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Tourism marketing trends to focus on in 2021

By November 12, 2020 Stories
Tourism Marketing Trends_Media Mortar

We all know 2020 wasn’t the year we asked for in the tourism industry, but our bottom lines are the proof it’s the one we got.

As the world starts speculating about what comes next for tourism and events, we’ve been busy gazing into our content marketing crystal ball to help you capitalise on consumer marketing trends.

Just last week we presented our forecast to the Local Government Association of Queensland and wanted to share where we see 2021 going for the industry we know and love so much.

If you’re working on your 2021 marketing plans, we’d recommend focusing on these emerging (and ongoing) marketing trends.

Opportunity 1: Harness the power of organic search

Media Mortar_Tourism marketing trendsWe all know content is king, but it’s very clear not all content wears a crown.

Before picking up the latest marketing tools (*cough* IG Reels), start a content audit of all your existing assets and ask, are you providing your customers with the best information?

You want to be able to match the demand of consumer search for domestic tourism (thank you international border restrictions), with content that answers their queries.

More people are searching “things to do near me” while they remain geographically bound. Your lowest hanging fruit when it comes to driving conversion is simply to help them.

Fast action items:

  • Create a list of content in market for your destination/product/event and ask yourself is it dated? Our marketing asset audit tool will help
  • Read every page of your website – and ask yourself: Is everything accurate? Is everything as informative as it should be?
  • Start making a traffic light system of the most urgent content updates that need to be made

Opportunity 2: When others go dark, the spotlight is yours

We wouldn’t normally advocate that marketing is just a game of speed, but in 2021 we think the race-for-audience-attention-space will be won by the speed at which it hits the market.

It’s never been more important to get to market first – because Australian tourism is about to enter an era of reduced customer share and increased competition.

Being active when your competitors are not (because they’re too busy getting their act together), will default the spotlight of the consumer’s attention to you.

We saw this happen in March and April when some clients were concerned about marketing through the pandemic and other destinations got the jump on consumer awareness, purely because they showed up.

Fast action items:

  • Plan in advance so you can be first to market, rather than reactive with your marketing materials. For example, all Queensland destinations, products and events should have all of their Sydney-facing Facebook ads banked and ready go-live the minute the Premier makes her call on the border restrictions to get to market the very same day

Opportunity 3: Talk to your customers through low-cost means

Tourism marketing trends_country roadWe’re guessing your marketing budgets have been sliced and diced like a teppanyaki vegetable for 2021, so what we recommend is doubling down on organic content marketing channels.

Start by setting up a rhythm to speak to your customers – whether your customers are external, industry or internal staff.
One of the things we’ve found eye-opening over COVID is the fact many tourism operators and destinations have huge databases and yet, have never done anything with them.

Take for instance a hotel we recently started working with, who had over 23,000 people in their database and yet, never sent them so much as a “hello” by email.

As a rule of thumb, if you can’t remember the last time you spoke to your customers, it’s probably time to refocus your efforts onto your eNewsletter program or social media and start posting.

Fast action items:

Opportunity 4: Experiment with new forms of content

You heard at the start of this blog post that content is king, but good news for you, this royal family doesn’t have expensive taste.

Content has never been cheaper to produce, so make 2021 the year to experiment with your content production (once you’ve mastered the basics of course).

If your business/region wants to start its own radio program, why not start a podcast? You want to distribute your own news, why not start a blog? Do you want to encourage relocation to the region? Get advertising on Facebook or YouTube pre-roll.

If you’re looking for new results from your marketing, stop sticking to the same old channels that you’re used to – get creative.

Fast action items:

  • Video outperforms still images on every single channel, whether it’s Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn. Make 2021 the year to experiment with videos. They don’t need to be high production quality – even a simple time-lapse shot on your phone will do
  • The Instagram algorithm (at the moment) favours reels, so it’s time to get reely good making them

Opportunity 5: Collaborate More. Compete Less

Media Mortar_Tourism marketing trendsAs the competition to stand out becomes higher within Australian tourism, it’s time to look to industry partners within your regions as collaborators rather than competitors.

