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    2020 has been a rough year for the travel industry, to say the least. While nearly all sectors of business have been clobbered by the virus, the travel and tourism industry is first-hand experiencing a hard hit from the pandemic. As of mid-December, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs)  saw a 50 percent decline in travel spending this year—a total loss of $10.2 billion.

    What does this mean for DMOs going forward and how do you continue to reach and comfort your potential clients through these uncertain times? Discover a few travel industry digital marketing tips to help ease travelers’ concerns as we all aim to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

    Proactive Messaging

    Now is the time to pivot and take control of the conversation. How is the virus affecting your destination? What plans and preventative measures are you putting in place to ensure safety for guests? What role do you want your destination to play for your potential customers?

    Rather than attempting to generate bookings, use this opportunity to funnel educated information and mitigate concerns. Consumers have a lot of questions right now and, understandably, a lot of fears associated with travel. Focus your messaging on answering these questions and reassuring consumers that your business is doing everything possible to ensure safety. Use these quieter times of business to boost brand recognition and future reservations so that your business will be primed to come back swinging when the pandemic subsides.

    Shift to a Younger Audience

    It’s not like we needed a study to confirm—but apparently, there was a poll taken over summer 2020 that confirmed: “[…] younger and wealthier traveler groups will be the first to resume international leisure tourism, once restrictions are lifted.”

    With millennials surpassing baby-boomers as the largest living adult generation, DMOs can tighten up their audience targeting for a while, segmenting those most likely to engage when limitations are loosened. Consider shifting some of your messaging for a younger audience and targeting the interests and pinpoints of these consumers. Not to mention, it’s far easier to reach a younger segment digitally through online classes, booking services, virtual tours, and streamed events. Take advantage of any digital tools at your disposal so that tech savvy consumers can still get enjoyment and education from your business during shutdown.

    Double-Down on Influencers

    To piggy-back on the shift to more aggressively target the millennial and Gen Z audience, there’s never been a better time to expand your roster of brand ambassadors. With traditional methods (commercials, direct/indirect ad campaigns, and brochures) drifting away, the younger generation of travelers resonates more with social media influencers. From TikTok stars to travel bloggers, these social media influencers can hold a tremendous amount of sway with their audience.

    The value is perceived as more authentic and transparent than traditional advertising. By partnering with influencers, DMOs, and travel agents are able to achieve that new level of trust usually reserved for recommendations from friends and colleagues. Just be sure to choose carefully when deciding whether to partner with an influencer, as there are fraudulent influencers out there.

    Offer Open Rooms to Healthcare Workers

    With many hotels and resorts experiencing nearly vacant properties during these times, some are choosing to take the opportunity to give back to the community. The American Hotel and Lodging Association initiative Hospitality for Hope is a program that connects hotels with local healthcare providers to house healthcare workers from the frontlines, as well as positive-tested individuals looking to self-isolate. This allows you to do some good for the community while also promoting a positive brand image.

    Travel Industry Digital Marketing Moving Forward

    As the world begins the process of healing from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect the travel industry to bounce back. However, that doesn’t mean that we should throw out all the lessons learned during these challenging times. It is likely that there will COVID will continue affecting consumers’ expectations and interests somewhat, and so these travel industry digital marketing best practices are valid to consider even after countries have reopened.

    If nothing else, COVID has taught us the importance of not taking anything for granted. While we can expect consumers will be keen to travel again once restrictions are lifted, it is hard to say how the travel industry could change in the years and decades to come. Keep your digital marketing agile and flexible to adjust to whatever hurdles the world may throw at the travel industry in the future.