Dave Merring is vice president of Shipyard, a destination marketing agency. He has been involved in building several high-profile tourism brands, including resorts, municipalities, states and island nations.
When an economic downturn and a possible recession are on the horizon, travel and tourism marketers reflexively turn to two diametrically opposed schools of thought: the glass half full and the glass half empty.
A glass-half-full approach may seem counterintuitive now. Consumers are questioning whether travel is worth the effort and expense in the current economic and transportation environments: JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists. are predicting an 85% chance of a recession and we are seeing high gas prices and inflation along with a pilot shortage. and other aviation operational failures that are leading to unprecedented levels of flight delays and cancellations.
Although many travel marketers may feel the urge to limit efforts during the economic downturn, experience has shown that it pays to be optimistic, especially now. Traders who retreat, seeing the glass as half empty, often lose market share and suffer a rougher and longer recovery.
In fact, our current climate is an opportunity to gain share and perhaps even add to the bottom line. Seasoned and successful travel traders — those who learned to stay the course in past downturns — are seeing the glass as half full, and their attitudes are backed up by data and case studies.
Look no further than the pandemic, which upended the entire dynamic of travel. As the crisis unfolded in 2020 and lockdowns took place, social gatherings were canceled and our ability to move freely was suspended indefinitely.
The view was not pretty.
The inability to travel and the lack of human connection affected our happiness, but it also led to a greater awareness of the benefits of travel and left consumers itching to experience it again. Those with a glass-half-full view saw opportunities created within the pandemic.
Since the country reopened, travel demand has increased. By July of this year, travel-related spending had recovered roughly 80% of its pre-pandemic level. But those who are benefiting most now began their work during the darkest days of the pandemic.
Case Study: San Diego Tourism Authority
The San Diego Tourism Authority (STDA), a longtime client of my marketing firm, Shipyard, adopted a glass-half-full position at the start of the pandemic and has reaped the rewards ever since.
Instead of pulling back, the SDTA invested quickly and significantly within a week of lifting travel restrictions in February 2021.
As a result, San Diego became the top hotel market on the West Coast in terms of occupancy, and the city claimed the No. 1 in market share for the first time.
This early success was vital to getting San Diego’s tourism industry back on its feet, and it remains a top travel destination in 2022.
Marketers like SDTA, who lean with a glass-half-full mentality and continue to build desire for their unique experiences, are more likely to win. And not only in the short term, but also in the long term.
Here are three proactive strategies and examples to help travel marketers stay in a strong position regardless of economic conditions.
1) rethink your messages and what you’re focused on: When the pandemic limited travel, STDA implemented a “Stay Diego” campaign to drive hotel stays and encourage San Diegans to support the local economy by promoting unique offers and promotions available only to them.
Consumers were encouraged to stay midweek through an “Oil Week!” campaign, taking advantage of the unique opportunity that consumers can go home or work from virtually anywhere. An opportunity to celebrate the weekdays from the luxury of a San Diego hotel with unique offers and promotions stimulated midweek hotel bookings at a time when they were most needed.
Even if we eventually move into a recession, consumers’ commitment and desire to maintain a deep, meaningful and quality travel experience is likely to remain. However, many travel brands will feel the need to save. There are many different motivations for traveling, as the SDTA showed, and experimenting with a variety of messages will help drive different decisions.
More Forums from Travel Weekly
• Jenn Lee: It’s time we all breathed a little easier. The journey is back.
• Frank Belzer: What Google, analytics can’t tell you
• Helen Coiro: Cruise lines, please stay on course on Covid rules
2) Remember Remember that branding is fundamentally about differentiation: What makes your brand unique doesn’t stop in tough times, and staying on message during an economic downturn when others are pulling back is a great opportunity to shine a light on the rational and functional attributes of your brand. your brand and to avoid commoditization. By staying true to your best, most authentic brand self, you can more effectively differentiate yourself with relevance, giving your audience clear reasons to stay loyal.
SDTA let those ready to travel know that San Diego was open, safe and looking forward to them. They didn’t hesitate to communicate it loud and clear. They stayed true to their established and well-known brand positioning, bringing creative nuances to a platform around the theme “Happiness is calling you back.”
Those who understand this and stick to it win in the long run. Trying to buy shares later is a much more expensive and difficult challenge.
3) Redistribution where and how to invest: To boost travel during the pandemic, SDTA continued to invest, putting $12.6 million toward key nearby volume markets: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix and others in the western region. The campaign leveraged awareness channels (TV and billboards) and targeted digital media to capture active travel planners.
Those who continue to invest or increase their investment are buying stocks in the future. It’s up to marketers to use data and be creative with budgeting and prioritization. This may involve a deliberate shift to more cost-effective and efficient tactics (such as local markets). He keeps the message going while investing in new areas that generate the fastest return.
The payoff could be significant: In 2021, the average daily hotel rate in San Diego was $55 more than in 2019 and ultimately fueled over $1 billion in hotel lodging revenue generated through July 2021.
Data and lessons from the pandemic suggest that seeing the glass as half full and rolling through tough economic times can prove successful in the long and short term.