Restart your destination’s tourism industry: Phase 2 of 3

Katie Shriner

21 May 2020

Your destination will pass through three, somewhat overlapping, phases during the COVID-19 crisis. The first is the mitigate phase, which requires nimble action to address the impact of the pandemic and tourism lockdown. The third phase will provide an opportunity to reimagine tourism in a way that better meets the needs of visitors, locals and the environment. In between is the restart phase. It’s the period when tourism businesses begin to reopen, and restrictions on public activities gradually lessen. Here, our strategy team provides insight into how your DMO can lead your tourism industry forward in the short term as travel restarts.

Three phases of focus

During the restart phase, your DMO will need to adopt new roles to best serve its community. Chief Strategist William Bakker identifies three roles for DMOs to assume. The first role is public servant, one that focuses on promoting safe behaviour and safe travel during the early stages of reopening. The second role is business coach, where you can help prepare tourism operators to run a restricted business. Another role is the teacher. This position presents an opportunity to prepare communities to host travellers and assure residents that you are protecting visitors, locals and businesses.  

As you explore roles that you may not be used to, avoid assuming that a business-as-usual approach will yield typical results. Our restart model illustrates the steps that destinations should take to plan for a potentially bumpy road ahead. Taking the time to develop a clear plan allows you to anticipate changes and will help your DMO deal with a range of scenarios. 

Our strategy team has underlined the importance of a well-thought-out strategic plan. It starts with the development of a data framework to understand potential scenarios. Then, you can quickly communicate learnings and identify messages, target audiences and assumptions. Long-term impact models come next. Consider developing three variations based on how long it will take to enter the restart phase. From there, you can develop a vision, objectives and KPIs. This process will give your destination something to strive for and help you both engage and align with industry, residents and government. The fourth step focuses on adjusting strategies based on impact models. Here, you can create a business case for government support. The final takeaway is to be ready to execute your DMOs plan. Prepare your team and keep tourism partners updated on your efforts. That way, when the time is right, you can start supporting your industry and local community further.   

Understanding the feelings of both residents and visitors is crucial during the restart phase. Consider whether visitors are confident enough to travel and feel that they will be able to do so safely. Likewise, consider whether local residents and businesses feel they can welcome visitors back safely and responsibly. Use this time to improve risk assessment within both the public and private sectors. This includes guiding the industry on how to safely reopen and communicating to the public measures being taken to ensure safety. Updating contingency plans and communication channels will also help your destination ease back to more limited mobility when the time is right. Work toward a solid tourism emergency plan that embraces the principles of crisis preparedness and management in the tourism sector. 

Further considerations: Serve your stakeholders during the tourism restart

As you begin to move your planning into action, consider the following:

  • Avoid dependence on one single activity or market
  • Address the underlying shifts in demand
  • Consider new tourism experiences 
  • Continue to share information and advise industry regarding financial stability, pivoting their businesses and available support 
  • Anticipate risks: causing an outbreak through overly aggressive promotion, risk of brand damage from insensitive communication to target markets
  • Diversify revenue and funding

Diligent planning is the most effective way to combat the unpredictability of the COVID-19 crisis. As your destination moves into the restart phase, remember to select the plan that best serves your scenario and stick with it. Your tourism industry will appreciate your forward thinking and support when the time comes.  

This is the third article in our series about the three phases of planning and action for DMO’s during the pandemic. 

Get the support your DMO needs during uncertain times

Your destination may be in lockdown, but you are not alone. Join Destination Think’s COVID-19 support network to access tools and support that will help guide your DMO through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Feature image credit: Anthony DELANOIX

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