Tourism is an important sector that accounts for 10.3% of global gross domestic product and one in every 10 jobs As the world adjusted to life under travel restrictions and quarantines during the Covid-19 pandemic, the sector came to a near standstill. Now industry leaders and governments are focused on setting the industry back on the road to recovery.  Changing demographics, improved connectivity for destinations, technological innovations, and increased recognition of the need for more sustainable and inclusive growth, are likely to dramatically transform the face of tourism, representing new opportunities and challenges for destinations.

Tourism has Transformed and so Should the Industry

Sustainable tourism should not be considered a special form of tourism, but rather, all forms of tourism should strive to be more sustainable. Long-term sustainability requires the right balance between environmental, economic, social, and cultural aspects. Sustainable tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in the global tourism industry and the Middle East is no exception.

International arrivals to destinations in the Middle East were 52% higher in January than in the same month of 2021. Sustainable, regenerative tourism is the answer to the tourism paradox in the Middle East, and governments are now conscientiously integrating these models into their tourist development and economic recovery plans. Policymakers are recognizing the opportunities in sustainable tourism as part of their economic diversification efforts.

7 Steps for Sustainable Tourism and Sustainable Business

Middle Eastern nations are developing tourism projects with sustainability at their core. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is creating the 92-island Red Sea Project with a cap on the number of visitors allowed per year and three-quarters of the islands left untouched to protect endangered species. Coral Bloom, home to the world’s fourth-largest barrier reef system, will take sustainable tourism a step further, into regenerative tourism – the practice of leaving a place ‘better than you found it’.

Countries are looking for ways to reinvent, restore and reshape tourism in the post-COVID-19 future. Domestic and sustainable tourism is strengthening significantly.  W7Worldwide’s 7-Step Guide harnesses our extensive knowledge in the tourism sector to help companies create effective communications strategies that will keep them ahead in a changing and competitive market.

  1. Audience Mapping

Audience mapping is crucial to your recovery communications plan.  This is to identify all audience groups in your value chain and should include employees, customers, suppliers, tourism industry bodies, community partners, the media, and the public. Categorize your audiences by sentiment, as in positive, neutral, and opposition, to then define each audience’s communications needs.

Consider how your organization needs to communicate with each group and focus on stakeholders open to influence.  As we are gradually moving beyond the pandemic, you will need to monitor and review the changing situation for shifts in your stakeholder landscape. Engage and align with strategic partners and government support efforts to cooperate toward recovery and connect with local businesses and communities.  This is an opportunity to help your industry and community stay resilient and build a sustainable future.

  1. Adapt Your Communications Strategy

Communication is much more than just using the right type of language and positive ways of promoting your destination.  If the communications strategy does not appeal to new customer behaviours and expectations, you will fail. The tourism industry is back on an upward trajectory as it becomes easier to travel again and to reach more destinations with relative speed and affordability.

The people-to-people nature of the sector means public health protocols will have an effect on the way companies run their operations for the foreseeable future.  Destination marketing will need to shift to promoting the travel experience and supporting local communities. Sustainable tourism offers many possibilities for companies in 2022, providing they apply it to their business in an ethical manner. It enables destinations to talk about local lives and sustaining environments. Sustainability is the hottest topic in tourism right now and embracing it gives your company brand authority.

  1. Destination Branding

Strategic destination branding focuses on building a consistent and sustainable brand image. To develop a destination brand strategy, you need to identify the product, research the target audience, and finally decide on the brand tone of voice. Focus on unique selling propositions that refer to the attractions and benefits only your destination can offer. This is to make travelers realize why the destination stands out from other popular destinations, bring more visitors, and help you discover new USPs from your target audiences.

Destination branding has become part of the modern marketing mix used by hotels, resorts, cities, and even countries. It involves a holistic approach to crafting a unique identity for the destination around elements such as the destination proposition, heritage, and values. The destination brand is pivotal to what is communicated to the world. It is building a story and orchestrating consistent messaging that forms a reputation in the eyes of its visitors. In essence, destination branding is all about who you are.

  1. Content Development

From environmental degradation and over-tourism to pollution, increased cost of living, and poor quality of life for local residents, tourism operators are shifting to destination management and environmental stewardship. Instead of calling yourself sustainable or responsible, demonstrate how you’re making an impact by providing updates that correspond to real and measurable actions.

