Comment: How destinations are using data to navigate recovery

Freddy Friedman, managing director of Amadeus’ Travel Audience, explains

Data has become intrinsically linked to travel for many Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) over the last few years.

To successfully attract visitors, and adapt or change marketing efforts, DMOs must collect, analyse and understand data on what potential visitors are looking for and how their destination can stand out.

But 2020 has presented an entirely different and more difficult challenge. Covid-19 brought lockdown to many countries and fast-changing travel restrictions. Potential visitors are shifting their behaviour and preferred destinations in line with the latest government recommendations.

Travellers have not stopped searching for their next trip. They continue to think about where to visit, albeit with more-limited scope. More than ever, travellers want reassurance, flexibility and simplicity.

Against this backdrop, how can data help DMOs to keep up, build traveller confidence and rethink travel for the future?

Stages of recovery

Any assumptions DMOs may have made about travel pre-pandemic will need to be reassessed.

When and how visitors book, when they will seek to arrive and which destination they choose are data points that will vary wildly from previous years – and most likely will change week to week depending on the perceived safety and convenience of travel.

The key to capitalising on demand during this period of recovery is having the ability to rapidly understand and act on insights from traveller data.

Who is your audience? How have preferences and behaviours changed? What is the best way to attract and inform your target visitors?

Once you understand how demand has changed, you can plan effective campaigns to communicate the right messages to the right audience at the right time.

An example of how powerful data can be in supercharging a DMO’s marketing efforts is our work with Marketing Greece, a non-profit organisation established to promote tourism in the country.

About one quarter of the Greek economy is based on tourism, so it was crucial to identify and understand the signals which pointed to changes in tourists’ appetite as restrictions were eased.

Powered by data that showed when and how to relaunch campaigns, Greece has been able to identify patterns in user searches.

The strategy began with the inspiration phase, showing travellers ‘Greece From Home’ advertising to keep interest high and also notify potential visitors of changes in restrictions and availability.

Marketing Greece was able to review the effectiveness of the campaign regularly and pick the optimal time to move to the next phase.

The initial ‘Greece From Home’ campaign evolved into an ‘Until the Time is Right’ campaign in mid-April to reassure travellers the country would soon be open for tourists.

Then in June Greece launched its ‘Endless Greek Summer’ campaign aimed at inspiring people to visit, taking advantage of the warmer weather in the traditional off-season months at the end of summer.

The Endless Greek Summer messaging built on the positive reputation the country gained during its successful handling of the first wave of the pandemic, sending a message of optimism and empathy towards the world.

Minimise risk

Another important outcome of thoroughly reviewing data is that it shows DMOs where they need to invest their resources.

For many destinations, especially long-haul, air connectivity poses even more of a problem than usual in the recovery period.

For example, it can be tricky for DMOs to understand the origin of a traveller if they are unable to take a direct flight. This also raises the possibility that visitors are taking potentially higher-risk routes which involve stopovers in countries with high or rising infection rates.

By understanding demand data, DMOs can pinpoint demand and negotiate the opening of new routes – which is especially important for destinations outside Europe seeking to attract European tourists who may feel it is safer to look closer to home for their next trip.

As we look to the future, data, technology and innovation will be powerful enablers of change.

Many destinations now rely on multiple sources of data, each piece helping to develop a more complete picture of the status of their region and potential traveller’s intent.

This data is more important than ever to understand the rapidly changing situation and communicate effectively to promote safer travel.

With the right analysis, DMOs can offer the reassurance visitors are looking for, providing inspiration to encourage demand and forge the pathway to recovery.

Freddy Friedman is managing director of Amadeus’ data-driven travel advertising company Travel Audience

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