As the vaccine rollout continues and the end of the pandemic starts to feel like it’s within reach, destinations around the world are cautiously rolling back restrictions and getting ready to welcome visitors back. And travelers are eager to return. According to the U.S. Travel Association, 81% of travelers have tentative travel plans within the next six months — the highest since March 2020.
But this new era of travel is going to look a lot different than it did pre-pandemic. Today’s travelers are savvier about health and safety during every aspect of their trip, from their method of travel to choosing a destination. That means your DMO has to be actively communicating with your audience to show, not just tell, travelers what your destination is doing to keep them safe.
Get the right imagery
Your old photography might not cut it in this new travel landscape. Using photos of big crowds, packed attractions, and maskless groups won’t go far in reassuring your visitors that your destination is following the latest safety measures. Instead, invest in new photography that reflects our changed reality. You can leverage these photos for social media, print guides, your website, and more.
Here are some photo opportunities your destination might be missing:
- Masked people: Images of people wearing face coverings shows that your destination is honoring the national mask mandate. New York City’s CVB does a good job of incorporating this type of photography throughout their site, which reinforces their #MaskUpNYC campaign.
- Less crowds: While crowded festival shots look like a ton of fun, they can feel jaring and out-of-touch with the current environment. Instead, opt for photos with wide open spaces and less people.
- Outdoors: Time to tap into your destination’s outdoorsy side. The great outdoors has become synonymous with safety, so imagery of parks and gardens, restaurant patios, and other outdoor spaces will serve you well.
- New safety measures: Sharing photos of new safety practices, like people using contactless entry, plexiglass barriers, and new socially distant layouts, will help people better visualize the new protocols at your destinations.
Walk them through the experience
For many people, it’s been more than a year since they took a trip, set foot on a plane, or even visited a leisure destination. It’s been such a long time that it’s hard to imagine what it will be like traveling in the “new normal” — and that can feel overwhelming.
One way to ease anxious travelers’ worries is by walking them through the experience virtually. You can use augmented reality, virtual reality, or even video to take viewers step by step through your destination as if they were already there.
Not only will it make the idea of traveling less intimidating, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to showcase your destination’s latest safety protocols. Make sure to highlight social distancing practices, health and sanitation, and other best practices that will show viewers what the experience will be like and help put them at ease.
For example, Choose Chicago’s Health Meetings initiative includes a virtual experience that walks the user through the meeting attendee experience, from the airport through the convention center.
Share health and safety practices
Today’s health-savvy travelers are going to want to know exactly what your destination is doing to mitigate the risks of COVID-19.
- Create a page with details of local industry standards. Each destination has different best practices and guidelines, and COVID measures can vary widely even within the same state. Make it easy for your users by putting all the relevant information, from dining to airport travel to hotels, all on one page. Include all local regulations and then make sure the page is easy to find, whether that’s by adding it to your homepage or the main navigation of your site. You can even share it on social and pin it to your channels.
- Use visual cues. Simple symbols and iconography are a great way to convey safety information, without making your audience read an entire manifesto. Most people are familiar with the common types of safety measures (like wearing a mask or increased social distancing) so these quick at-a-glance markers should be easy to recognize. Las Vegas does a good job of doing this, and their icons even fit within their existing visual identity.
Make it easy to get to you
You’ve probably been creating plenty of content for your local audience, but it’s time to start welcoming back regional and national visitors.
As travel begins to ramp up, people are going to want to know about any local and national travel guidelines. Do they need a COVID-19 test? Will they have to quarantine upon arrival? There’s a lot of different information and rumors floating around about travel. You can be the authoritative source that users turn to when they need definitive answers.
The best way to do this is by creating one streamlined content experience that will help remove any roadblocks for your potential travelers. Make sure to include different types of travel (trains, planes, automobiles, etc.) that are most relevant to your destination.
You should also include guidance for different types of travelers (regional, national, and international). While international travel might seem far off, you’ll want to be ready for when the first wave of travelers takes off.
Another tip: make sure you’re providing actionable information. So if a traveler needs to get a COVID test upon arrival, make sure you’re telling them where to go. This could be as simple as a link to testing sites.
Leverage regional partners
As travel resumes, your audience is going to want to know more about what’s open at your destination — and in the surrounding area. In particular, national travelers might want to extend their stay with day trips around your region. But since restrictions and reopening plans can vary widely throughout an area, it can be tricky for potential visitors to navigate such a complex travel landscape.
Reach out to other DMOs and CVBs in your area and see how you can work together to promote your region as a whole. This type of integrated campaign presents tons of opportunities: you can present a united front to travelers, create a common place to share reopening information, and share inspiration and ideas that may encourage visitors to extend their trips.
For example, we recently launched our “The Only Thing Missing Is You” program co-op to bolster the brand of the broader Chicagoland market as reopening efforts evolve across the 9 participating DMOs. You can learn more about this program here.