The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) released findings from a survey of its destination management Associate Members about their post-COVID 19 recovery marketing plans. A quarter (24 percent) of the respondents will restart marketing efforts during the second or third quarter of this year, while 11 percent said campaigns will start in the fourth quarter. Roughly half (56 percent) do not know when they will restart.
The recent research is part of USTOA’s ongoing efforts to support and inform its members throughout the coronavirus crisis.
“In this time of uncertainty,” said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO, in a press release statement, “the survey is revealing in that most DMOs expect to continue recovery messaging in the second and third quarters, with a hope to ‘return to normal’ messaging by the fourth quarter of this year.”
Additional key findings of the survey—which was completed on April 6, with a 44 percent response rate of US DMO Associate Members—include:
- About half (44 percent) of the DMO respondents expect their marketing budgets to increase or stay the same, while a nearly equal number (48 percent) expect budgets to decrease.
- Half the respondents (49 percent) do not expect to see lay-offs, while just 12 percent do expect lay-offs. The remaining 39 percent are “not sure.”
- Regarding marketing messaging, about two thirds (61 percent) of DMOs will change their marketing message while 39 percent will keep the same message.
Recovery or short-term strategies most frequently mentioned in an open-ended question focus on:
- Postpone, don’t cancel
- Inspirational social media messages to make virtual connections…” see (or) dream now, travel later” through images, virtual tours, cultural content, and nature exploration
- Education and training for trade and travel advisors
- Education of consumers through tactics like PR to reach media
- Avoidance of tactical and overly promotional messages in the short-term
While acknowledging the present uncertainty and need to assess the situation as the recovery unfolds, roughly two-thirds (61 percent) of DMOs expect to change their current marketing messages. Some commonalities include:
- The need to stay nimble to respond to shifts in news, consumer behavior
- Attention paid to tone, for example, how to describe “safety”
- Promote natural assets: the great outdoors, wildlife, national parks, wide open spaces
- Emphasize distinctive cultural, gastronomic “only in…” experiences
- Start to shift to tactical marketing when the time is right, working with tour operator and travel advisor partners