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Mission Control / Travel

The New Basics: Travel Marketing During Covid-19

When creating your marketing plan for 2021, consider the factors dictating travel decisions this year — and how DMOs are pivoting to address new traveler behaviors.

Low Risk Travel

By Katie Bridges

If yours is like most destination marketing organizations, the plans you carefully put in place at the beginning of 2020 are all but irrelevant now. Where you might have been creating marketing plans targeted at international travelers, meeting planners and families, you’re now navigating an uncertain situation that’s changing by the week.

But as we’ve looked to past trends — and to what researchers have discovered as other markets have reopened — we’ve been able to nail down a few guiding principles DMOs can use to shift and reshape their efforts we head into 2021.

1. Travelers are making last-minute decisions.

Travelers are putting two specific concerns top of mind: First, that the destination they choose has something to offer them given the current state of affairs. Second, that if the destination doesn’t provide the experience they had hoped, the trip won’t break the bank. Essentially, they’ll be looking to destinations that they consider low-risk, both in terms of agenda and budget — and they’ll likely be doing so at the last minute, either as a result of lingering fears or of a “cooped up” feeling that could lead to impulsive getaways.

Essentially, travelers will be looking to destinations that they consider low-risk, both in terms of agenda and budget — and they’ll likely be doing so at the last minute.

What DMOs should be doing now:

Tout your area’s low-risk attrac­tions, including outdoor areas that are always open. Create new content that takes the guesswork out of what’s available — a road-trip itinerary highlighting local parks, a roundup of picnic spots with the best views, hiking-trail guides, etc.

2. Families with virtual learners are looking for educational opportunities.

Having students at home is hard — for everyone involved. The upside? Flexibility! To enrich their kiddos’ learning experiences, many parents are looking for ways to bring lessons to life outside of the house (and off the Chromebook).

What DMOs should be doing now:

Make an appeal to these parents by sharing your destination’s educational attractions — arts and cultural organizations, historic spots, natural wonders and more. Create an ideal itinerary that these “teachers” could use to school their kids on the go

3. Visitors want assurances that their trips will be safe and flexible.

After months of instability and uncertainty, travelers are entering future plans with trepidation. How will I know that the destination is truly safe to visit? What will I do if an outbreak occurs before my trip? More than ever, its essential to gauge travelers’ needs and stand ready to address their fears.

What DMOs should be doing now:

Reach out to your audience via survey to determine what is most important to them as they begin to plan their next trips. Are they concerned about crowd management? Accommodation cleanliness? Share this data with your local partners, being sure that all are united in a plan to shape and share cohesive messaging.

4. Many travelers want to visit a familiar place.

With so much uncertainty, travelers want to minimize risk and possible disappointment in visiting a new destination. Instead of novelty, nostalgia and experience are driving decision-making.

What DMOs should be doing now:

While your previous efforts might have tried to entice travelers who were farther afield, make sure that you continue to focus on drive-market visitors. Because these people might be repeat visitors, highlight places that might be a bit more off the beaten path, so that they know there’s always something new to discover in your destination.

Katie Bridges Overlay Blue
Katie Bridges Senior Editor

Katie has almost a decade of editorial experience, spending most of those years as an editor at regional magazines. A Georgetown University grad, she helps guide digital and print content programs from concept to completion for C/A clients such as Vanderbilt Health, Niagara Falls USA and Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation. She has written for Garden & Gun, Washingtonian and Arkansas Life, among others.

The mother of two young girls, Katie can most often be found on a hiking trail with her family (Sedona’s a favorite). She’s a Southerner through and through, and the only member of the C/A team who uses the word “y’all” with abandon.

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