Give customers updates on the steps you are taking toward sustainability. Include it in your emails, blogs, and video content. Share on social media and on your website. Your content plan needs to connect to your overarching Sustainability Plan, address destination challenges, and align with your sustainability goals. Identify stories and experiences that support your destination goals and address challenges or pain points.

Tailor your messaging to instill trust and give a sense of security and create positive attitudes towards travel post Covid-19.  Encourage audiences by tapping into what they are most excited about, such as nature, a much-deserved holiday after stressful times, and reuniting with relatives and loved ones abroad. Repurpose your image catalog to showcase your brand experience. Enhance this by identifying distribution channels such as YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

  1. Pivot to Digital Media

Social media has become a key tool for organizations in the travel and tourism industry to outlast the crisis by staying connected with past and future customers regardless of physical distance.  Recreate memories of your brand experience and your social media channels can provide this opportunity.  Employ advocacy and influencer campaigns by generating reviews from new travelers and engaging with positive comments from visitors on your platforms.

Be responsive to shifting travel planning trends, capture consumers who are shifting plans from international travel to domestic travel, and to sustainable tourism.  Travel and tourism organizations need to leverage database marketing efforts for personalized messaging, loyalty programmes, vouchers, incentives and to keep their customers informed.  Review your website and SEO efforts to preserve website rankings. Consumer loyalty is a priceless resource, so travel and tourism businesses must include database marketing as a means of cementing customer relationships to create barriers against competitors.  Direct marketing will provide companies with a wealth of data to help analyse customer behaviour, identify the right prospects, and look for indicators in new customer behaviours and demands.

  1. Deploy Influencer Marketing

Almost half of the marketers that work in MENA use influencer marketing and 94% find it successful for their brand’s marketing. However, influencer marketing in MENA differs from the Western market. Your influencer marketing campaign should be specifically designed for the region’s culture and tastes. In this context, influencer marketing is a great way for tourism brands to get a foothold in the region.

When working with Influencers, be sure to do your research to ensure the content creator aligns with your responsible tourism and brand efforts.  Travel writers, influencers, or other creatives, promoting your destination will be an extension of your brand, so it’s important to work with people that share your vision and goals. You should also design familiarization trips that showcase your responsible and sustainable travel experiences, such as slow travel, eco-tourism, cultural experience, off-trail, etc.

Sustainability storytelling is the most powerful and responsible way to promote sustainable tourism. It offers meaningful exchange, shares authentic stories of real people, and can positively impact local communities and businesses.  It will create a positive reputation for your brand at all levels with social proof and secure the trust of stakeholders.

  1. Industry Leadership

Governments around the world must align their policies and work hand in hand with the private sector to restore travel and tourism and help revive the economy. The tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue, and foreign exchange earnings. Industry leaders now need to engage with politicians, policy, and government decision-makers, either directly or via their trade body, to shape a stronger, safer, and more resilient tourism economy.

Both industry and consumer media outlets are craving reliable information and advice on how to navigate the path forward in a changing world. The brands that are proactive now with thought leadership content will secure the best position. Journalists at national daily newspapers are tailoring their stories to local market needs.  Equally, sector media are currently most interested in the economic impact of the pandemic and how this will affect companies, industries, and employees, so reach out to the business media with a domestic angle.

 

Economic, social, and environmental impacts are felt at every destination visited by tourists, regardless of the volume or the locality. Tourism success cannot be measured solely in visitor numbers anymore, but rather in its ability to contribute to local economies and the net benefits it provides to destinations.

Attitudes, motivations, and preferences of tourists and business travelers will have changed – perhaps forever.  Covid-19 is proving a catalyst in the travel and tourism sector with the adoption of new digital technologies.  As a result of the pandemic, the travel industry is at a point of disruption. Businesses need to adopt a sustainable communications strategy that allows their team to detect, adapt to, and respond to these changes.

Moving Forward

The tourism industry must be prepared to work in an environment where sustainability and operational requirements will become more stringent. Travel and tourism operators will need to be creative and flexible with their offerings and success will come down to how they package an experience for customers.  Consider the new expectations, concerns, and preferences of travelers to ensure your brand is their preferred option.

Proactive PR and communications strategies will be essential in ensuring continued reassurance and confidence to secure the trust of stakeholders and customers.  Companies need to be seen to be making tourism smarter, promoting sustainability, supporting jobs, building resilience, and protecting cultural heritage.

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