Just before the launch last week of National Travel and Tourism Week, a panel of senior DMO officials got together as a part of Connect Travel’s Staying Connected Series of webinars to discuss what the travel and tourism industry could do to inspire Americans to travel in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world. Some 250 attended the virtual roundtable discussion.
Panelists included: Gathan Borden, vice president of marketing, VisitLEX; Melissa Gogle, vice president of marketing, tourism & communications, Visit Phoenix;
Wes Rhea, CEO, Visit Stockton; Becca Smith, senior director of marketing and events, Connect Travel; and Josh Collins, director of destination activations and marketing, Streetsense, who moderated the session.
Key Takeaways Included the Following:
—Work with and engage others—locals and influencers—to help them increase the awareness of tourism’s importance and value to your community.
—While restaurants are an integral part of the tourism infrastructure, we can do more to emphasize how important a part of the travel and tourism industry locally.
“We know that restaurants are heavily impacted but do we understand how much of our restaurant spending locally comes from visitors and not just locals,” Wes Rhea said, adding “we may even some of that when restaurants reopen, they may not be as busy as they usually are, because it’s not only locals that support them.”
—Turn challenges into opportunities tin order to help those industry workers who are victims of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, or because of other traumatic events. In many communities, DMOs are playing a key role in providing food and/or meals to affected families—by contributing food, money, time, their kitchens or expertise to such efforts.
Gathan Borden told attendees that VisitLex in Lexington, Kentucky launched such an effort, Josh Collins said that nearly 7,000 meals had been distributed, as well as 2,500 school lunches.
—DMOs, trying making locals a key component of your market path to recovery. That’s what Phoenix is doing. And some others, too.
Explained Melissa Gogle: “I think that will help us as we do go into summer—which is typically our low season—because it is a slower season for our out-of-town visitors, and our resorts have always marketed to locals. Our locals really understand what a vacation means. To them, it’s truly like enjoying a hotel or resort in their own backyard. … We are hoping that locals can help jumpstart things and that, maybe, they’ll be ready to visit local properties before travelers are.”
—Co-op, co-op, co-op! Partner, partner, partner! Many DMOs have had to make staff reductions. And nearly every DMO has had, or will have, their funding reduced for the current and upcoming fiscal year, which starts on July 1st. Co-operative marketing projects—with locals, with associations, with in-state and out-of-state programs—and partnership activities will help leverage limited marketing budgets. Share your business and industry contacts with small businesses. Traditionally, small tourism businesses or tourism-dependent businesses haven’t had access to the research and marketing intelligence that DMOs have. DMOs will likely share this information.
—Shift to using virtual information and meeting tools to reach out and communicate with visitors and stakeholders. Already, some DMOs are replacing the traditional Visitors Guide, which is usually laden with ads, and which are handled and touched by many people in most instances, with online tools.
VisitLex two years ago shifted its guide from its role as a business guide to one that is more of an inspiration guide—a product heavy on imagery, but without ads, Gathan Borden told webinar attendees. And it’s possible, he said, that his organization might eliminate the guide altogether. But right now, there is too much uncertainty over the future …”
To see and hear the recording of the webinar, click here.