Digital strategy and the domestic tourist
It’s beginning to sink in: Our international borders are likely to be closed for at least 6-12 months, with domestic travel opening up once we are successful in ‘flattening the curve’. There will absolutely be an appetite from kiwis wanting to take holidays domestically; particularly from people sick of staying home and if schools go back as normal.
What is this ‘new’ domestic audience going to look like, and how will their travel habits be different?
Post Covid-19, we see two distinct types of ‘new’ domestic audiences emerging – the budget conscious traveller, and the ‘if not international’ luxury traveller.
The Budget Conscious Traveller
Families, couples, young professionals who have been financially affected (to some extent) by the economic repercussions of Covid-19. They tend to believe that NZ travel is too expensive, and may have been vocal on social media to date around their feelings that the industry was too geared towards international tourism, instead of looking out for locals.
For this type of traveller, shorter stays and smaller budgets are likely – and there’s a strong chance of them turning in to the domestic version of VFR as they visit relatives they haven’t seen. They’re also going to stick to Drive Zone travel rather than domestic flights – mainly because of the costs involved.
When researching and planning, these guys are going to take their time and carefully consider their options. Money will be tight, and they’ll want best bang for buck.
The ‘If Not International’ Luxury Traveller
This group of people are usually regular international jet setters, with high budgets because they’ve seen little financial impact from Covid-19. If it wasn’t for the current travel environment, they’d be heading off on a luxury African safari or a European river cruise. With an appetite to tick off the NZ Bucket List they haven’t yet been able to get to – think Fiordland, Hawke’s Bay or Abel Tasman – there’s a strong desire here to make the most out of the holiday, ‘if they’re not going to get away PROPERLY’ (aka overseas).
This audience will, for the short to medium term, take the place of the high-value internationals and will be interested in smaller group experiences, premium service, high-end food & wine etc.
What type of a holiday will these audiences been looking for?
Affordability and good bang-for-buck is going to be front of mind for many. With correct messaging, many will be enticed to get their teeth into the NZ ‘Must Do’s’ – but only if the price is right. There’s a chance that demand will be skewed to outdoor experiences allow people to escape their bubble and feel the rush of mother nature. People may be favour experiences they’ve enjoyed in the past, as comfort or reassurance, and there’s a strong chance many will be keen to support their local businesses as a start.
How will they be researching trips?
Digital will play a huge part in the resurgence of the domestic traveller.
- Being front-of-mind matters: Brands they have seen or interacted with will be at an early advantage. Think EDM’s, Display/Video advertising and up-to-date website content.
- Searching for local activities. Google’s ‘Things to do near me’ feature will get a good workout.
- Visiting websites via organic search for local or nearby ‘must do’ companies
- Consuming 3rd party ‘stay local’ campaigns, from RTO’s or local media.
- Checking reviews and ratings for local activities. TripAdvisor and Google My Business/Trips/Maps will be important in the research process.
How will they be booking trips?
Again, mostly online as a continuation of the research they may have done during lockdown or if they had to take leave. Competition from OTA’s for the direct sale is going to get more heated than ever before.
- Booking via OTA’s: Expect extreme competition from this space. Consider a ‘lowest price’ direct sales strategy and try to avoid a race to the bottom in pricing. Smaller companies or those who run at lower margins may be disproportionately affected.
- Booking direct via websites: Your user journey needs to be appealing, and it needs to cater to this ‘new’ domestic traveller. Ensure your content is fresh and appealing, and that you’ve got strong visibility on Google – using this down time to focus on SEO is a key way to be first off the blocks when demand comes back.
What are the best digital tools to reach them?
Your digital strategy should change to reflect this ‘new’ type of domestic audience.
- EDM’s are more powerful than ever before – use your domestic previous guest database to build loyalty, connection and stay top of mind
- Display/Video advertising – use memorable graphics to stay in their face, even if its high-funnel for now
- Up-to-date website content and technical SEO – ensure your content caters to the domestic traveller, instead of international (for now). Undertake an SEO audit and technical tune-up over winter to bolster organic rankings.
- Partners/3rd party OTA’s – which other operators or companies would it make sense to partner with to strengthen your distribution channels? OTA’s will become an even more important part of the food chain, but ensure you have a direct sales strategy or game plan in place to counter their dominance (and their commissions).
Getting to know NZ’s ‘new’ traveller is going to ensure you’re first off the blocks when there is a resurgence of demand. Using this down time to plan a tactical digital strategy and ensure your direct sales approach is top-notch is going to position your business in the absolute best place for recovery.