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'Respond, reset, restart... recover?' Tourism marketers map out reopening campaigns

The Drum 01 Jul 2020 11:00
Marketers from Las Vegas to Scotland are plotting their safe reopening campaigns

Grounding non-essential travel to a halt, the tourism sector has been dealt a bad hand by the Covid-19 outbreak. Now as governments lessen restrictions, travel brands are hastily putting plans in place for the safe return of tourists. But with the potential of a second wave plausible, how can the tourism industry get from A to B when the destination is still unknown?

“It quickly took us by surprise,” remembers Justin Reid, director of destination marketing, EMEA at Tripadvisor. “I remember sitting in a meeting with the Irish Tourist Board in mid to late February, discussing what Brexit was going to mean for us. Someone brought up Covid-19 but we thought it would be fine. No one could have expected how devastating it was doing to be.

“Two days later, we hear Italy has closed its borders. And things have sort of cascaded down so quickly."

After a record year in 2019, Vicki Miller, director of marketing at VisitScotland, says the outbreak has been devastating. Building on a 2018 which saw growth in European travel to Scotland, 2019 brought unprecedented numbers of people from North America, as well as the UK domestic market.

Similarly Fletch Brunelle, vice president of marketing at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA), says it was on record pace prior to the Covid-19 shutdown. Only in December, McCarran International Airport celebrated its 50 millionth passenger in its 71-year history. And to compare year-on-year, Las Vegas welcomed 3.5 million visitors in April 2019. In 2020, just 107,000 arrived, and they weren’t holidaymakers.

Since the Las Vegas strip reopened in June for the first time since March, workers from Harrah’s and MGM Grand have sued casinos over Covid-19 safety concerns, highlighting the need for casino owners to ensure that both their visitors and staff feel safe.

“For the first phase on 17 March, we put out a piece called ‘Only You’, to say Las Vegas is looking forward to seeing you back. But we need to make sure that you're safe. The only thing that matters is you,” Brunelle recalls.

With a potential start date of 15 July, Miller says VisitScotland will be following a similar phased of activity approach to Las Vegas - respond, reset, restart and then recover.

Now a date has been given, the team is working on the ‘restart’ phase, where it will promote day trips and short overnight stays, which it will start to ramp that up in Scotland.

“What happens going forward will be very interesting. A lot of the surveys show that people are looking more towards the outdoors and areas of relaxation."

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LVCVABrunelleScotlandLas VegasJustin Reid
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