Tourism

One-on-one with travel marketing maven Julie King

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

One of the burning questions on our lips is what exactly travel marketing should and could look like once the world overcomes the coronavirus pandemic.

To answer this, and a whole bunch of other queries on the topic of future travel, Travel Weekly got in touch with an expert in the field – one who, as you’d expect, happens to be extraordinarily busy during the downturn in travel.

Julie King is the CEO of award-winning public relations and destination marketing company Julie King & Associates, an organisation lauded by the likes of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), the Seven Network, Dubai Tourism and Gold Coast Tourism, among many others.

Her accolades include taking the title of ‘Best International Tourism Office’ twice in the last six years and being voted as a top-five finalist for the award over the last six years consecutively.

Travel Weekly spoke to her late last week. Here’s what she had to say:

Would you agree that the entire industry needs to come together to recover from COVID-19?

Absolutely. As an industry, it is critical that we have a collaborative approach to ensure sustainability of our industry for the future whilst driving a positive impact to create a better planet, society and world.

As a business responsible for looking after tourism boards and the like, is this a perspective shared by you and your clients?

Tourism destinations and national tourism boards have always been at the forefront of working collaboratively with the various sectors of the industry in destination as well as the global community, and this pandemic is no different.

The need to take urgent action to redefine the way destinations think about their obligation to public health and safety, take stock of the severity of the economic impact on all sectors and support the sustainability of the travel ecosystem to build back business when the world becomes safer to travel for all.

Another key area in working together will also be to gather global insights to define trends on the type of experience our future travellers will expect, what is going to be important to them and how will this differ to the current experience and understanding how consumer trends will change in relation to planning and booking travel.

This is key to destinations readiness to welcome back visitors when the time is right.

What do you believe our industry needs to recover from COVID-19? And what could an all-of-industry approach look like?

A COVID-safe, consistent global criteria across all sectors of the industry to provide confidence for travellers and clarity for industry partners to operate within. A clearer and more pragmatic approach to opening borders when it is safe to travel again. Continued financial support to ensure the sustainability of the combined tourism and travel sector. And, a positive awareness and storytelling campaign of the size and scale of support that the travel industry has delivered during the pandemic, highlighting some of the feel-good stories.

Should JobKeeper be extended? How important is JobKeeper for Australian tourism?

Absolutely. JobKeeper is critical to continue to support all sectors of the tourism industry.

Being able to maintain cashflow and resources during this time of uncertainty is paramount to the industry’s survival. Even when borders open and international travel commences again, we will not have people travelling overseas immediately.

One question that you would be ideally placed to answer is the matter of marketing after coronavirus. What should that look like?

Marketing and rebuilding awareness will be critical post-COVID-19 to emotionally re-connect to consumers and give confidence of what they can expect in this new norm of travel.

However, what we market will be very different. We may see more inspirational, purpose-led marketing campaigns with more human and emotional connection, as well as a larger focus on wide-open spaces and nature, tapping into what we have missed and our responsibility to the planet.

Destinations and industry partners will execute reimagined tourism strategies and there will be a lot more inspirational storytelling.

Products may lead with changes to their sector to keep consumers safe in this new era.

Dennis Bunnik believes the ‘narrative’ of tourism has been hijacked by tourism operators caught in the wrong. How can we regain control of our narrative, and get the public onside?

I believe you will see a great example of this from the recent video that CATO has produced and fronted by chairman Dennis Bunnik to promote the industry’s side of the COVID-19 story around travel refunds, future travel credits and the distribution complexities involved right across the global travel ecosystem.

This has allowed us to tell the whole story about travel credits versus refunds, and when refunds are being offered, why they take some time to process. It is delivered in a warm, non-confrontational manner that is intended to assist consumers with their understanding and alleviate (as far as possible) their frustrations.

[You can view CATO’s answers to COVID-19 questions, including an explanation of travel credits over refunds, here.]

What do you see as the industry’s biggest challenge(s)? What do you believe are the industry’s biggest opportunities?

The biggest challenges are cashflow to be able to sustain travel and tourism businesses with uncertain timelines of the world opening up for travel, a lack of consistent global COVID-safe criteria to operate within and give consumer confidence to travel, and an industry skills shortage post-coronavirus and the eventual attracting of new talent.

As for the opportunities, businesses can now reassess more efficient business models, and there is also the chance to review terms and conditions for booking travel globally, as well as for insurance providers. There’s also an opportunity to place more focus on sustainable travel and travelling with purpose.

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