Restrictions on movement and travel are a necessary measure to contain and isolate the pandemic.
For many destination marketing organisations (DMOs) it is a time of great uncertainty as potential visitors from the UK change, delay or completely reassess their travel plans for the end of 2020 and beyond.
While 19 December 2020 saw the announcement of Tier 4 travel restrictions due to a new strain of Covid-19, the earlier summer months, where restrictions in the UK were relaxed and safe travel was allowed, proved that the appetite for travel remained strong.
So what could DMOs do today to ensure that they are nurturing travel interest and gaining the attention of potential travellers for when restrictions begin to lift on travel from the UK?
We can see from the lessons learned during the UK lockdown earlier in 2020 that despite restrictions, travellers did not stop searching for their next trip.
The DMOs that understood their potential visitors and had campaigns that kept them front of mind were the ones who were able to increase their market share once travel was possible in each country.
Identify and understand
Since early June 2020, the travel audience team have been working with Marketing Greece to focus on attracting travellers from Germany and Austria.
By using data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify and understand demand — which would shift on an almost daily basis given the various restrictions and other factors in play — Marketing Greece was able to deliver impactful content to the right travellers at the right time.
This helped them to stay one step ahead of competing destinations. For instance, with new competitors who may previously have not been a consideration for travellers from these target markets, but due to the establishment of travel corridors received traveller interest.
Marketing Greece estimates that around a quarter of the Greek economy is based on tourism, so it was crucial to identify and understand the signals that pointed to changes in tourists’ appetite to travel as constraints on tourism were lifted.
One of the key goals from the campaign run by Marketing Greece was to keep front of mind and inspire confidence in travellers when restrictions eased.
That’s why the ‘Greece From Home’ campaign, a project for Greek National Tourism Organization, was launched. The campaign was created to focus on messaging to keep travellers updated on the situation in Greece and how to safely plan a trip, against a backdrop of striking Greek scenery.
Delivering the right messages at the right time can really pay off. When considering the market share of searches among competing destinations, Greece’s popularity grew significantly during the campaign. The overall market share of Greece steadily increased and by the end of July 2020 reached 25% when compared with other Southern European destinations.
This was a big success, given that in the same period in 2019 Greece’s share was less than 20%.
From inspiration to booking
Understanding the stages of the booking journey can offer insight on when to launch campaigns and how to move through different phases.
Strategies often begin with the inspiration phase, showing travellers relevant advertising to keep interest high and also notifying potential visitors of changes in restrictions and availability.
By carefully reviewing the campaign data regularly, DMOs can pick the optimal time to move to the next phase of the campaign. This insight also allows them to shift budgets where necessary to optimise campaigns based on the best-performing assets, like videos or banners.
The regular review of campaign data also helps to ‘feed’ AI algorithms, helping them to apply even more precise and relevant targeting for potential travellers. In the case of Marketing Greece, this meant the initial ‘Greece From Home’ campaign evolved into the ‘Until the Time is Right’ campaign to reassure travellers that the country would soon be open for tourists.
Finally, in June 2020, Greece launched its ‘Endless Greek Summer’ messaging to inspire visitors and also consider traveling to Greece outside of peak periods to take advantage of the warmer climate even in colder months.
The latest data that we have analysed shows that the desire to travel persists and that, despite restrictions, travellers are still searching for their next destination and dreaming of their next trip.
Our data from late October 2020 found that destinations like Greece and other traditional summer destinations are receiving more attention in the autumn and winter than they have in past years.
Another note of positivity from the data analysed is that despite the latest lockdown in the UK, interest in destinations that had previously been a part of a safe travel corridor from the UK remains high.
For example, searches for the Canary Islands from the UK grew by 256% during October last year.
Even when the November national lockdown was announced in the UK, searches were still 129% higher than they were at the start of October.
For DMOs who may be concerned about appetite for travel once restrictions begin to lift, the data shows us that travellers are still searching for their next trip and are looking for inspiration from creative DMOs.
The demand is there, and with smart and informed decision making based on insightful data and powered by technology, DMOs can create compelling campaigns to advise and inspire.
Identifying the stages of booking will be crucial in order to keep tourists informed, but this also presents an opportunity for creative advertising.
Those who take this opportunity and plan ahead will be well positioned as we recover and move forward into 2021.
Freddy Friedman is managing director at travel audience, the data-driven travel advertising arm of Amadeus.