Getting The Message Out

Destinations are focusing on letting prospective visitors know they are open for business.

Communicating the fact that destinations are open for business will be a central part of the tourism recovery, but the messages and channels have shifted, according to panellists at World Routes in Milan. 

“This crisis was first of all a communications crisis,” ENIT – Italian National Tourism Board marketing and promotion director Maria Elena Rossi told Routes delegates.

Italy was the first western European country to be hit by COVID. News travelled fast, impacting tourism which makes up 30% of the country’s GDP. 

By responding quickly and monitoring what was being said, Rossi said Italy is now seen as one of the safest places to travel. “This element of safety is essential for the restart of travel,” she said.

Gibraltar has also focused on safety to help restore traveler confidence. Gibraltar is home to 32,000 people, but welcomes 10 million visitors a year. “This puts the importance of tourism into perspective,” Gibraltar tourism minister Vijay Daryanani said.

Gibraltar imposed strict COVID restrictions. By early spring 2021, the whole population had been vaccinated. In May, it became was one of the UK’s first green list destinations.  “We’ve worked really hard to make sure that the community is safe and the destination is safe and we’ve marketed that,” Daryanani said.

However, communications channels have shifted. “The days when you would just put out an advert? Those days are gone,” Daryanani said. “I think social media is what it's all about now. People are on their phones—perhaps even more so when they were locked down—so we really, really ramped up that part of our marketing.”

Discover Puerto Rico CEO Rico Brad Dean added more criteria. “You have to make it safe. You have to make it simple. And you have to make it sustainable,” he said.

Puerto Rico is promoting itself as an inclusive destination for LGBTQ travelers, as well as catering for new niches, such as wellness trips and “work-cations”—where people work while traveling. “UNWTO estimates that wellness travel within a couple years will be upwards of €750 billion annually. These are niches that we simply cannot afford to miss,” Dean said

With 90% of its visitors coming from the US mainland, Puerto Rico is also hoping to attract more geographically diverse travelers. “We are like a secret out there in the Caribbean,” said Puerto Rico governor Pedro Pierluisi. “When you when you go to Puerto Rico, you have a US, a Caribbean and Latin American experience, all in one. You don't have that anywhere else.” 

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Milano & Partners and Milan Convention Bureau managing director Luca Martinazzoli is also taking more of an experience-based approach to marketing Milan. Rather than marketing the city as a whole or specific landmarks, the focus has shifted to street life in the different neighbourhoods.

Rossi from ENIT said a separate initiative is underway, where art galleries in bigger cities are exhibiting art in smaller villages, creating opportunities for tourists to explore less-traveled areas. This also helps ease the pressure on big cities.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is gearing up to triple its 2019 air passengers from 100 million in 2019 to more than 300 million by 2030.

“We are planning to boost international connectivity from below 100 to more than 250 destinations. It’s the same for air cargo, going from less than a million tonnes to more than 4.5 million tonnes by 2030,” Saudi Arabia General Authority of Civil Aviation strategist Mohammed Alkhuraisi said.

Saudi Arabia has used COVID as an opportunity to accelerate its development plans. Alkhuraisi believes the recovery is gathering momentum and that one of the greatest learnings of the pandemic is that life is too short, creating huge appetite for travel and new experiences.

Photo caption: From left to right: Pedro Pierluisi, Governor, Puerto Rico; Brad Dean, CEO, Discover Puerto Rico; Vijay Daryanani, Minister for Business, Tourism, Transport and the Port, Government of Gibraltar.

Photo credit: Ocean Driven Media