The virus isn't going anywhere come autumn, but there is some hope that the travel industry can stretch the summer travel season into the cooler months.
Summer has traditionally been a time of celebrations: graduations, weddings, and long-awaited vacations where people come together. In other words, the opposite of what people are supposed to do in 2020.
While some people have traveled this summer regardless of the pandemic, the season has still fallen very short for travel companies. For that reason, marketers and destinations are calling for the industry to put forward a coherent message: Welcome to the stretch season, an effort to stoke summer-like demand into the autumn months.
“Early in the pandemic a lot of travel marketers and brands were telling the hope and ‘we’re in this together’ story. We think we’re well beyond that now,” Clayton Reid, CEO of MMGY Global, a travel-focused marketing firm, said. “We actually think we’re at a point where the travel industry now needs to start creating inducement to travel. Being front footed and full throated about you can travel safely.”
MMGY created a stretch season platform that provides a data and research-led perspective on where demand is coming from, as well as campaign and creative materials that travel companies can use to stimulate demand.
To be clear, nothing has changed to make traveling safer in autumn than it has been in summer. If anything, the reopening of tourism across Europe has shown a correlation with opening up travel and surging cases. Furthermore, the cooler temperatures in autumn means one of the clearest ways to avoid the virus — staying outdoors — won’t be as easy. While our understanding of the risks and best mitigations may be better now than they were in May and June, plenty of risk remains.
According to MMGY’s most recent Travel Intentions Pulse survey, conducted at the end of July, 63 percent of respondents were concerned about contracting Covid-19, and 58 percent said the slowdown of the virus’ spread in the U.S. would have the largest impact on their decision to travel in the future. Nevertheless, Reid argues that it’s time for travel companies to “create a consistent narrative for the industry around stretch season so the industry collectively can activate demand together.”
In the UK, there is a similar effort afoot to stimulate domestic demand into the autumn season. Visit Britain will be launching an “Escape the Everyday” campaign in mid-September to encourage people to take a domestic break during autumn and winter to Britain’s cities, countryside, and coastal towns.
Visit Britain notes that many of its major markets — the USA, China, the Gulf and France — are now all subject to quarantines. The need for visitors from domestic sources as well from European nations that are allowed to travel to the UK without quarantine is to help put a dent in the loss to the tourism industry this year. The tourism board forecasts the combined domestic and inbound loss of spending to be £68.8 ($90) billion this year.
While the economic need may be acute, Reid also said the stretch season goes beyond that.
“In terms of emotional intelligence and mental health and all the things that travel creates, we think there’s a great benefit to be able to make responsible trips during this time.”
Photo credit: The travel industry hopes people still take road trips into autumn. Dino Reichmuth / Unsplash