Tuesday 23 June, 2020

By Jenna Ciancia

If you are running a travel or tourism business in Scotland, 2020 is likely the first time you’ve approached high season without the buzz and excitement of guests arriving, phones ringing and inboxes filling up with enquiries from people ready to visit. Due to COVID-19, the heady buzz of your well-oiled business has been replaced with a stream of requests for cancellations and refunds.

And while there’s the potential for some optimism from 15 July, following the recent update from the Scottish Government, there are a number of urgent considerations in terms of adapting, innovating and promoting your business to ease travellers’ minds as they begin to think about holidays and leisure again.

What do the experts think recovery will look like?

Luckily a host of work has been going on in the background by the Scottish Tourism Emergency Response Group (STERG) to help the sector and your business get through this crisis. The group, which consists of partners including VisitScotland, Scottish Tourism Alliance and the Scottish Government, has published a phased plan to help the industry to respond, reset, restart and recover from the pandemic.

STERG’s National Action Plan maps out how tourism might develop over the next few months and suggests that the following is likely:

  • Stage 1: Day trips, with a ‘stay local’ message
  • Stage 2: Scots exploring Scotland, ideally for longer periods overnight
  • Stage 3: A more proactive push to encourage visitors from the rest of the UK

Research commissioned by the group has also identified how consumer attitudes have changed, with safe and responsible travel being a big focus for tourists. There will be more car journeys and demand for exclusive forms of transport. Visitors will generally be looking for trips that are more remote and rural than they might have booked previously, with more independent travel or travelling in smaller groups of family or friends.

What can you do now to benefit as lockdown eases?

Scotland’s future visitors are already sampling its delights from their armchairs. For tourism businesses looking to harness this interest and encourage bookings later in the year, there are a couple of things you can do now to ensure that your business is discoverable and appealing to potential visitors.

  1. Make sure prospective visitors can find your business and book

Research how easy it is for a prospective customer to find your business online once they decide they’re interested in booking a trip. If they search using key words related to your business, will it appear in their search results?

And if it does, is your business visible on the first page? In the travel industry alone, websites can generate tens of thousands of prospective visitors just through online search. By investing time in Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), you can make sure that your accommodation or attraction appears more frequently and higher up on search engine results pages.

  1. Ensure social content is relevant and inspiring

Consider how current and prospective customers will be using social media and respond by delivering content which both inspires and encourages them to engage.

Think about your business’s unique selling points in the context of the barriers consumers now have when it comes to travel, and build a story around this. For example, if your hotel might previously have been considered ‘hard to reach’, you can now use this to your advantage, building a story which positions the remote location as a chance for visitors to experience the great outdoors in a safe and responsible way.

For those who have got these basics right already, consider investing even a small amount of budget in producing high-quality social media content, along with some targeted promotion to extend its reach. And don’t just think words and pictures. Consider live broadcasts, quirky videos, or working with brand partners or influencers.

Want to find out more?

If you need inspiration, a new report from our travel team looks at the trends influencing consumer behaviour and strategic transformations that you may find useful as you work towards reopening. Please get in touch to receive a copy of the report.

To hear more about the industry’s recovery plans, these VisitScotland webinars – early steps to recovery and marketing recovery plans – are extremely insightful.

Jenna is an Account Director at Weber Shandwick Scotland. Managing a number of integrated consumer clients, she oversees the design and delivery of marketing and PR strategies across earned, owned and paid media channels. Contact Jenna at JCiancia@webershandwick.com.