How to approach the market with your travel marketing for 2021

We know that in 2021, we will travel again. We will see the positive effects of protocols, fast-testing, COVID-19 medicines and most of all a vaccine. We are not exactly sure when, but you better get prepared to reach this market before someone else does. Don’t hibernate but keep communicating in these winter months and get your marketing campaign ready to be rolled out when the market is ready!

Increase of demand in the Dutch market

Yes, the Dutch (travel) market is quiet, most destinations are “code orange” so there are very few destinations where the Dutch can travel to without having to go into quarantaine.

BUT, like we have seen in many crises in the past, the Dutch are very resilient and have always been one of the first to start travelling again. We see a huge increase in demand for Curaçao for instance filling the maximum capacity that this destination allows. A part of this traffic is coming from bookings to other destinations that are closed but there are also plenty of new bookings coming in.

Proof that, despite the crisis and the partial lockdown, the Dutch are dedicated to their love for travel.

For your destination, this could mean that the Dutch market will develop quickly after re-opening, so don’t wait too long to put marketing in place.

The trade is seeing a growing interest and is expecting a substantial increase in agents moving into self-employed, home-based travel advisors. Industry leaders are predicting a greater reason to exist for travel advisors post COVID-19.

For cancelled bookings since March until the end of 2020 the travel industry, financially backed by the government, has introduced Corona Vouchers. These have to be used for new bookings within 12 months. Millions of euros are therefore expected to be spent in the coming months. As most destinations have frequent changes in travel advice, most customers tend to wait as long as possible and book much nearer to the departure date or tend to book a last-minute trip.

Whilst for 2021 future visitors, most with vouchers in their pockets, are keen to get inspiration and travel ideas and start planning.

Get your destination on the 2021 shortlist, NOW!

Albert Einstein – “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”

Dutch customers will reconsider their traditional travel decisions. Many of the destinations that they are used to travel to will be changed or even unavailable. Trends in search already show that consumers are looking at destinations for their 2021 trips. Now is the time to be visible as consumers are open to new and different destinations.

David de Smit: “I realized that pre-COVID we were talking about awareness campaigns but many of those campaigns were really consideration campaigns with a call to action. Now we see an opportunity for destinations to really focus on awareness to get on the consumer’s longlist of possible destinations for 2021. And this shortlist will probably look very different.

Work with what you know

It is fair to say that we don’t know what 2021 will look like and this seems to have a paralyzing effect on marketeers around the globe.

So let’s focus on what we do know and reposition the destination based on the core values and the emotional connection that the destination has had with travellers over the last decades. People’s lives may have changed but they still dream about the same things, so let’s make sure your destination is part of that.

There is not one approach for 2021 marketing so don’t bother with one marketing strategy and plan. Create multiple scenario’s and prepare flexible campaigns that can be turned on quickly when the appropriate time is there.

Safety as a commodity

In April of 2020 we developed the “A Dushi Stay, the Healthy Way” program for Curaçao to communicate about the measures that were taken on the island to ensure the health and safety of the local community as well as tourists. Paramount was to show that the measurements and protocols were strictly enforced but also that visitors could still enjoy a relaxed vacation because of that.

This helped to get the message out around the July 1st re-opening and the protocols and the “A Dushi Stay, the Healthy Way” program are still a part of the day-to-day operations along with communications about PCR-testing, Passenger Locator Cards and Digital Immigration Card.

We have seen the reactions from consumers about protocols change. At first there were a lot of questions and concerns, and consumers felt it was a barrier. Now the feedback is much more positive and travellers even feel better when PCR-testing and strict protocols are in place.

As consumers are now used to protocols, they are no longer a unique selling point that destinations can use to set them apart. Safety is now a commodity. It will be nearly impossible to outperform the competition on this message, but it is something that is expected of you so it can be a barrier if you do not have smart, attractive and comprehensive protocols in place.

So, please do not build your marketing strategy and message on health and safety but use it as a layer to reinsurance consumers that you and all other stakeholders really care about the safety and security of both your local community and the visitors and show in real life how local measurements work.

From the recent OAG survey we have learned the need to include facts and figures on corona in your campaign. 63% of European travelers said it would be valuable to see rates of COVID-19 transmissions at their intended destination when booking.

Preparing your 2021 campaign

With uncertainty comes restrain, also in budget. Understandable, but we would need to realize that there are many destinations that will want to jump into the market when things change. This means that the timing of the campaign and the effectiveness of the tactics will have a huge impact on the share of voice.

In many marketing campaigns the mediabuy takes up the largest part of the budget. So it makes sense not to commit the mediabuy as yet although there are many great deals in the market, especially for Q1. But the strategy and campaign can already be developed and designed and a mediaplan can already be created to make sure the the campaigns can go live quickly when the time comes.

And last but not least; don’t be afraid to test and make mistakes. Everything is different so it is fine to reinvent some things.

Be strong and authentic in your message and don’t be afraid to speak to a broader target group than you are used to. Dynamics and mechanisms may be different but the Dutch consumer is a traveller by heart.

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