Destination Marketing: Welcoming Visitors Again

Throughout the summer months, states across the US have been loosening restrictions as they reached “phase 4” where most establishments could re-open. After about five months of cabin fever, people are not only eager to leave their houses, but are open to traveling.

At this point in time, studies show that most people are comfortable enough to travel, but are staying closer to home. Places where families and groups of friends can drive to are now on the top of their bucket list. Although large events and festivals aren’t happening, people are still interested in the museums, outdoor activities, and dining your destination has to offer.

If you’ve been following along with this blog or other tourism marketing resources, the trends taking place during reopening will not be very surprising. Much of the research before re-opening, especially traveler sentiment research, is proving to be true. And destinations reopening have many similarities with the attractions and assets within them. Yet destinations are tasked with balancing health, safety and community with welcoming visitors and economic recovery. Reopening looks a little different for a DMO.

Still, communicating a positive recovery message, focusing on travelers coming from nearby and keeping safety protocols highlighted helps visitors feel welcomed to your destination. While planning for travel, people are looking for…

What has changed since re-opening?

Due to being cooped up in their homes, people were spending most of their time on their devices. Whether it be video chatting a family member, watching the newest Netflix series or just plain scrolling on social media, people were spending up to 7 hours a day in front of a screen.

People are looking for useful and updated content from destinations. It will be no surprise that the experience may be a little different than before, and it will help them feel more comfortable knowing what’s going on in your destination.

Here are some common questions to keep in mind that out-of-towners might not know:

  • What will it look like when people arrive to your destination? Are busy streets and popular attractions shut down?
  • Are you practicing social distancing? Will there be markings for staying 6 feet apart from others?
  • Are masks required? What are the specific requirements?
  • Where are extra hand-washing or sanitizing stations available?
  • Where can we go? What can we do? What is the safest way to experience your destination?

Where to go? What to do?

Create and offer a special destination guide stating what visitors can do when they arrive. Are hotels in the area accepting visitors? Which restaurants are open, and which have outdoor dining? What kinds of outdoor activities, such as hiking trails, offer less contact with others? Offer imagery – and whenever possible, videos – so people can get the full experience and know they are going to be safe when vacationing at your destination.

Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB Safe + Clean pledge logo on an image of the city on the beach
Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB Safe + Clean Pledge

Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB created a campaign called the Safe and Clean Pledge. The campaign commits the CVB to advocating for the safety and well-being of the community and visitors. Hundreds of businesses, hotels, attractions, restaurants and spas have signed the pledge. By signing, businesses agree to following CDC protocols, requiring masks, providing hand sanitizer, practicing social distancing, training staff and having contactless options. They also promote each other and on social channels so visitors know where else they can safely go.

What is open?

Seattle, Washington, is in phase 2 of a 4-phase reopening and not yet welcoming visitors for non-essential travel. However, “Should you find yourself here,” the Visit Seattle website says, “rest assured we’ll make you feel at home.” A travel advisory section maps out the phases, lists the current phase and outlines mandated protocols. The home page features blogs and listings for restaurants, attractions and hotels that are open as well as virtual experiences letting you dream of a trip to see everything from the famous space needle to the otters in the aquarium.

A screenshot of the Visit Seattle website showing the travel advisory and blogs on local restaurants that are open.
Excerpt from the Visit Seattle website

Travelers are also looking for …

  1. Outdoor spaces. The emphasis for wide open outdoor spaces is huge. Not only does that allow people to be more socially distant, but the fresh air lessens the infection rate of the virus. Offering parks where people can walk, hike, or even bike is now the norm.
  2. Uncrowded areas. Even if everyone is wearing a mask, being in a crowded place is still turning people away. Congested beaches or streets are not something people want to partake in right now. Having capacity limits for places like that will make people more comfortable knowing they can socially distance themselves, especially indoors.
  3. Safety protocols. People will mostly be looking for this when researching your destination. They want to know what you’re doing to make it safe for visitors. That way they gain trust and feel comfortable during their stay.

Travel Wyoming hits all of these points in their reopening campaign, “WY Responsibly, That’s WY.” Headlines of “Fewer people. More room for adventure” and “The open roads are calling” point visitors to the outdoor activities available and highlight the destination features travelers seek out. The COVID-19 travel information starts with protocols and includes a top list of what is open and what is not.

"We're committed to your safety" Travel Wyoming safety protocols advising travelers to wash their hands, sneeze into elbows, wear a mask and stay up to date on visiting.
Safety protocols from Travel Wyoming

More creative re-openings

Since the warmer months, businesses all over have shown their creative skills for welcoming visitors during reopening. We all know that restaurants are offering outdoor dining more than anything right now and have expanded seating into their parking lot or even nearby streets. Parks have designed circle areas to keep visitors 6 feet apart from others as shown in this picture at San Francisco’s Dolores Park.

Circles spaced 6 feet apart at Dolores Park in San Francisco, CA
Dolores Park, San Francisco. Photo credit: Christopher Michel
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Close to our home here in upstate New York, a local waterpark transformed its space to have live, drive-in concerts! Since everyone was craving the live music experience, Roseland Waterpark in Canandaigua worked with Rochester Events! to create a space where people can safely enjoy a concert. “We’ve made it easy and safe to drive right in and sit in or in front of your car with your favorite people for an evening of a live show.” Similar to a drive-in movie experience, people pull up in their cars and watch a live performance, following social distancing guidelines.

Rochester Events! Drive-In Live at Roseland logo and image of tribute band called "Almost Queen"

Travel and travel planning are majorly disrupted. The best way to re-open your destination is safely, keeping the health and well-being of your community and visitors in mind.