It’s a lot easier to hunt in a pack than on your own, so finding those strategic partnerships will be crucial to your growth and development in this brave new world.

Over the COVID period we’ve seen great partnership examples between multiple councils, chambers of commerce and large industries all with the shared purpose of attracting more residents and visitors to region.

Fast action items:

  • Collaboration is a non-negotiable in 2021, so write a list of people you can collaborate with to make larger marketing waves than your current ripples

Opportunity 6: Harness Digital Literacy

Among the dark clouds of COVID-19 there was an unexpected silver lining, digital literacy.

In fact, sociologists believe the digital transformation and adoption we saw between March and May packed what would normally take about seven years into seven weeks.

Former markets like grey nomads, retirees, silver surfers – whatever you want to call them – who relied on print and in-person services turned into digital literates. It’s unlikely they’ll be going back to their pen and paper ways now they’ve got tech on their side.

They are also more mobile than ever before, which calls into question how you distribute your information to them.

One of the best traditional tourism pivots we’ve heard in 2020 is one council area shutting down all physical VICs. They replaced them with a company car that travels like a car-boot sale to events and markets in the region.

If the visitors won’t go to the VIC, maybe the VIC should go to the visitors – whether that’s digitally or physically, or better yet, both.

Fast action items:

  • Skew your marketing plans towards digital. Not only will it be cheaper for you than offline methods, but you’ll also be able to talk more accurately to your entire target audience.

Opportunity 7: Turn your biggest challenges into opportunities

Tourism marketing trends_Media MortarAnyone working with Australian tourism will know the tyranny of distance has always been the biggest barrier for encouraging people to visit. But what if it was now your biggest opportunity?

We know our customers are motivated by safe and secure travel. Your USP, whether you’re north, south, east or west is the fact Australia is sparsely populated and by and large managing COVID well.

Fast action items:

  • Wide-open spaces, cleanliness and no crowds should be at the forefront of any marketing you do

Opportunity 8: Make friends with the media

If there was a time for Public Relations to be your biggest marketing play, 2021 is it.

PR is one of the lowest-cost opportunities in the marketing playbook – with some of the highest returns thanks to the credibility and trust authority it brings with it.

Build out a PR plan for the year and get friendly with your local journalists for a more successful pitch.

Fast action items:

Opportunity 9: Be a thought leader

Tourism marketing trends_Media MortarIf there is one thing we ask of you – please don’t be a shrinking violet.

2021 is a time for advocacy for your region, product or event – so be the bold spokesperson the tourism industry needs you to be.

Be the one to start petitions, community groups or networking nights within your region to bring like-minded people together. Don’t wait to hear about the problems or advocacy after the fact in the newspaper.

Remember when you stand for nothing, you can’t make the change you want to see in the world.

Fast action items:

  • Stand with your industry on issues that are likely going to continue to affect it in 2021 – whether that’s border restrictions, job shortages, skills gaps and foreign worker permits

Opportunity 10: Do something new. Don’t rely on the past

We’re going to leave you with one final thought. Just remember with marketing, most ideas fail not because they were bad, but because they were so watered down to blend in, that they never stood a chance. At least, that’s our experience and we’ve seen a lot of campaigns launch.

This is a new world we’re living and marketing in – so there’s very little benefit to relying on historical data or what’s worked in the past. 2021 is not the time to dust off the “we’ve always done it that way” approach.

Instead, our recommendation is to take things to market quickly so if you fail, you fail fast. Your new marketing mantra is progress over perfection – click here to see why.

Fast action items:

  • Let your customers dictate whether your campaign or idea works well, rather than debating it internally for months to a point your campaign is no longer timely or appealing.
By Hannah Statham

Hannah Statham is The Boss at Media Mortar. She’s a heavy weight wordsmith, punching with puns, analogies and metaphors that leave readers wanting more. When she’s not refreshing her Instagram feed, you’ll find Hannah walking her rescue greyhound Olivia.

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