*by Dre Nascimento
Understand how to think about attractive publications for the public in the tourism sector without being sensationalist during the coronavirus pandemic
Since the middle of March, the world has been suffering from the new coronavirus pandemic, which in addition to having already infected more than 3.7 million people, has already killed approximately 265,000 of them. The chaos in the health sector at the global level has led to crises in the main world powers in various industries, and one of those that has suffered most is tourism.
According to a study published on 24 April by Fundação Getúlio Vargas University, with lockdowns and economic crises in the worst affected countries, the tourism market is projected to fall by 38.9%. How, then, can I deal with these frightening numbers that are a challenge to my business? How can I remain relevant and keep on talking about travel at a difficult time when people are dealing with a lack of money vs. the impossible task of putting together trips for them?
BE REAL AND FACE UP TO THE PROBLEM
It’s not that we don’t like ‘magical worlds’. But there’s currently no place for a magical world in which nothing happens. Of course, tour operators must continue to function, agencies need to sell packages, and destinations have to keep on receiving tourists to boost their local economies. But we must be careful when we talk about sales so as not to fall into the famous and unnecessary ‘Buy’ trap.
Accompanying movement on the Internet, I’ve been able to observe the reactive behaviour of users with regard to the search for profit. A good example of this is a particular brand that offered face masks at a high price – approximately R $ 150 each – and when it was criticized it defended itself by saying that it would be donating food to the needy and that its final margin would be R$ 11 per item. Of course, it was again rejected, because the response of people suffering from fear and insecurity at the moment was: Why is such a big brand concerned about making money at this time?
For us as businesspeople, it’s obvious, but for your end customer, it’s not. And this is the first lesson of this article: Think like your consumers. What would they like to see on their social network? How would they like to see the brand they follow positioning itself at a difficult time, like the one we’re in today?
‘The more real and humane your content is, the more relevant it will be to your audience’.
Touch your customer. Make sure you care about their reality. Take the ‘magical world’ to them from another perspective. You can carry information on your channels about prospects for the industry and news about it in a realistic but optimistic way, such as a post from the Melhores Destinos [Best Destinations] blog that carried an article entitled Changes in commercial flights after the end of the quarantine.
BE CREATIVE AND PRODUCE RELEVANT CONTENT
I repeat: The famous ‘Buy lipstick’ is not going to build customer loyalty during a pandemic. Obviously, offering a wonderful package at a low price may make them sit up and pay attention for a few seconds, but this often makes them wonder if the promotion is real, or if it’s going to be a headache for them at a later stage.
So ask yourself if there’s any margin for a truly good promotion that can be bought and honoured later on, so there are no negative repercussions.
Of course the idea is to maintain cashflow, but we have to think about the sensitivity of the moment we’re living in without leaving aside the magic of travel. An incredible example created by Airbnb was its online worldwide experiences programme.
You can book an experience on the website, such as: a conversation with a shark scientist, including a virtual dive; a panoramic virtual tour of Paris; or even a lesson on flavours and how to make the best coffee, given by a Mexican coffee brewer and a winner of several world awards.
In these experiences, which use video conferencing, the user talks to the person teaching the experience, and interacts with other participants, who are people from various parts of the world. It’s an opportunity to talk to other people and learn a little about other cultures.
Another good option is to work with a voucher system, including exchanges and discounts on the future purchase of a package holiday. Stella Artois has a really great campaign called Support a Restaurant, which offers R$ 100 vouchers, but for which the customer only pays R$ 50 – in other words a 50% discount – which reverts as a discount of the higher value in specific restaurants when things get back to normal.
WORK WITH THE BEST YOU HAVE
When we talk about destinations, we’re working with dreams, with storylines that are created in the minds of your customers. The magic of travel, of tourism, does not have to end because we’re experiencing a pandemic. It’s important to emphasize that the crisis is going to end one day, and that projects are not in vain – they’re just going to be postponed.
Destinations can be worked with in a more attractive way, or your brand can bring different and interesting information to stimulate longings in your customers. For example: Disney is a very common destination, and there’s possibly a series of posts and information about what it’s like to walk through the most famous parks in the world.
So why not carry on your brand site information about a destination that has other curiosities? I was recently talking to my husband and I asked him: Could we go to Iceland one day? His answer was categorical: I think that must be incredible, but what’s there for us to see besides the Northern Lights?
I tell this little anecdote to emphasize the following: Get away from the conventional. Following this little chat, I started looking for what, in fact, I could do in Iceland, and I was surprised by the number of great things there are to do there. So carrying different content, working with destinations and what’s different about them and their curiosities can attract the attention of your fans.
BE AWARE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES
Finally, I’m going to say the most important thing of all: Be aware of two extremely important factors: 1) The movement on the Internet, and 2) in your sector.
With regard to the movement on the Internet, you may, for example, have planned a really cool post about Iceland, as I said above, then suddenly, on that day, something extremely complex happens in that country. You’re going to have to re-arrange things, otherwise you’re going to be rejected on social media. It’s also good to observe the possible memes and last-minute fun items that appear, so you can ride the wave and go viral.
With regard to the industry, because recent news can bring you and your customers hope. An example is the recent news that the government published a provisional decree releasing R$ 5 billion for financing tourism companies that have been economically affected by the pandemic.
The amount will cover everything from travel agencies and places of accommodation to theme parks and convention centres, which can be a light for continuing to stimulate the sector and encourage your customers to leave travel on the agenda, even after the pandemic is over.
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.