with this too)
- People want to engage in less crowded spaces, and choose destinations that support them to achieve their travel motivations
- People will want booking flexibility given the uncertainty around future restrictions of movement
Other considerations that may play a role in changed travel behaviour include:
- Changes in employment status (and subsequent ability to finance travel)
- Changes in work environment (more people working from home, which has increased the opportunity for more people to travel nomadically and work at the same time)
Data specific to Australia was recently shared at last weeks Australian Regional Tourism Convention, where Dr Gabby Walters, a Researcher at the University of Queensland shared some interesting stats on how Australian’s travel planning behaviour has changed over the time of the COVID crisis (undertaking two surveys, one in April, and again to the same source in August 2020, covering 688 respondents).
Some key highlights from this data included:
- 60% plan to travel, or travel when they were able
- 30% will wait 12 months to travel
- Only 12% claimed to be in no financial position to travel
- Baby Boomers are less likely to delay their travel plans
- Coastal destinations (51%) and regional destinations (34%) are on the immediate bucket list for Australian Residents
- 65% trust the tourism industry to keep them safe
- #1 motivation for people to travel is to support the tourism industry
Below I share some ways which destinations can synthesise this data into some practical actions that leverage some of these new behaviours to drive demand from your most profitable segments.
Update your Visitor Personas and their Travel Purchase Journey
Re-evaluating your visitor personas is your first critical step in understanding where the opportunities lie for your destinations with the changes in their behaviour.
Specifically, look at the following:
- How have their motivations changed? Are they still looking for the same outcomes from their holiday now, in comparison to what they used to want? Or have their priorities in motivations changed? Knowing this will help guide how you position your destination which translates to the type of content you create.
- How do they access their information now? McKinsey and Co highlighted in their recent research that 75% of people using digital channels for the first time, will continue to use them when things return to normal. This means destinations need to think about any changed touchpoints for their visitor personas, and ensure those touchpoints are optimised.
- Understand the travel limitations for your Personas who are located internationally and interstate. Personas aren’t typically location dependent given that people of all ages, genders and locations travel for the same motivations and/or hae similar challenges. But in COVIDtimes, you will need slightly nuanced messaging and content for your Personas who can’t physically travel to your destination. As an example,
- Understanding the emotional state of our Personas at any given time will also need to be considered. Destination Think! highlighted in a presentation back in March 2020 that each individual’s experience through COVID is different. Where, depending on their personal experiences, they could be grieving, anxious, stressed, bored, or optimistic (see below image from their presentation). So it’s important that you adjust your understanding of your key personas emotional state, which will help you to ensure your messaging is nuanced to support them throughout their travel purchase journey.
2. Bring your Persona’s travel motivations to the forefront of your Messaging
Typically, motivations for travel are very much about the individual or the group who are planning the travel – what they want out of their time away from home base.
The image below is a great round-up of some of the key overarching motivations as to why people travel (not just for the adventure travel segment), with the majority of people wanting to feel transformed.
Data presented by Tourism Australia at the Australian Regional Tourism Convention highlighted that Roadtrips to Regional areas, and specifically Food and Wine and Outdoor Activities (getting a nature fix) is high on the agenda of Australian’s planning their next trip (as per the below image).
So when it comes to marketing your destination, think about how you can:
- Share the ‘benefits’ of what your visitors will feel when they experience your destination. All to often, we tell our potential visitors about all the great ‘experiences’ they can have, but we don’t sell the ‘benefits’ enough of those experiences.
- Elevate and lead with your Roadtrip, Nature Based and Food and Wine Content across your Always On communications (via social, enews, website) as these are key demand drivers for the domestic market. I share some ways you can update your destination website for this content in another article >
- Work with relevant stakeholders in your destination to develop new marketable roadtrips/journeys that you can share as blog articles on your website. People love itineraries. They are super time savers, and takes the stress out of decision making.
- Focus your content on themes around ‘re-connection’ and ‘transformation’ and other motivations that you’ve highlighted in the update to your personas. Tourism Australia shared this great visitor content on Instagram, centering their messaging around nature and reconnection.
- The #1 motivation for Australians planning holidays is to support the tourism industry, so think of ways you can encourage your visitors to support the local community – whether it is sharing details of your Shop Local campaigns and digital platforms, or by creating numerous multi-day itineraries to drive length of stay and yield per visitor. Snowy Valley has a great example of sharing ways visitors can support their local community on their destination website below.
3. Reiterate Safety Messages
This virus isn’t going anywhere soon, so it’s going to be really important that destinations reassure future visitors of their commitment to the long-haul, especially as it relates to keeping their visitors and community healthy and safe.
Many destinations are already doing this by having a notice on their websites (just like Tenterfield has on their website below), but these messages can also be subtly shared through social media, by sharing images of scenes and experiences that show open-spaces, and COVIDsafe experiences (just like Visit Adelaide Hills Social Post below).