Africa Travel Week

The destinations spending money on marketing campaigns now

“A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” These are the words of automotive pioneer Henry Ford. It is advice that those involved with destination marketing appear to be taking on board during the COVID pandemic.

It is easy to assume that marketing spend now is wasted money. Many countries still have not opened their borders and, at the end of September, airline body IATA predicted that airline traffic would be down 66 per cent this year compared to last.

So who is spending on tourism marketing at this time?

Australia is spending heavily to boost domestic tourism. As part of its Holiday Here This Year programme, it has spent A$7 million on a social and digital campaign fronted by Australian comedian and TV star Hamish Blake and author and cosmetics entrepreneur Zoe Foster-Blake. It encourages Australians to take “a journey across some of Australia’s most breath-taking landscapes and reminds them of the undeniably unique aspects of our country”.

Tourism Australia’s Philippa Harrison said, “Our goal is to try and get Australians travelling differently by using the Holiday Here This Year campaign platform to urge them to start ticking off their holiday bucket list or heading interstate for a trip of a lifetime, and in turn provide a much needed boost especially to those areas most affected by the bushfires and COVID-19.”

Many destinations are promoting themselves as being COVID-safe for visitors.

Earlier this month, the Maldives launched an outdoor campaign in the UK to “promote the destination as a safe haven for travellers in the new travel environment”. In the three months prior to lockdown in March, the Maldives welcomed 7,288 visitors; since the border reopened on 15 July, 1,587 tourists from the UK visited.

The country’s tourism board has put up billboards in places such as Liverpool Street, Waterloo station and Westfield London shopping centre.

The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) said“The key objective of this campaign is to reassure tourists in the UK that the Maldives remains a safe and secure destination to travel to post COVID-19, due to its unique geographical formation and one-island-one-resort concept. Furthermore, the campaign aims to showcase the Maldives as an ideal choice for long-haul travel and will guarantee brand exposure to a large number of UK consumers, inspiring them to choose the Maldives as their next holiday destination.

MMPRC said it had further marketing and promotional activities planned for the remaining months of the year, including campaigns with several online and digital travel trade media and leading OTAs.

 Tennessee in the US won US$25 million in CARES Act funding to promote safety and inspire responsible travel in the state.

The “For the Love of Tennessee, Travel Safe” initiative combines TV, print, digital, radio and billboard ads.

As part of the campaign, the state worked with Tennessee natives and singer-songwriters Drew and Ellie Holcomb, following them on an epic 1,600-mile RV journey throughout the state with their children “exploring hidden gems and natural wonders where social distancing is effortless and expected”.

The Caribbean island of Nevis is also focusing on COVID safety and has launched the #Today4Tomorrow campaign ahead of the reopening of its national border at the end of October,.

Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis and also minister of tourism and health told local news site ZIZ: “COVID, however, in addition to the tremendous economic crisis that it has created, started out and continues to be a health crisis as well, and so we have the added task of ensuring that we are not only opening, but we are reopening responsibly, and we have an obligation as a government to our people, those living here and to our visitors, those we hope will come, to ensure that everyone remains safe.”

Peru, meanwhile, has launched a campaign called Volver (Return) timed to coincide with the re-opening of its main tourist attraction – Machu Picchu –in November.

The Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB) is taking a different take. Its most recent campaign has been used to thank tourists from 13 foreign markets – Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, France, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom – for choosing Croatia for their holidays this year.

CNTB director Kristjan Stanicic said, “With this campaign, we would like to thank all foreign guests who, despite the prescribed epidemiological measures and travel protocols, have shown their confidence in Croatia during this challenging and unpredictable year. Our goal is to continue to maintain the visibility of Croatia in selected markets and to let everyone know that they are also welcome in Croatia next year.”

The visuals used in the campaigns focused on the most visited destinations from each market: Dubrovnik, Hvar and Split for the UK market, for example.

Croatia welcomes nearly six million foreign tourists every year.

Darija Reic, Director of the CNTB representative office in London said, “We are working to maintain Croatia’s visibility in this challenging and uncertain period, which is still ongoing. Although the current epidemiological situation throughout Europe does not allow for large tourist traffic due to the implementation of numerous restrictions, our goal is to remain high on the list of desirable destinations, and further establish Croatia as a safe destination.”

She added; “We maintain visibility through campaigns on the web and social networks, and during the spring and summer we have captured the attention of online audiences with striking visuals and interactive content and placed special emphasis on the safety of Croatia as a destination for visitors, whilst promoting Croatia’s nautical tourist product, natural beauty, gastronomy and culture.”

 “2021 will see our focus continue to be on maintaining and improving the level of safety, as well as promoting the products that under these circumstances are likely to be best received by the consumer.”

Others are looking forward to welcoming tourists back next year.

This month, Ireland said it would spend €220.9 million on tourism in 2021, an increase of €59 million over 2020 and representing a “record level of investment”.

Dubai, meanwhile, has launched a new campaign called Live Your Story which aims to make a transformative shift in the way Dubai is positioned “from a city of iconic skyscrapers and landmarks to a destination that celebrates the cultures of over 200 nationalities and provides a range of diverse experiences”. 

The campaign will debut on airline Emirates’ inflight entertainment system but will be gradually rolled out this month in 20 languages and on a number of platforms in key source markets that have reopened amid the pandemic.

Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said: “As Dubai continues to welcome international tourists, we are also constantly looking at innovative ways to sustain global interest and consideration for the city as the first choice destination for travellers. With an ever-evolving destination proposition, Dubai is renowned for its array of offerings that visitors can enjoy, whether they are first timers or repeat visitors. However, as we make the transition to the new normal, people will be seeking unique and personalised travel experiences, and this campaign highlights our readiness to cater to such preferences.

“Through this latest marketing campaign, we will not only guide our visitors to the many options they have to create, share and own their memorable moments in Dubai but also show the world that the city has regained its vibrancy and remains a safe, must-visit destination.”

It will be instructive to see whether it is these destinations that enjoy a post-COVID bounce.

Mark Frary

Mark Frary is co-founder of Travel Perspective, a social and digital consultancy, working with travel companies and tourism organisations to create successful marketing campaigns.