Manila, Philippines – Many Filipinos had to hit pause on travel plans for this year, greatly impacting the tourism industry here and abroad. Now that COVID-19 restrictions are easing up and borders are opening, people are becoming more hopeful for the future and slowly reviving their wanderlust wishlists.
However, with the high regard for health and safety, international travel is still considered risky. What forecasts show is that there will be an uptick in safe domestic travels. Now is the time for travel agencies to promote Philippine tourism and extend support to help small businesses to recover while prioritizing people’s well-being.
Where to next? Explore local destinations
During the early months of quarantine, people were only encouraged to go outside their homes for essential needs such as going to the groceries and trips to the hospitals. This has been especially true for major cities such as Manila, Makati, Pasay, and Quezon City.
As the country safely reopens the economy, Filipinos are gaining confidence to book out-of-town staycations and are looking for farm and beach destinations, with 30% and 40% increase respectively, in Google Search queries from August to September. This is most likely due to the fact that these places have bigger spaces to implement physical distancing and the positive impact of nature on a person’s well-being after being in-home quarantine. Beach attractions in Palawan, Boracay, and Batangas and natural attractions like Chocolate Hills in Bohol are among those being searched more often.
The three-step recovery plan for travel marketers
What can businesses and advertisers do to regain relevance in this recovery period for the travel industry? Google’s recent surveys conclude that one in two people in the Asia-Pacific region are interested to travel, showing optimism for the future, and looking for information on where they could fly to while still keeping safety in mind.
Travel businesses must take necessary preparations to help customers plan out their next domestic getaway. First, marketers should already be visible and engage travelers in their planning stage. Google’s survey highlights that consumers are turning to online travel agents (OTAs) when making travel plans. In China, six out of 10 consumers are planning more regularly with OTAs compared to the pre-COVID-19 era.
Companies should consider relaying safety and travel information across channels, as well as offering flexible bookings and price guarantees for travelers who are keen to book flights and hotel reservations early. They can also drive engagement by introducing innovative online marketing activations like live streams to keep their brand top-of-mind.
Second, marketers should take note of travelers’ top preferences when making booking choices. With the pandemic shifting priorities of consumers, cleanliness and hygiene are now one of the top factors they consider. This is followed by consideration on competitive prices and promotions, flexible policies, travel brand reputation, and loyalty programs. By understanding these data, travel companies can better tailor-fit their offers and keep up with the changing consumer sentiment.
Lastly, there are still some uncertainties surrounding the desire for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) activities and travel. What marketers can do is to instill confidence to reignite demand for the MICE segment. In China, hotel companies such as Marriott International are implementing enhanced hygiene protocols for business events to encourage bookings. Constant assurance of safety by communicating a commitment to cleanliness as part of brand messaging goes a long way to help revive the tourism industry.