With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming available to citizens around the world, more international destinations are opening their borders to tourists. This is good news for travelers who have been stuck at home, as well as for destinations that rely on tourism for their economy. But the pandemic still isn’t over, and as such, destinations must be mindful of how to market travel to would-be tourists.
For some American travelers, COVID-19 safety is still a major concern, with variants continually being discovered, it’s on top of mind of many travelers. With this, marketing your destination to them must be handled with a degree of caution. Reassuring tourists of the safety measures not only your property, but also of your destination is a good starting point. Whether the requirements are quarantine upon arrival, vaccine or booster verification, or health checks, tourists want to know there are careful screening measures in place. In many countries, they have instituted both a quarantine period for travelers and their own safety protocols for businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and taxi cabs.
Track the virus & vaccine both ways
It is also important to know what is going on in terms of COVID cases in the destination you are marketing. If vaccine numbers are up and cases are down, this will be a big selling point to tourists. However if the virus is still not under control despite the borders being open, this could put your customers at risk, as well as your reputation. Also, your safety measures could be a make or break situation for potential visitors. If your would-be guests do not want to follow recommended safety measures, they will be less likely to visit your destination.
You should also keep in mind the specific rules of the destination as it pertains to American travelers. Does your destination allow US citizens to visit ? Are there specific requirements or allowances that US travelers must meet in order to visit? Knowing this information in advance and including it in your marketing will help would-be travelers save time and frustration.
Here in the United States, more and more Americans are getting vaccinated and receiving their boosters each day, and COVID cases are decreasing in some areas. Unfortunately, however, there are still states with pockets of increases. As a result, some Americans are still wary of traveling, especially on airplanes or anywhere they may have to sit in a confined space for long periods of time. A recent survey by Destination Analysts found that automobile trips are still the preferred way to travel among most Americans. Furthermore, some Americans are also wary of mask-wearing and the COVID vaccine, and may be reluctant to travel if either of these are required to visit your destination. It may be difficult to persuade these individuals to travel to your location if they feel as though their personal freedoms are being infringed upon by being asked to wear a mask or prove they’ve had a vaccination.
Navigating the great divide
The important thing to remember about Americans is that there is a sizable divide between those who are for and those who are against the COVID vaccination, and even those who believe the virus is as serious as it truly is. Marketing to those who do not see the severity of the illness must be somewhat different than it should be to those who do. If you have very stringent guidelines for mask wearing and vaccinations, this can be played up to those who agree with these measures, and if you are more relaxed about restrictions, this can be marketed to those who are ready to start traveling again.
Showcase diversity & inclusion
Another area to consider when marketing international destinations to US travelers is ethnic diversity. The United States is made up of a very diverse mix of travelers, and as such appealing to as many groups of people as possible will only benefit your campaign. Recent successful campaigns have had International tourism boards speaking to tourists in different languages, as Clarice Modeste-Curwen, Grenada’s Minister of Tourism did in a series of travel ads. By using different languages and showing people of different cultures and ethnicities, tourists feel more comfortable visiting somewhere new.
Reports have also shown that some tourists are interested in more diverse experiences within their chosen destination. International tourists want to experience new cultures and visit places which are off the beaten path, not necessarily the typical tourist spots. Marketing something new, like elephant sanctuaries or volunteer opportunities can reach audiences who want to feel like they made a true connection with the culture of their destination.
No matter who your target audience is, remember that Americans themselves are a diverse group of people whose opinions and desires vary widely when it comes to travel experiences and the prevention of COVID-19. To effectively market your destination will require a delicate balance of compassion, authenticity, and authority.
Marc Liu is Co-Founder of ELMNTL (elmntl.co), visit https://elmntl.co/ an integrated marketing and communications agency serving tourism and hospitality clients around the world. With offices in New York, Dallas, Manila and São Paulo, ELMNTL has partnered with destinations such as Thailand and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as hotel brands such as Selina Hotels, Coury Hospitality and The Marmara.