Skift Take

The summer travel season is showing signs of opening up, but travelers are right to be wary and cautious. Tourism marketers are coming up with ways to meet travelers (and their concerns) where they are.

The signs are starting to show that a summer tourism season may exist, albeit a tepid one. In China, younger travelers are increasingly venturing out. Europe has released its health and safety guidelines and has tentatively planned to open some borders. Destinations like Iceland and Los Cabos are planning to open to the world in mid-June.

Now, after months of more or less going dark — or telling people to stay home in various creative ways — tourism marketers find themselves with quite a task on their  hands. Destinations need tourism dollars to make up for unprecedented losses, but tourists are rightly wary of where they will choose to go on vacation this summer, if at all. With all that in mind, a few strategies are emerging to convince travelers that they should venture out when the time is right.

Perhaps the hardest sell so far comes from Sicily, which is luring visitors with cold, hard cash. The regional government will be offering subsidized holidays, saying on its website that €75 million ($80 million) has been set aside for such vouchers “to be distributed, for promotional purposes, to tourists, once the health emergency has ceased.”

Sicily’s tourist board director Manlio Messina told a local news source that guests who come to stay for six nights will have two free nights comped, while guests that come for for three days will get one free night. The tourism board did not respond to Skift’s request for comment.

Wide Open Spaces

There are far more subtle ways to convince guests to come, though. One you may see more of is the promise of wide open spaces. Provincetown, Massachusetts — normally known for its large-scale events, bustling street life and LGBTQ nightlife — is marketing a “quieter and gentler” Provincetown this year, “time of nostalgia, of small crowds and big memories,” according to a marketing memo.

Anthony Fuccillo, director of tourism there, told Skift that with the cancellation of virtually all mass events this summer, the tourism board will lean into promoting a different kind of experience when the time is right to reopen, one that is dominated by outdoor offerings.

“It will be like 25 years ago, when people would come to Provincetown just to enjoy the dunes and the beaches and riding the bike trails” Fuccillo said. “In a different way, the density of the crowd won’t be here. It will still be smaller crowds. People will have a wonderful time and create some great memories … Although I do picture it with people wearing masks, which is different.”

But marketing small crowds is a little counterintuitive; it runs the risk of attracting hoards of like-minded cautious travelers who all want to keep their distance — from each other. With that in mind, Provincetown is also taking some steps to ensure that the town does, in fact, remain amenable to social distancing. In addition to the cancellation of events and the likely closure of nightlife and packed bars, the city is considering shutting some main roads to vehicle traffic at certain hours to give visitors more space to spread out. Fuccillo added that the town’s beaches are large enough that social distancing naturally happens even in busy years.

Other campaigns echo this take-your-isolation-outdoors message. The state of Wyoming released a video campaign in late March with glittering images of deserted outdoor vistas and the copy: “We’ve all been feeling a little empty and alone … but maybe a little more emptiness is what we need.” It was accompanied by the hashtag #WYresponsibly.

Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness

A different take to the emptiness approach is heralding a destination’s commitment to cleanliness. Puerto Rico’s government-owned corporation for tourism has created a 30-page safety and hygiene protocol — including screening all arrivals — that all tourism businesses will be required to adhere to once the island reopens.

It’s one of the more proactive and diligent steps taken by a destination so far, going even further than the U.S. Travel Association’s industry-wide guidelines, which maxed out at 10 pages. The island’s destination marketer, Discover Puerto Rico, has the job of communicating that protocol to travelers in a way that’s confidence-building, but not overwhelming or too in the weeds.

“You won’t see us running TV spots that are talking about hand sanitization when it comes to our actual marketing,” Leah Chandler, Discover Puerto Rico’s CMO, said. “We’re seeing glimpses of what post-Covid travel is shaping up to be. We’re certainly going to take advantage of what some of these trends that are emerging — focusing on open air spaces, nature-focused products and of course the enhanced health and sanitation protocols. It’s a two pronged approach: it’s inspiration and it’s confidence.”

Chandler explained that a new campaign that will debut when Puerto Rico announces an opening date will focus on the destination’s promise to visitors, explaining that visitor health and safety is the island’s highest priority. These assets will point viewers to a link where they can find out more about Puerto Rico’s protocols, but details on hygiene won’t be front and center.

“We know there is a continuum of visitors. There’s going to be visitors who just want to take a vacation and get away,” Chandler said. “And then on the other end of the continuum, there’s people who want to read the 30 page document, they want to know every single detail about what measures are going to be put in place at the car rental, in the Uber, at the restaurant, in the casinos, and if they want that we’ll have that for them as well.”

Drive on By

Whatever approach destinations take, there is also the likelihood they may see a different composition of visitors this year. As traveler sentiment surveys have shown, there is a marked appetite is for extended drive markets and road trips, where travelers can have more control over the process of getting to a destination.

In its tourism marketing, the state of West Virginia is highlighting the fact that nearly  50% of the U.S. population in within a day’s drive of the state. The destination will launch a road-trip themed campaign when appropriate, and has already launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #PlaceIBelongWV ahead of travel’s reopening.

Fuccillo of Provincetown said they are planning for something similar.

“Forty percent of visitors are Massachusetts residents. Even more of those people will be coming this year rather than traveling further away from home they’re gonna stay more local and come by car,” Fuccillo said of Provincetown. “We want to be at the forefront of their minds when they say ‘we’re not going to be going down to Orlando this year to go to Disney so what can we do?’ Oh look Provincetown — let’s go do that because it’ll be propping up in their feed.”


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Tags: coronavirus, puerto rico, tourism, tourism marketing, wyoming

Photo credit: Provincetown, Massachusetts Visit Provincetown

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