DMOs, Unsure, Expect to Resume Marketing In 2nd Or 3rd Quarter

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The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) asked destination management Associate Members about their post-COVID 19 recovery marketing plans. What they found: A quarter (24 percent) of the respondents will restart marketing efforts during the second or third quarter of this year, while 11 percent said campaigns will start in the fourth quarter. Roughly half (56 percent) do not know when they will restart.

The survey also found that about half (44 percent) of the DMO respondents expect their marketing budgets to increase or stay the same, while slightly more (48 percent) expect budgets to decrease. Additionally, half the respondents (49 percent) do not expect to see layoffs, while just 12 percent do expect layoffs; the remaining 39 percent are “not sure.”

The results are fairly consistent with MMGY Travel Intelligence, who, in partnership with Destinations International Foundation, found that half of destination organizations expect to conduct paid promotional email campaigns, paid search and paid social media campaigns in the next 60 days. The data also showed that destination organizations have continued to use owned social media channels and informational email campaigns consistently throughout the pandemic.

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Additional results from MMGY highlighting expectations for future marketing efforts revealed that industry sponsorships and brand activations may be impacted the most, at least in the next two months, as only 20 percent of responding organizations anticipate investing in this area in the next 60 days, compared to more than 80 percent who were investing in these channels pre-coronavirus.

According to the USTOA, the most frequent recovery or short-term strategy is “postpone, don’t cancel.” Other popular strategies include:

  • Inspirational social media messages to make virtual connections, i.e.: “see (or dream) now, travel later,” through images, virtual tours, cultural content and nature exploration
  • Education and training for trade and travel advisors 
  • Education of consumers through tactics like public relations
  • Avoidance of tactical and overly promotional messages in the short-term

While acknowledging the present uncertainty and need to assess the situation as the recovery unfolds, roughly two-thirds (61 percent) of DMOs expect to change their current marketing messages. Some commonalities include:

  • The need to stay nimble to respond to shifts in news, consumer behavior
  • Attention paid to tone; for example, how to describe “safety”
  • Promote natural assets: The great outdoors, wildlife, national parks, wide-open spaces
  • Emphasize distinctive cultural, gastronomic “only in…” experiences
  • Start to shift to tactical marketing when the time is right, working with tour operator and travel advisor partners

USTOA’s survey was completed on April 6, with a 44 percent response rate of US DMO Associate Members. MMGY’s survey was conducted among employees of destination organizations representing U.S. cities, regions and states in two waves: March 16 – 22 and March 30 – April 6, 2020.

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