Pandemic marketing tip? Go quirky and weird

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Gerry Hofstetter’s light art projected onto Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain is one of the pandemic’s most unique destination marketing campaigns. Photo Credit: Michael Portmann

From national flags projected onto the side of a Swiss mountain to ‘scream therapy’ in Iceland, creative and original campaigns are key to staying top of mind until travellers can return, say destination marketing experts. Domestic tourism, Covid-19 transparency and sustainability should also be pillars of any recovery campaign.

Tim Russell, Southeast Asia commercial director of itinerary building platform eRoam, and Jens Thraenhart, executive director of Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office, shared their recommendations in a recent ‘Destination Recovery: How to Promote your Destination When No-one is Travelling’ webinar.

Among Russell and Thraenhart’s top tips? Creating striking campaigns and imagery with quirky and weird content. They pointed to the month-long nightly light projections on Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland, and Iceland’s invitation to “record your scream” to be released in the country’s wilderness, as prime examples of pandemic marketing panache.

Using Covid-19 as a marketing tool should also be a priority. “Stress your destination’s safety by showing statistics related to your country’s handling of the pandemic and its recovery and vaccination plan,” Russell said.

Quoting data from management consulting firm McKinsey & Company — which projects domestic tourism will recover one to two years earlier than outbound travel — the pair said offering new insights into places locals think they know, and promoting unique and little known destinations, are two of the most effective ways to reach the domestic market.

Singapore’s S$45 million (US$33 million) SingapoRediscovers campaign, which supports local lifestyle and tourism business and encourages exploration at different sides of the island, and the Lao Thiao Lao 2020 (Lao Visit Laos) campaign, were highlighted as particularly strong attempts to boost domestic tourism.

When travel does recover, Russel and Threanhart believe that sustainability will be a major concern and booking driver. “We have seen what the world is like without mass tourism and many do not want to go back,” Russell said. Promoting sustainability, as well as initiatives that support small businesses that are suffering, should be a major focus for destination marketers.

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