Rethinking Your Travel Marketing Strategy During The Coronavirus Crisis

April 27, 2020
Lucas Ennis (he/him)
3 min read

Business as we know it has gone out the window. Not only for the travel industry but the world at large.

While tour operators are rethinking business strategies to adjust to and cope with the crisis, the question of how to proceed with marketing during coronavirus is on everyone’s mind.

As the situation changes daily, it’s impossible to give a definitive answer to this. However, given the uncertainties of the pandemic and it's far-reaching effects on travel behaviors, it’s apparent that the times call for an adjusted approach to travel marketing.

In this, there are some clear-cut dos and don'ts.

Crisis Management Playbook For Travel Companies

While businesses and people are in survival mode with travel currently off the cards, marketers need to be empathetic to the situation we’re all in.

Halting marketing efforts altogether could be a mistake though, as this would mean less exposure for your travel brand. At some point, we'll come out of this crisis, and the companies that have maintained visibility and trust with travelers will be the first to earn their booking.

On the other end, those who have lain low will have to work on earning their position in the market again, giving them a slower start to recovery.

Marketing During Coronavirus

Marketing During Coronavirus

Pause Existing Campaigns

If you haven’t already hit pause on your existing advertising and marketing campaigns, paid and free, then consider suspending them for the moment. At least until you have a revised marketing plan lined up, and can assess whether the content is appropriate for the times.

We know that marketing during coronavirus calls for an adjusted approach, which means that your campaigns, especially the hard sells, could now be missing the mark. The unwanted results of this could be wasted budget or tone-deaf marketing, striking a sore point for your travel business.

New Marketing Strategy

Align New Marketing Goals

While armchair travel is likely at an all-time high, travelers aren’t going to be booking their next trips just yet. Aside from wanting to protect their personal health and wellbeing, movement in many countries is largely restricted.

Understandably, financial priorities for many people have changed as well. With uncertainties surrounding job security, anything but essential spending will be greatly reduced.

From a marketing perspective, this means realigning your goals if you’re to continue delivering relevant value to your clients. Ultimately, you want to continue being at the forefront of travelers’ minds to catch the demand when the world is ready to travel again.

Instead of marketing and promoting your tours or travel product, new priorities could include:

  • Producing content to support and serve existing clients over new prospects
  • Soft sells or armchair inspiration to keep travelers dreaming of adventure
  • Maintaining your travel brand’s visibility and voice
  • Establishing your business as a responsible travel partner
  • Rethinking how your marketing framework can better serve sustainable travel in the future

New Marketing Framework

Re-evaluate Marketing Channels

Earlier we mentioned pausing paid advertising channels. That’s because no one is really interested in being sold to at the moment.

Instead, they're eager to be inspired and to find an escape in a place unknown. Most people are at home with no idea of when they'll be able to go on the next adventure. For the time being, making discoveries online will have to do, and your marketing during coronavirus should reflect this.

A lot of this discovery is expected to take place on social media channels. A survey by Statista in early March shows that social media users anticipate being on the platforms more often while they are on lockdown.

Not surprisingly, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram were the preferred channels as people turn to video and digital media to keep them entertained.

Be sure to focus on these channels for marketing in the upcoming weeks and months. Let loose content that will inspire travelers, and have them looking forward to a time when they can book their next trip (with you).

Inspire Travel

Content Marketing and SEO

Content marketing is part of a broader SEO strategy to attract organic traffic to your website from search engines like Google. By publishing valuable and relevant information, you can capture the attention of and direct a well-defined audience who may be potential customers to your site.

If SEO is not already a priority in your travel business, then now is the time to make it one. The coronavirus has forced travelers and businesses to pick up technology to stay connected. As a result, more and more people are searching, discovering, and communicating online.

If you don’t already have a library of content to share, then spend some time writing pieces to publish that will engage travelers. Ideas could be to share industry expertise, interesting stories from your guides, or travel tips.

Now more than ever, the internet needs to be able to find your website to connect travelers with your business. Ensure that your site and content are optimized for search engines to make this happen.

Website Visibility

Get Ready For The Next Step

The focus in this article has been on the immediate/short term changes to help travel businesses adjust to marketing during coronavirus. As the pandemic has brought about rapid changes in the way we go about our daily lives and how businesses operate, many had to pivot their operations and strategies on very short notice.

Eventually, this crisis will pass and the travel industry will revive. However, the landscape is likely to look quite different from what we consider normal. Travelers will slowly test the waters, probably starting closer to home.

Whichever way we look at it, there are major changes ahead for the travel industry. Stay abreast of what’s happening with the market you serve and area you travel to, and start thinking about how you are going to market your products when the time is right.