By Stephen Ekstrom | Fire Starter Brands
The Global Business Travel Association predicts that the drop-off in tourism will likely result in 4.3 million fewer visitors this year, which adds up to a staggering loss of $7.4 billion in revenue for the US. (full article)
This isn't the first time those in the US experienced such a dramatic and sudden shift in visitation. Immediately following the events of 9/11, we saw an abrupt and substantial decline in tourists coming to the US from abroad.
At the time, I could see the smoke from the smoldering towers blanket the horizon from my home in New Jersey. Little did I realize that day, that I would soon be working with other leaders from New York City's cultural institutions to strengthen, rebuild and regain the tourism market that continues to serve as one of the largest employment sectors in the Big Apple. Together, representatives from the area's most prestigious museums, cultural institutions and timeless performing arts venues gathered to form a plan that led to a consistent growth in the number of visitors, record setting arrivals, an amazing demand for new hotels and some of the most innovative tourism product the market has ever seen.
Here are a few things I learned from that experience that travel industry suppliers and destination marketers can use now...
Invest in Partnerships
Now is a great time to reconnect with colleagues in the industry, share best practices and work together to strengthen your product offerings. You might also find opportunities for you to stretch your marketing dollars by working together on special promotions, advertising campaigns and other outreach efforts.
Create Great Product
Take a moment to get back to the basics. Conduct a brainstorming session with members of your team & loyal fans to find new ways to tell your story. Are there products you've had on the back burner for a while that you can finally bring forward? What can you provide to guests that will help them see your product in a new light? Now is a great time to make those changes, strengthen your product and refresh the visitor experience.
Create New Packages
There are some easy ways to build value without breaking the bank and now is a good time to test which will be most influential in the marketplace and give locals a reason to visit today. Bundling your product with tickets to other nearby attractions, dining options or bonuses from local hotels, retailers, etc. will help drive up the perceived value of your product without taking away from your price point.
You can also look at the resources you have available within your organization for ways to build value. These might include a gift with purchase, upgrade on services, skip the line privileges, welcome gift or even a VIP experience with a member of your staff. Offering a better onsite experience can help drive visitation and give visitors reasons to write exceptional reviews online.
Focus on Domestic
If the international markets are key to your business you don't want to forget them altogether; you still want to participate in activities that will help you maintain a certain level of awareness so that, when the business is ready to return, you're in the right spot to capture your marketshare. Times like this offer an incredible opportunity for suppliers and DMO's to reconnect with domestic audiences, those within driving distance and those who can most easily offer new itineraries that include your product. Reach out to operators within a 6-8 hour radius, take part in a sales mission to see operators where they work, send a special announcement or offer to those whose business others might take for granted.
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