Tourism

OPINION: It’s an open road to tourism’s return

Jacqui Abbott

Jacqui Abbott

There’s no denying it – the Black Summer of bushfires and a pandemic marked by social distancing, cruise-driven virus clusters, airline collapses and extended border closures has challenged our nation’s tourism and travel industry like never before.

But there’s cause for cautious optimism. An increase in community-mindedness, combined with extended international border closures, is seeing a renaissance in domestic tourism. The opportunity to reimagine the way we market the sector to Australian travellers out of all this is open-ended.

We have an opportunity to open the eyes of new audiences, in new ways and on new channels. The dream can be as powerful as the do – highly engaging virtual experiences and a rethink of segmentation and assets for storytelling could open doors to more clicks and more visitors as we head into this new era of possibility for travel.

Open up virtual experiences first

Lockdown has seen 90 per cent of the world living with travel restrictions, but virtual experiences are giving people a chance to escape, dream and now, plan. In May, Google Trends showed that virtual tours were at their highest on record. People could virtually bypass restrictions and scratch their travel itch in amazing ways, and this trend isn’t slowing down. Technology is enabling new ways to be inspired and to plan ahead. A great example of this in action is the ‘Live from Aus’ campaign by Tourism Australia – an incredible two-day virtual experience showcasing the best parts of our country and now an ongoing program for the brand of Australia.

Emerging technology is being welcomed into homes more than ever. Google Earth VR allows individuals to own their own VR headset and travel to all parts of the world – from the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and any other place you can think of. So, brands have an opportunity to make the dream as desirable as the do. Technology and virtual experiences now have the potential to ignite ‘try before you buy’ experiences like never before to aid not only inspiration but, importantly, new ways to plan and eventually book travellers’ next dream break.

Reimagine segmentation as audiences are wide open

COVID-19 forced the nation to move online at speed for work, education, banking, shopping and more, and saw certain demographics become tech elite for the first time. As a result, audience potential has opened up exponentially. Brands have an opportunity to take advantage of this and reimagine segmentation entirely. New subcultures are emerging based on cultural shifts and travel limitations, so there is an opportunity to target distinct pockets of people – we call this the ‘minorstream’, not the mainstream. A great example is Airbnb’s flip to offer virtual experiences that are super niche (i.e. Anime tours of Tokyo – all user-led and created on the platform to inspire those looking for something unique and a little weird. Or, more recently, the small community of Dunedin in New Zealand which launched its ‘Plan D’ campaign – a tongue-in-cheek campaign positioning the South Island destination as a pretty good Plan D. The campaign uses self-deprecating southern humour to entice people to the city and was a quirky way to engage local Kiwis as they reset on where they go and how they get there.

Power of open spaces

Lockdown has had the short-term impact of allowing some of the world’s most famous tourist destinations to ‘recover’ for the first time in decades. With the aviation and shipping industries being slowed to a crawl, air and water pollution have been drastically reduced and natural landscapes and landmarks in many parts of the world are beginning to heal. Nature in all its glory has become desirable again. The Himalayas are visible for the first time in 30 years from India and beach closures in Thailand have seen the largest number of nests of rare leatherback sea turtles in two decades. Tourism operators have an opportunity to lead with natural beauty and use its benefits and regeneration as core to their content strategy. Ignite interest in open spaces and the great outdoors as part of your marketing plans, as it is not only what people have missed, but it is what communities have newfound gratitude for.

Making it unmissable to conscious consumers

Travel has long been a disposable commodity, with most offerings compared primarily on price. This has created a downward spiral in recent years that impacts industry profits, wages and the environment at large. COVID-19 has broken this routine, providing an opportunity for tourism to become much more intentional. People will go back into the world more consciously.

Brands can take hold of this renewed appreciation of things by making what people missed unmissable. Just look at the recent Sicily tourism campaign – offering to pay half of people’s flights to get them back to their shores. It dominated social feeds for days and has since seen copycat campaigns around the world.

So, whether you are opening up virtual content to make the dream more desirable as part of the planning phase or opening up the stories you tell to new audiences and in new ways, the potential to reignite interest and drive the travel renaissance is open-ended and there for the taking. Because one thing is for sure: Australians love to travel, escape and experience new things. We just need to open their eyes to what the new world of tourism looks like.

Jacqui Abbott is the managing director of brand at OPR, a family of communications agencies offering a broad range of integrated services across professional disciplines and industry sectors.


Featured image: iStock/Cappan

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Travel Agents

“I’ve been quite overwhelmed”: Agent wowed by client support

While most travel agents have been busy repatriating clients and working on refunds, one advisor was presented with a golden opportunity.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Destination Gold Coast recruits celebs for postcard campaign

A host of celebs and tour operators have been suffering from writer’s cramp after the destination marketing agency asked them to pen 3,000 postcards to Aussie families.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Aloha Friday Wrap: HTA adopts important declaration, Hawaiian Airlines’ new cookbook + MORE

Have your clients been sorely missing the Hawaiian Islands? Lift their spirits with the latest Aloha Friday Wrap.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Hawaiian Airlines creates ‘Sharing Aloha Series’ cookbook

Due to the popularity of Hawaiian Airlines’ ‘Sharing Aloha Series’, the airline has created a downloadable recipe book with all of the dishes for fans to make at home.

Share

CommentComments

Events

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s annual Cultural Festival to go virtual

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not letting the COVID-19 pandemic get in the way of its annual Cultural Festival.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Hawaiian Airlines extends ‘Book With Confidence’ waiver

Hawaiian Airlines has extended its Book With Confidence waiver to cover any new bookings made through 31 July 2020.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Hawaii Tourism Authority adopts Aina Aloha declaration

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) has adopted the Aina Aloha Economic Futures declaration following a recent meeting of its board of directors.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

WATCH: The ‘new normal’ of flying between the Hawaiian Islands

Hawaiian Airlines has shared a video to show the ‘new normal’ of flying between the Hawaiian Islands.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

Linkd Tourism appoints new trade account manager

Here’s some positive recruitment news to offset some of the negative redundancy news that’s been doing the rounds in the travel industry lately.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

YIPPEE! Virgin launches new Aussie routes, brings back ‘Happy Hour’ sales

The only thing we at Travel Weekly love more than new routes is cheap airfares, and this story features both! Well, except wine, of course – we value wine above almost everything.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Flight Centre gains access to additional funding to offset COVID-19 impacts

Skroo’s stress ball has scored a well-earned break after Flight Centre managed to secure some much-needed funding.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

Hotel Wrap: Event hotels to give away 1,200 nights, Crystalbrook offers $100 bar tabs to interstate guests + MORE

Planning a domestic escape for your clients? Lucky for you, we’ve got a mix of deals, offers and openings to suit all tastes in this wrap.

Share

CommentComments