The COVID-19 situation is wreaking havoc across a wide range of industries—but we all know that tourism and hospitality are being hit especially hard. And if your destination marketing organization is partner-based, you know that your members are feeling the effects as well.
During a crisis like this, partners will look to you for leadership and support. And it’s up to your organization to find ways to provide value and see your partners through these uncertain times. This is also an opportunity to support your tourism strategy while being mindful of local and national restrictions.
Here are four proactive ways your DMO can provide value to your partners during the current COVID pandemic.
Let them leverage your platforms
Your partners probably have their own platforms they use to reach current and potential customers, whether it’s social media, a newsletter, or a blog. But offering them access to your DMO’s various platforms can help them connect with a whole new (and potentially much larger) audience.
One way to do this is by offering temporary “takeovers” of your account. For instance, a partner can take “control” of your Instagram account for a day in order to build awareness about their product or service with your followers. They could also contribute a guest post for your blog or curate your newsletter for the week.
This type of takeover works best if the content is genuinely engaging and not a direct sales pitch. Advise partners to showcase their offerings in interesting ways. For example, a restaurant can follow a day in the life of their chefs, a fitness studio could offer live-at-home workouts—anything that’s actually useful to your audience.
Discover Puerto Rico hosted a virtual “weekend getaway” that offered anyone a chance to experience a bit of Puerto Rico without leaving their home. The all-online initiative, which included a Facebook event and live Instagram Stories on Discover Puerto Rico, highlighted local attractions organizations, like a tour through the rain forest and a live salsa dancing class.
This type of program could be replicated for any destination, using whatever platforms you have available to you. It’s a low-cost project that promotes the destination as a whole while putting local partners in the spotlight. It’s also a great way to encourage your followers to keep daydreaming about future travel to your destination.
Keep in mind that this approach typically works best for smaller destinations with a limited number of partners — you don’t want to have your channels completely overtaken by hundreds of partners. And if the partner compensates you in any way, you’ll need to make it clear that the content is a paid partnership.
Amplify partner content and offerings
Depending on your local regulations, your partners have probably had to cancel in-person events and experiences for the foreseeable future. But when times get tough, the tourism industry gets creative. Many museums, restaurants, venues, and more have moved their offerings online to continue connecting with their at-home audience.
Check to see if any of your partners are getting creative with their digital presence. For instance, tons of organizations are pivoting to online programs and events, whether it’s a cocktail class via Instagram, a virtual tour, or a live performance or workshop on Zoom.
Look for opportunities to amplify these new resources and events via your own channels. This could be as simple as a retweet or as involved as a blog series or microsite—anything to get the word out about what your partners are doing and help users experience a bit of your destination from afar.
For instance, we helped Choose Chicago quickly adapt their popular events calendar to feature partner’s virtual events and live streams. Blog posts also highlight partners’ online experiences, like virtual museum tours and archived concert footage.
These types of offerings are also a great way to continue building a connection with potential visitors who are looking for a distraction. Your content can offer them a temporary escape and encourage them to add your destination to their future travel plans.
Provide helpful resources
Your partners look to you for thought leadership, now more than ever. Help them stay up to date by sharing the latest tools and best practices concerning COVID-19 and the tourism and hospitality industries.
Send out regular newsletters or other communications sharing resources that can help your partners (like how they can respond to COVID concerns using Google tools). You can also share information about grants and loans, industry studies, research, and more.
Consider adding a page on your website to compile these resources to make the information more shareable. Look for tools and websites that would be relevant for all partners, or group the resources by industry (restaurants, hotels, meeting planners, etc.). You might even consider hosting a webinar or other virtual educational event.
For instance, Travel Iowa created a page on its website dedicated to COVID-19 resources for its partners across industries, including industry research, updates from local authorities, tourism toolkits, and more. They also host regular online forums to share ideas, foster a sense of community, and keep in close contact with tourism partners.
Spearhead campaigns or initiatives
The right campaign can help you engage with your target market, while also encouraging your audience to connect with your partners—talk about a win-win.
Look for ways to engage your local audience and encourage them to support your partners, while practicing safe social distancing. First, identify specific tactics to help local businesses generate revenue — reaching out to them directly is a good start — and then launch social or digital campaigns to spread the word.
One recent example is the Great American Takeout initiative. This social campaign, created by a coalition of national and regional eateries, encouraged people to order carry-out at their favorite local restaurants on specific days. It’s a great example of how you can galvanize your audience to support your partners while respecting local restrictions and regulations.
These types of initiatives are also a great way to connect with locals and show genuine support for your community. Bringing residents and small businesses together can only have a positive impact on your destination and your partners.
These are unprecedented times for the tourism industry—a time when your partners will need your support more than ever. Taking the initiative to find ways to promote their offerings, spearheading strategic campaigns, and distributing useful resources are all crucial ways you can demonstrate your DMO’s value that your partners won’t soon forget.