March 2020 was almost a fever dream. We were baking bread, we were binge-watching “Tiger King,” trying to finally finish books on our bookshelf and we definitely were not traveling.
The pandemic has impacted the tourism industry particularly hard. Visitors aren’t just worried about getting sick, but also canceled plans due to quarantines and travel restrictions, all causing them to lose money. Despite these concerns, visitors are still geared up and ready to explore the world again… but cautiously. There is still a lot of hesitancy around travel as the environment changes, so visitors need flexibility when it comes to their travel plans. Destinations are in a unique position to demonstrate sincere empathy toward their visitors during the planning process, ultimately having the opportunity to gain (and maintain!) their trust and loyalty.
Walking in your visitors’ shoes can help you anticipate their needs, leaving a profound impact on future tourism success in your region.
Destinations have begun implementing communication methods that allow visitors to ask questions and leave feedback about their visit. As destinations show empathy toward visitors’ travel concerns, it not only allows for stronger relationships, but also gives DMOs and CVBs ways to disperse pertinent travel information in the event that travel restrictions, quarantines or acts of God should impact travelers’ plans.
How to Show Your Visitors You Care
The pandemic gave the tourism industry the unique advantage of learning new ways to connect with our visitors. Many tourism businesses and destinations have found innovative ways to communicate with their visitors and streamline processes that make resolving requests much easier.
In this new chapter of tourism, many people continue to find these pandemic-inspired tools and applications not only helpful but necessary. These tools have allowed visitors to feel more in control of their travel arrangements in a time when things have felt out of control while also working around their schedules, obligations and lifestyles.
In every interaction with a visitor, there is an opportunity to show empathy and foster feelings of trust. Many times, these opportunities present themselves in situational circumstances. However, there are some general tips and best practices to keep in mind as you navigate a new travel culture in the aftermath of the pandemic.
1. Maintain Open Communication With Your Visitors
Transparent and frequent communication with visitors signals that you understand their stress and anxieties and emphasize their comfort.
Open communication should ideally be a two-way street; they should have access to reach you, and you should create a space where you can access them.
This open communication can present itself with tools like online reviews, direct messaging applications, online submission forms and creating designated contact teams.
Creating open communication aims to allow visitors to feel heard, creating a sense of empathy from your team that you understand them and listen to them, thus building trust.
2. Streamline Communication Between Employees and Stakeholders
Communication must be fluid and streamlined with internal teams and stakeholders, too.
Investing the time and energy to create collaborative and streamlined internal communication processes helps teams quickly identify, strategize and adapt to any problems or issues that may arise. Creating internal streams of communication allows everyone involved in your destination to react quickly to meet travelers’ needs and improve guest experiences.
Sharing guests’ feedback is an example of valuable information that can be disseminated across departments. By reviewing and sharing this type of information, everyone will get a clearer picture of the traveler’s perspective, also leading to more stakeholder buy-in and trust. This information can then be used to create new methods to become proactive in resolving pain points and answering frequently-asked questions.
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Embracing New Technologies to Make This Possible
As guests’ needs evolve, so must technology.
Guests now prefer to conduct business and pleasure at their leisure – often on their timeline. Automated applications and AI applications can offer guests 24/7 response time, helping them to find ease and comfort in making their arrangements.
Apps and third-party integrations like chatbots allow more straightforward frequently-asked questions to become resolved quickly so your team can focus on more complicated and nuanced requests and concerns.
People want to travel, but hot and cold pandemic conditions left them with trust issues. Visitors are concerned that their trips could be canceled at any moment, that they might have to quarantine due to Covid exposure and so many more factors. With such an evolving environment, visitors are looking for a destination they can rely on.
With all of this in mind, DMOs and CVBs must go the extra mile to win their visitors’ trust.
DMOs and CVBs need to encourage their stakeholders to implement practices and communication models that place the visitors’ needs and concerns at the forefront of their practices. Using technology, providing quick responses, offering flexibility and empathizing with visitors’ needs at the center of all guest relations and experiences.
This empathy helps foster feelings of trust that your company delivers on your brand promise. The failure to do this could result in lost business, a bad reputation, negative online reviews and alienated communities. However, doing so, and doing so well, can help create trust, loyalty, positive online reviews, more visits and more.
With so many benefits on both ends of the relationship, this is a tourism trend that will not be going away anytime soon. Learning to implement empathy into your destination’s communication will help your destination to create a reliable and admirable reputation among visitors and residents alike. Although this is a trend that is here to stay, it’s important for DMOs to stay updated on the latest news to learn more about travelers and their needs.
Content Production Manager at Bull Moose Marketing. A lover of literature and a sunshine enthusiast who probably drinks too much tea. Connect with me on LinkedIn @paigeschamberg
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These progressive marketing articles offer tactics and strategy inspiration for heritage tourism, economic development, destination marketing organizations and other industry segments working to make their communities better places to work and live.
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