CHECKLIST FOR A CITY TOURISM RECOVERY PLAN
1. Do you have clear, published success measures for tourism in a post-pandemic economy?
Most DMOs set numeric goals around volume, value, repeat visitors and city reputation. Some DMOs focus on distribution of visitor spend between neighborhoods. Good DMOs can also attribute additional spend directly to their actions — spend that wouldn’t have happened otherwise
2. Is your local tourism industry working together to manage and promote your destination?
Now is the time to ask your Mayor and/or a leading industry figure to play a larger role to galvanize your industry behind a single city or regional vision and brand
3. Do you know your audiences, their passions, wants and needs, and what will influence their behaviors?
Local, regional, and domestic travelers will be your priority in the coming year. As many vaccination programs are prioritizing older people first, they could be in the vanguard of returning visitors in 2021.
4. Do you know when and how your audiences will want to travel?
Many DMOs make the mistake of talking, rather than listening, to their target audiences. There are many ways to gain insights into your audiences, including free and paid-for market reports, social media listening tools, online surveys and partnerships with specialist travel marketing agencies, such as Sojern and Adara.
5. What are your audiences’ awareness and perceptions of your destination?
Many DMOs may struggle to justify spending public funds on brand marketing campaigns while there is enormous pressure on municipal budgets. Also, city brands tend to be fairly stable and are not changed overnight,35 so this may not be your top priority.
6. What do your audiences know about your attractions, events and offerings?
Bucket-list cities, which have resources to do marketing, may want to focus on extending their offering, while non-bucket list cities should focus on raising awareness and giving local and regional audiences a reason to travel.
In both cases, the priorities should be to:
• Earn (rather than buy) PR coverage, and
• Engage your audiences, through their preferred social media channels.
You may want to think about partnerships with freelance journalists, social media influencers and/or local celebrities
Websites, social media, email marketing and PR can also play a part in communicating regular updates to your audiences, to give them the assurances they need that it is safe for them to visit your destination.
7. How can you reach your audiences cost-effectively?
Even before the pandemic, most DMOs reached their audiences online. The pandemic has accelerated the online shift, but the optimal partnership mix may have changed post-pandemic.
For example, in the short term, OTAs may be less relevant for reaching local and regional audiences. Other platforms, on the other hand, may have become more important. E.g.,
• Mobile, computing and console games (“everyone was gaming” during lockdown);
• Trip planning platforms (Pinterest added many users in 2020); and
• Home-sharing platforms (home rentals significantly outperformed hotels during
8. Are your attractions, events and offerings interesting and attractive to your audiences?
The pandemic may have caused hotels, restaurants and bars, attractions, and cultural institutions to shut down permanently. While some larger cities may be able to support, or invest in, such businesses, smaller cities may not have the resources to maintain capacity in the sector.
Therefore, building back better will involve focusing on attractions and offerings which were already taking off, and are expected to become even more popular post-pandemic —
e.g., sustainable travel, travel with a social purpose, wellness travel experiences, arts and cultural offerings, and immersive pop-up activations
9. Have you made it easy for your audiences to book
and discover your city?
You should revisit questions such as:
• Do you have all your information in one place?
• Is the most searched for information the easiest to find?
• Are your offerings packaged? (E.g. train + hotel + tickets + office space + top-10 sites + walking map)
10. Does your sales team have defined target lists for the second half of 2021, as well as for the next 3 years — which it is aggressively pursuing?
There may be cultural, sporting and other events, which were previously not a good fit for your city, but which are now being reconfigured/downsized, and could come into play.
Native/neighboring businesses may also be able to hold more of their meetings/events locally in the coming years.
11. In the event of a bounceback when we reach a degree of normality, will venues/hotels, which had been put to alternative uses during the pandemic, as well as non-traditional venues (e.g. retail and restaurant spaces), be available to host events?
Some CVBs are forecasting that segments of the MICE market will come racing back in the next 6–24 months (forecasts vary significantly!).
Some cities have told us that they expect some venues to be busy in the second half of 2021.
If these forecasts prove to be accurate (and not everyone agrees), cities could look now at non-traditional spaces, which have become vacant during the pandemic — such as industrial, retail and restaurant spaces — and could be rented for events and pop-up activations.
However, cities should also look at the costs needed to upgrade the spaces, so that they have quality IT/AV systems, and/or event organizers are able to bring in plug-and-play systems.
12. How can you make it more worthwhile and convenient for someone
to attend an event in person?
Many commentators believe that, after we reach a degree of normality, business travelers will want to travel less, but for longer.
DMOs may want to think about new packages for business travelers and event goers, e.g., offering remote working facilities and “workcation”/“bleisure” packages — such as an apartment with an office, a pool and weekend excursions.
13. How will you manage with a smaller budget in the future?
Bloomberg Associates has published a tactical guide on new sources of operating funding for economic development programming, some of which may be relevant for programming to support your tourism economy.
35 The Anholt City Brands Index