Since mid-March of this year, we’ve seen massive changes in how everyday life is conducted. Initially, none of us knew what to do or say—the uncertainty was overwhelming. As marketers, we knew our messaging and strategies had to pivot. For our destination clients, this pivot had to be especially graceful. To this end, some of our writings have focused on how to help DMOs communicate about the safety of their offerings. See our Insights about outdoor attractors, updating your photography to reflect safer practices and how to move your brand forward.
Over the last few months, much has been written about how, where and when the travel industry will recover. And it seems to be starting, almost. When news of crowded beaches is seen as bad, indoor dining is controversial and sporting events take place with limited spectators, how should responsible destinations and venues market themselves?
At this moment in time, after 6 months of cautious living, people are beginning to want to travel again. And it is becoming painfully clear that the economic health of your community depends on people enjoying all you have to offer. However, research shows potential travelers rank safety highly. And as DMOs representing a group of stakeholders, you can encourage them to maintain safe practices, but you have to be cautious about making promises on their behalf. Inviting both locals and guests to do, see and eat implies they’ll be safe. It’s a fine line to walk. So what tone should your marketing messaging take?
On September 8, 2020, The U.S. Travel Association introduced its “Let’s Go There” Toolkit. The campaign is a 3 phase recovery initiative with earned, owned and paid media now through the end of 2020. This effort is designed to give a unified voice to travel businesses and organizations across all segments of the industry. The primary message “Let’s Go There” accompanied by the phrase “When it’s time for you, we’ll be ready” positions the traveler as the decision-maker but does make the promise that destination partners will do their part. The program is aspirational in tone. The call to action—make plans to travel.
After the “Let’s Go There” campaign was introduced, global travel leader Skift quickly weighed in:
“The campaign is alluding to research which shows that there are mental health benefits to planning a future trip. A poll conducted by happiness researcher Michelle Gielan found that 97 percent of respondents say that having a trip planned makes them happier, while 71 percent reported feeling higher energy if they had an upcoming trip planned in the next six months.”
The toolkit is quite comprehensive. There are official campaign videos available from :06 seconds to :60 seconds to allow for use in a variety of social media platforms or as a part of speaking engagements and presentations. There are pages covering how to roll out social media, ideas for content and best practices. There are pages on B2B content encouraging your stakeholders to get involved and use the campaign hashtag #letsmakeplans. And B2C communication guidelines provide recommended imagery and copy for social media—including responses to negative feedback.
A campaign landing page features the supporting organizations on several levels. Participation seems to lend reassurance that safe practices are in place. Letsgothere.travel speaks to the consumer considering travel. There are informative links to guidelines for travelers and nationwide reopening, but most importantly, the supporting industry partners are featured in sections called “How to Get There” and “Where To Stay”.
The “Let’s Go There” campaign has a stakeholder participation component as well. The Let’s Go There Coalition is composed of statewide and local DMOs, Travel Brands, the transportation sector, and Food/Beverage suppliers—any industry directly affected by a tourism industry recovery.
Should you decide to participate, there’s a very thorough Brand Standards Manual with good advice for the kind and style of photography that appeals to emotions but continues with the idea of social distancing, families or small groups enjoying the great outdoors.
All in all the campaign should really help inspire DMO marketers. The only thing that needs to be layered in is each destination’s authentic, local voice.
If you’ve been using a bandaid for your marketing since early in 2020, consider leveraging the “Let’s Go There” campaign as a way to reinvigorate your marketing efforts. A couple of “Let’s Go There” supporting DMOs have developed campaigns capitalizing on potential travelers’ hunger for knowledge and reassurance. Hilton Head, South Carolina has borrowed a “Let’s Go There” strategy—the home page takeover—to inform interested visitors of their commitment to masking and proper distancing. They have integrated a pledge visitors can take that enters them for a chance to win one of several stays. San Antonio, Texas has integrated the “Let’s Go There” campaign in a home page takeover that links to a listing of businesses, places, attractions, and venues that have committed to adhere to safe practices.
Now is the time to begin the process of inspiring travelers that, when the time arrives for them to travel, your community will be ready.