The Context

The COVID-19 crisis has propelled destination marketing organizations (DMOs) into a rapidly changing landscape with a high level of uncertainty.

The Challenge

Destination Campbell River came to us at the onset of the crisis for strategic communication guidance. They sought to alter their messaging during a time when society and the economy were shutting down to prevent the spread of the virus. Our strategic team has developed this model to help Destination Campbell River and other DMOs navigate three phases of the crisis:


The DMO needed to immediately begin to mitigate the damage to the tourism industry. It was incredibly important for people to see the Destination Campbell River as a hub of information in the initial days of the pandemic. The organization would maintain trust by shifting its messaging to acknowledge the crisis.

“[We monitored] current conditions in the early days. Then, when there were widespread business closures to attractions and resorts, we really had to shift our messaging, which was primarily geared towards inviting visitors [and] being good hosts, to now, very respectfully, ask those people to stay away.” 

Kirsten Soder
Executive Director at Destination Campbell River

“The swiftness, and how quick we were able to action a plan and a proposal was extremely impressive. The Destination Think team was very able to understand the scope of what we needed. 

[…] We couldn’t have possibly taken on something this big and strategic with a staff of four.” 

Kirsten Soder
Executive Director at Destination Campbell River


Destination Think’s first order of business was to develop a messaging guide that outlines Destination Campbell River’s response to various stages of the crisis. We described this at Virtual Forum: Adjusting your destination’s communications through the COVID-19 crisis. Recovery is not a linear process, and our team considers five restriction scenarios that places are likely to encounter.

This framework has helped Destination Campbell River communicate the right message at the right time to the right people. Locals, stakeholders and audiences receive information and support that align with the current scenario. 

We created a messaging guide that outlines sentiment, tone of voice, image suggestions and sample copy. It defines the triggers that indicate when Campbell River moves between the various phases of the crisis. By using the guide, the DMO can easily adapt its communications and coordinate as a team.


Following the development of the messaging guide, Destination Think created a social media toolkit for the local tourism industry. The toolkit would support and guide the industry through the crisis. It includes up-to-date information, messaging examples and best practice examples.

The guide aims to ensure that the tourism industry in Campbell River has a united approach to social media communication. By doing so, the destination can build a strong reputation built on community spirit and teamwork.

“Our job is to keep people calm and informed through this situation, and the DMO’s role is to keep the industry connected and together. Stakeholders always expect us to provide guidance. [The guide] has been well received. […] We’re seeing a lot more stakeholders reach out to us individually and say, “I really want to action this for my business; how can you help?” 

We can provide really great insight and suggestions specific to individual organizations or businesses.” 

Kirsten Soder
Executive Director at Destination Campbell River

These are the four levels of uncertainty (a model created by McKinsey & Company) shared on Day 1 of Destination Think’s Virtual Forum event.
See here for our Chief Strategist’s full slide deck.

“Destination Think’s scenario planning has given us a roadmap to follow. […] Having that guiding light in place will be really helpful, long term. While we have put a lot of consultation and effort into what those likely outcomes will be, we’ve also been able to look at the periphery and see what the possibilities are if things don’t go as planned. The nimble aspect of Destination Think’s work has given us a contingency to our contingency.” 

Kristin Soder
Executive Director at Destination Campbell River


Clarity is emerging in Campbell River as the crisis unfolds. The destination has moved from a place of true uncertainty – level four in this model – and into level three, where it is possible to plan for a range of futures. Paths and models showing what could happen to the economy are starting to take shape.

Destination Think undertook a series of collaborative scenario planning sessions with Destination Campbell River and built strategic plans based on the most likely scenarios to occur in the next three to six months.

These strategic plans will inform the corresponding content and communications strategies to ensure that, whenever it is appropriate, the Destination Campbell River team is ready to pivot and enact the strategy seamlessly.

Read more about DMO scenario planning.


Destination Think also worked closely with the Destination Campbell River team to surface unique content ideas during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The lockdown period in Campbell River has disrupted local life. Using the insight that the DMO should be “the citizen that other citizens need right now,” our creative team came up with a campaign called Campbell River Lockdown Showdown to support locals in a time of need. The campaign provides fun social challenges that lets locals and potential visitors tap into the local community spirit. New challenges like “Show your brew with a view” are shared on Fridays to help the weekend feel like the weekend again.

Lockdown Showdown showcases the genuine side of Campbell River so onlookers on social media can get a real feel for the place.

The campaign’s format meets an immediate need, but will also support the tourism restart. It subtly introduces ideas that will come to life in a post-lockdown campaign that is waiting for just the right moment, when people can once again travel responsibly.

What comes next? To bring the strategic plans identified in scenario planning to life, Destination Think is working collaboratively with the Destination Campbell River team to plan ahead and be ready to launch the appropriate messaging when the moment comes to restart tourism.

Please get in touch if you like this case study and you would like this kind of support for your destination.