This article attempts to address essentially the destination managers/ decision makers/ marketing managers in Tourism Boards/ DMO/ etc whose main role is to promote and market the bouquet of tourism products available to the country/geographical region/area of business. Covid-19 is now nudging the destination managers/ brand managers to re-position, re-brand, re-market, re-promote, re-communicate its array of tourism products.
Scenario facing tourism marketers post Covid-19 lockdown
- Any industry or sector which by its very nature does not support ‘social distancing’ bears the full brunt of Covid-19.
- Tourism by its very nature does not support ‘social distancing’g. visit to destinations, tour packages, sites, fairs and festivals, exhibitions, conferences, etc. Thus majority of the tourism products would fall in this category.
- To add to its woes, Tourism is also not part of the ‘essentials’ sector and hence whether we like it or not, it will always take a back seat in times of crisis.
- The world economy spiraling down towards depression means, curtailed ‘purchasing power’ which is the worst case scenario for the leisure industry.
- All the economic effects linked with the forced ‘unemployment’ are also staring in the face of the tourism sector.
Birth of a ‘new consumer’
Marketers will be facing a new entity in the form of a much evolved customer post Covid-19 lockdown and it is certainly going to be a challenging one.
- The post lockdown consumer in many economies will be a financially scarred one. Depending on which part of the world the consumer is, he/she would have lost around 5 months of gainful employment. Most probably, the consumer would be more concerned about limping back to his/her full employability status.
- Not to forget that many of working population would have lost their jobs already or adjusting with major pay cuts. In short, marketers have to be ready for ‘low purchasing power’ in the economy.
- International mobility will be severely limited, as national boarders are closed and even if they are to open post lockdown, there would bound to be several health-related apprehensions, restrictions and checks. Expect business travel to be curtailed, to begin with, with Domestic markets prevail in the short term, at least.
- Covid-19 has transformed many industries from offline to online, so the new consumer is going to be more digitally inclined.
- Being caged home for more than 3 months or so, it is natural that all of us are yearning to rush outdoors into the bosom of Mother Nature or longing to meet our estranged friends and families. Freedom from lockdown seems to be the most yearned desire now. So for marketers there does lie an opportunity ‘to offer outdoor activities’ but alas with a caveat of ‘social distancing’ firmly in place.
Re-branding DO’s for Tourism post Covid-19
It is time to review our existing marketing/branding plans and also an appropriate time to get back to the basics, because a new chapter is going to open post lockdown. So talking about basics, let us relook upon the famous 4Ps of marketing, which have been Product, Pricing, Promotion and Place.
This is the most important P amongst the 4Ps. Maximum time and energy should be used to get it right. Tourism Marketers know their products and also their consumers better than anyone else. It is time to tweak the products portfolio.
Think which tourism products support social distancing. In case we don’t have such products, it is time for us to create them. Some examples of such products (solo by nature is the key) are yoga, trekking, cycling, cuisine, water sports, para sailing, kayaking, adventure sports, etc. Niche tourism areas like bird watching (create circuits), golfing, fishing, etc also can be thought about. In short, any tourism activity which is solo by nature. This will also go a long way in broadening our basket of tourism products.
What about Lockdown circuits which offer tourists the chance to be lock downed on an island, nature park, wildlife sanctuary, etc anywhere away from crowd?
Anything popular and crowd-sourcing (activity) will have to take a backseat till the scientific community gives us a green signal in the form of a vaccine or a drug.
Earlier, it was to offer a product with great value, but now the product has to be coupled with greater health safety assurance. It is going to be back to the drawing boards with your marketing heads/creative/branding agency and rebrand in terms of: health, nature, oxygen, discovery, rejuvenation, peace, solace, hidden skills, etc.
Restricted international mobility means scope for domestic tourism for many economies. Short haul journeys or itineraries or circuits can be evolved. The confidence interval for tourism economies is going to be shorter and Tourism Marketers will now have to develop data mining skills as it will have to delve deep into its vast databases to churn out products taking into consideration the value proposition for domestic travelers.
It is a no-brainer that in the post-covid-19 economy, competitive pricing will be the new norm at least in the short and the medium run. Maybe, Tourism marketers need to take cues from the Telecom industry and conceptualize variety of pricing offers on the lines being offered to the various categories of mobile users. As many of the products will be outdoor in nature, pricing packages like monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, etc needs to be explored.
Promotion will be predominantly online – email marketing, social media marketing, SEO, video marketing, mobile marketing, etc. Post-covid-19, hypermarkets, food markets, etc selling day to day essentials, groceries, etc will be the first set of marketers to be in the public domain and hence herein lies an opportunity for tourism marketers to tie-up for joint or cross-promotions through these outlets. Since international borders will not open in the very near future, domestic tourism is going to be the immediate low-lying fruit, which the tourism marketers can latch upon. So mediums like FM radio, cable tv, etc will also be useful mediums, apart from the online medium.
The internet is going to be the place to put your products for distribution. Remember with the shadow of ‘social distancing’ looming, the consumer is going to think twice before stepping inside a tourism board or a tour operator’s office.
Summing up the way forward for tourism re-branding can involve:
- Evolve Tourism products which promote social distancing.
- Domestic Tourism will be the first of the racing block.
- Hence time to adopt data analytics as innovative products is the need of the hour in a reduced market.
- Competitive pricing in the short and medium-term.
- Promotion to be predominantly online and on mobile platforms.
- Some re-branding themes can be on the lines of – health, nature, oxygen, discovery, rejuvenation, peace, hidden skills, etc.
The world awaits innovations from the Tourism Marketers.
Kingshuk Biswas is Manager, Marketing and Investment, Tourism Corporation of Gujarat. Opinions expressed in this article are personal.