Now is the time to build Tourism

16 Sep,2020

 

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

Travel and hospitality business has opened to a considerable extent in Unlock 4.0. However, the Covid-19 induced mental lockdown continues.

 

Tourism is critical. It has a multiplier effect on the economy. And the economy of certain places is entirely tourism-dependent.

 

People have been living a life of restlessness in this period of uncertainty. They were forced to adopt a very in-door in-house lifestyle. Now, quite a few are itching to take their well-deserved vacations. Many are undecided. And a lot more, just not willing to risk it.

 

The one thinking about vacation is full of doubts. They need to be nudged. Tourism needs to not only convince them of the destination pull but convince them of the safety.

 

Domestic Travel Focus

Families and couples have started discussing possible vacations during the festival period. Most are considering, 3N4D or a full week-long single destination trip. Hesitant to step out, they are mainly looking at intra-state and predominately domestic travel.

 

Changing Needs

To stay, people say they would prefer a private villa and houses or places they can completely own to create their sanitised bubble. They are willing to rent a car for local travel and eat out less often.

 

They are not looking at adventure but a place to rest and enjoy. Places where privacy is guaranteed, service is stress-free and the environment; sanitised to their satisfaction. Not sure how the situation plays out, everyone wants free cancellation.

They have simple needs. Adherence to safety and hygiene norms. Proper isolation and sanitisation. Predominately contactless service. Private pools and bars. Free high-speed complimentary WIFI. A sumptuous breakfast buffet. TV, and if possible a FireStick for OTT content they love to watch. These can tilt the choice and help make the decision to take the pending vacation.

 

Vacations are no longer just a personal experience, They are more of a shared experience on social platforms. Hence memories need to be captured to be shared. And at times, this photogenic landscape or jaw-dropping experiences ( for the viewer) can help decide the destinations.

 

Recalibrate The Promise

Recalibrate the communication to address Indian audience; which has been under house arrest for the past six months. This recalibration is a need across all segment; Health, Religion, Adventure, Heritage, Nature or Wildlife tourism. As and when the places open up, expect a considerable skew towards religious travel.

 

Tourism boards and the destinations must re-think and re-craft the re-aligned experience and destination proposition.

 

Domestic Traveller. Domestic Destination.

International inbound tourism remains doubtful. It is time to focus on the Indian population and give the domestic traveller its due.

 

The experience expectations of the Indian audience is different.

 

The domestic traveller is not going to religious places in search of peace but to thank God and pray. They are not visiting heritage sites not a deep dive in history, but for ticking off and picture opportunities that they can share, telling others, they have been there. Unlike the foreigners, local cuisines is not an adventure in spices for them. And the lake or the forest an ecosystem to explore.

 

The vibrancy and cultural spectrum of India are not enough to nudge and excite the domestic traveller. However, a mountain still pulls a person living in coastal areas and beaches pull the north Indians. Temples, forests and backwaters have their own followers. Nevertheless, an authentic experience of their region can be an alternative worth exploring. They are not looking at exploring the unknown. They want to be sure of what they will get.

 

Tourism needs to invest in redefining the proposition like God’s own country, The heart of Incredible India, One state Many worlds, The Awesome Assam, Jaane kya Dikh Jaaye and others from the domestic traveller perspective. Then they can fight within the consideration set for the final choice.

 

The domestic traveller wants everything sorted. They willingly adapt to situations. But, they hate multiple discussions and confusion in planning. Stop confusing them with vague ideas and presenting a menu card of possibilities. Invest time to arrive at the positioning and what experience is being offered and then stick with it for some years like God’s Won Country, Vibrant Gujarat. Choices and changes confuse people. It forces them to  delay decisions. Take the best offering and experience and go all out with it.

 

Tourism campaigns must work as a resume, just to make the recruiter interested enough to call for the interview, ultimately the in-face interaction ( tourism experience) will work.  So, they must be functional and do their job- winning awards or not should not be the consideration.

 

 

5Cs of Tourism

Tourism campaigns have mostly talked about Destination, Experience and Memorise. However, the tourism industry may be better served evaluating it through the 5C1D filter.

 

Curiosity

Tourism communication should not be a complete communication unless it is a package tour. That role is best done by the websites, brochures and the take-ones.

Tourism communication must be a visual delight and a tease of an experience. It should still speak the language of possible experience. It must raise the curiosity levels enough to create the desire to find out more or to visit.

 

Confidence 

In the current era, it must enhance the confidence of the traveller. They must get a feeling that the travel will be safe, and there is nothing to worry about. Recently while I was searching for a nearby weekend trip, one of hotel explained their sanitisation protocol. According to them, my room will be ready and sanitised 48 hours before my arrival. It will remain unoccupied for 48 hours before I check-in. The other one was a bit cheeky. They said, in case we fail to see the staff, we should not think of it as a Ghost Hotel, but that the staff is following contactless service.

 

Comfort.

More than the bed and the mattress or the shower and the bathtub, it is the feeling of relaxation, of things moving smoothly with no stress. A complimentary high-speed WIFI, with a Firestick TV, could add to the comfort experience. The frequency of change of bedlinen is a small point, but it does matter.

 

Customised

Even if the destination and the hotel are the same, a lot of customisation can be done. Include express check-in and check-out. Special food requirements. What about providing Blue-tooth speakers or Carvaan for listening to songs. Car hire and customised sight-seeing trips may work better than pushing the often cribbed half-day complimentary city tours.

 

Convenience.

The hassle-free experience from hotel to point-of-interest. The hop-on-off city. Single ticket/pass for all monuments, heritage sites and museums. Room service. Housekeeping. The ease of movement all within the safety and hygiene bubble.

 

Build It Up

Tourism destinations and boards should invest in major destination and experience content on social media and Print. Make the current and past exploders share their real experiences. Incentivise the traveller with gifts/contest to share their experience. Films have so much power as a tourism influencer, so when the shooting resume, maybe enticing producers to shoot at dominant tourism areas.

Campaigns must also explain the state level Covid-19 sanitation and travel protocol to enhance confidence. Still, one must not overplay it to create panic.

 

Expectation Vs Experience

Vacations are about Expectations, Emotions and Experiences. When the expectation and experience match, they create a achieve of memories are retrieved and replayed, shared and commented. They are what feeds the loop and installs the desire to experience in the traveller’s network.

 

A traveller goes for vacation multiple times while planning while anticipating and waiting for the trip to start, during holidays, and while reliving or sharing experiences. And, a good experience must cover all the touchpoint and experiences. It is excellent when the experience is better than the expectations. Hence, the tourism campaigns have to promise what can be delivered also educate the traveller on how they can make the experience better.

 

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Some of the inputs on possible consumer behaviour have been derived from a survey of 254 respondent across India, reached through social network.

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Sanjeev Kotnala is a brand and marketing consultant with 32+ years’ experience. He is continuously on the lookout for new challenges and assignments. He writes on MxMIndia on Wednesdays, and sometime more often. His views here are personal

 

 

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