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Keeping Your Audience Engaged

While folks can’t travel, give them something they can use: information, inspiration, and humor.

The past month has been devastating to many. The effect the COVID-19 crisis has had—on people, families, businesses, industries, and the world economy—has been far and wide. The travel and tourism industry has physically screeched to a halt during this time. But virtually, it is alive and well. Many of our tourism industry partners have continued their messaging but tailored their message to respond to the situation. During times of crisis, the key is not to go silent, but approach your audience with empathy, and deliver sincere, genuine, compassionate communication. 

Think of others and help out where you can

While the shutdown has impacted DMOs and their partners, the compound effect of the loss of travel and forced closure of restaurants and bars has caused the loss of millions of jobs worldwide. DMOs can help by getting involved in their communities. In Michigan, Travel Marquette established a food pantry in that community, with food and gift cards to help out workers in the hospitality industry. 

Be a source of information

While folks are stuck at home, they are getting plenty of screentime. Make your website a place they can turn to for information. For example, Visit Tampa Bay established a Dining at a Distance page where residents can easily see—in both map view and list view—which restaurants are offering take out with pick up or delivery. Restaurant owners and individuals can also easily submit changes as the hospitality landscape rapidly shifts. Travel Marquette has also done something similar. They created a page with a list of restaurants, their hours, and whether they are offering take out, delivery, or both. 

Make it fun

To encourage residents to support their local restaurants, Tampa Bay created Takeout Bingo where residents can select from a variety of bingo cards pre-filled out with various restaurants, and fill it up by ordering from those establishments. Once they submit their completed card, they’ll be entered to win a host of restaurant gift certificates. So not only can locals feel good about supporting your local community by ordering takeout, they may even be rewarded for their efforts. 

Offer inspiration through virtual experiences and livestreams

Life can get pretty boring being stuck inside looking at the same four walls. Take people outdoors—or indoors—to entertain and engage them with virtual experiences. It didn’t take long for this video of rockhopper penguins exploring the other animal exhibits at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium to go viral. 

Using this viral video as a use-case example, we recommend creating similar opportunities for your destination. Some of the ways our partners are doing this include:

Use humor

The Director of Security at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is the latest media sensation. 

After taking over the museum’s social media from “Seth from Marketing” while the museum is closed, the museum has seen its social media following explode from thousands to hundreds of thousands. This is all thanks to Tim’s down-to-earth style, which has resonated with users. 

Be sincere

Viewers can tell when you’re not, and no one benefits when you put profits over people. Ease up on urgency. Now is not the time for early-bird promotions. Take the opposite approach. Visit Idaho, Visit Independence, Missouri, and Grand Canyon West have all encouraged visitors to stay home—for now—with videos and digital ads (Idaho See You Soon, Keep Dreaming Idaho and Idaho Stay Home, Stay Healthy animated).

While the impact of this crisis is expected to be long-lasting—and we will likely all be changed in some way—we know people will begin to travel again. Because travel is in our DNA. It’s part of human nature. We are curious, social creatures. Travel exposes us to other cultures, food, surroundings. It builds compassion and expands our worldview. It brings us closer together as we come to realize we are all more alike than different. And that alone can help make the world a better place. For all of us. 

Be well. And start planning your next adventure.

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