Like so many others, I love to travel and, typically, as soon as I get back from one trip, set my sights on the next destination on my list and start counting down the days.
As travel editor at the Vancouver Courier newspaper, a board member of the B.C. branch of the Travel Media Association of Canada, and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, travel is a big part of my life, just as it is with friends and family and the many other travel writers I’ve come to know over the years.
But, with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve found ourselves in an unprecedented situation in which travel as we all know it has been grounded.
With no set date as to when we might once again begin packing too many clothes for that weekend away or trip to warmer climes
In an effort to catch a glimpse of future travel trends and garner information about just when some destinations might once again be open for business, I reached out to travel experts and tourism bureaus across Canada and the globe for answers to five similar questions.
And while no one can predict the future, all are hopeful travel will soon resume. But, how exactly that will look is anyone’s guess.
If you are part of a destination management organization or represent a property and want to share your thoughts, please drop me a line at email@example.com.
Five questions with Destination B.C.
How do you measure tourism numbers across the province?
Tourism numbers for the province are measured under various performance indicators, which include key tourism statistics such as international visitor arrivals, provincial room revenue, commercial restaurant receipts, provincial and regional occupancy rates and average daily room rates, regional airports, ferries, and convention centres.
We also track the economic value the tourism industry contributes to the province, using 10 years of tourism revenue, gross domestic product, and business and employment data.
Visitor volume and market origin data are also summarized. For more information on our research tools and methods, please visit our website.
How has COVID-19 impacted tourism in B.C.?
With the travel restrictions imposed, tourism operations largely at a standstill until travel is considered safe and encouraged once again, and the need for us all to stay home to help flatten the curve of COVID-19 in B.C., we are naturally seeing a steep decline.
While our regular tourism data for this period won’t be available for another month or two, we know there has been an exponential impact on our industry and we’re already seeing devastating losses from our colleagues across the province.
Right now, we’ve turned our focus to supporting B.C.’s tourism by ensuring they have reliable information about health directives and the relief programs introduced by the federal and provincial governments, while planning an extensive recovery campaign for once the virus is contained and travel is encouraged.
You can read more about Destination B.C.’s response here.
Can you talk about Destination B.C.'s #exploreBC...Later campaign?
While we have paused all of our paid international and domestic marketing campaigns, we’ve turned our collective efforts to supporting the provincial health directives to help flatten the curve of infection.
Destination B.C. is following the direction of the Ministry of Health, and encouraging others to do the same, to help do our part in flattening the curve of COVID-19 in B.C.
The sooner the virus is contained, the sooner we can begin on the road to recovery.
As such, Destination B.C. has ceased all marketing, including to the U.S. and Canada, and is focused on supporting industry and keeping them informed on the latest developments.
With that in mind, we created the #explore BC…later campaign to help us get the message out that now is not the time to travel.
While we’re all passionate about exploring B.C., now is not the time to travel and we know that too many Canadians are continuing to travel and gather for leisure purposes.
We are collectively asking everyone to please stay home and follow the advice of health authorities to keep themselves and others safe.
We must all do our part now, so we can all explore B.C. again later. Across our channels, we are urging audiences to stay home and explore B.C. later.
Our tourism industry partners from across the province are also sharing the sentiment, and we are all working together to amplify our collective voice. The more we do today, the sooner we can all explore B.C. again. So, #exploreBClater content is featured across our Destination B.C. channels, for both consumer and industry audiences.
We also released this Dream of Later video, in which we are encouraging British Columbians to pause, stay in and dream of later travel. To date, more than 877,000 people have seen the video on our channels and it was aired as a public service announcement across the Bell and Corus TV networks at no cost.
That said, we are actively planning a significant recovery campaign for the tourism industry in three phases, of which the last two phases can be implemented once circumstances change and public safety is assured:
- Response (currently here)
Once the COVID-19 virus is contained and domestic travel is again considered safe and encouraged, we will launch a major domestic marketing program encouraging British Columbians to travel in B.C. this summer (as appropriate) and long into the fall.
A significant investment is being made into this campaign, re-allocated from other existing marketing budgets.
Extending the potential for tourism industry revenue recovery, by supporting domestic travel further into the fall season, is critical.
Destination B.C. will implement marketing to encourage travel from B.C., Alberta and Ontario. Additionally, once borders re-open and it is safe to do so, Destination B.C. will market to drive-focussed holiday travelers from short-haul U.S. drive markets (Washington or Oregon) and mid-haul fly-driven markets such as California.
We will continue to work with industry through the development of these plans, and to assess communities’ and operators’ abilities to welcome visitors once it is safe to do so
You can read more about the plan here.
Has the virus changed the way people are looking at travel, and what travel trends do you predict for later this year and 2021?
We expect that the world will look different when we all come out of this, and our industry will need to be prepared to meet the new expectations of travellers.
Leveraging our relationships with digital platforms like Google, Trip.com, WeChat and others around the world, we’ve recently set up a new signals team at Destination B.C. to help our organization and our B.C. industry understand how and when consumers are re-entering the travel marketplace.
Currently, consumers feel COVID-19 will influence them to travel closer to home and not to crowded locations or spaces.
During times of economic uncertainty, we know that consumer behaviour shifts quite dramatically. So, as we plan for recovery in the future, we should expect that the majority of consumers will have:
- More of a focus on the short-term
- Delayed spending on big purchases — travel often being among these
- Lower risk tolerance — so your cancellation, refund and raincheck policies become very important
- More price-sensitive shopping — financially-stressed consumers will be seeking out deals and lower prices
- Seek out brands they trust as an important purchase decision driver.
At this point in time, consumers are saying two things that are important for tourism operators to consider:
I will plan my travel last-minute to be flexible in a fast-changing situation
I will plan my travel as I normally would, if I can get:
- free-of-charge cancellations
- ticket refunds
- waived re-booking fees
- travel insurance
What does the near future hold for Destination B.C.?
Once domestic travel is again considered safe and is encouraged, and with industry capacity in mind, we will launch a major domestic marketing program to support the re-start of our industry.
As other markets re-open, we will focus first on opportunities across Canada and, later, cultivate international travel, most likely beginning with U.S. border states. We know that reviving tourism will very much rely on the state of our overall economy at that time and the season we are in.
We believe recovery will require a massive, cooperative effort by our industry and beyond, and we plan to work in a deeply integrated way with our partners through B.C.’s Tourism Data Hub alliance, and from the public and private sectors.
Destination B.C.’s priority is helping tourism businesses — first, to survive, then, to thrive — to regenerate jobs.
To rebuild revenues that circulate in our local economies. To revive consumer confidence in travel. To restore our social license with residents. To revitalize the social, cultural, environmental and economic benefits that tourism brings to us all — as citizens of our province, our country and our world.