March 31, 2020

This paper, authored by Stewart Krohn on behalf of BTIA, is the result of an effort to reach out to BTIA’s membership for ideas related to post-Covid-19 tourism marketing.

We welcome your ideas and suggestions but we ask you for one thing: Be creative and think completely out of the box. Send your suggestions to BTIA’s Executive Director, John Burgos, at execdirector@btia.org.

SOME SUGGESTED DO’S AND DON’TS FOR POST-COVID-19 MARKETING

  1. Remember that even as we speak every country, every destination, every resort, tour operator and restaurant on the planet is brainstorming over how to get back their customers once the world gets back to “normal”. The question for us is how do we as business owners and a national tourism industry get our fair share of the pie?
  2. Although the specific answer can take many forms, the one thing we know that WON’T work is to use conventional thinking. We are just too small and financially strapped to mount a massive multi-platform campaign that will power us through the clutter of competition.
  3. We need to go back to our roots, to the days when the country had no marketing budget and we relied largely on free media and word-of-mouth. Granted, the travel press scene has shifted to “pay to play” but we still have a wealth of contacts in the travel media and we need to take advantage of those years of positive contacts—even if that means being generous with perks like free future stays. Remember, travel writers are hungry for content and editors want to keep their jobs. Also digital advertising is relatively inexpensive.
  4. So what content will we push? The message needs to be short, to the point and consistent. A hint relating to the recent pandemic may help as even when the crisis is “over” there will still be hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of infected people around the world. A few possibilities:

    a. “We were Eco before anyone even heard the word Eco-tourism”.
    b. “Belize: wide open spaces and wide open possibilities”.
    c. “Belize: relaxed, remote, reliable”.

While none of the above makes the grade, hopefully with some brainstorming we can come up with something that is truly unique. The key will be the accompanying images, all of which will imply wide open spaces at sea or on land.

  1. What about discounts? The whole world will be offering fabulous deals! This is a tough one but let’s use our heads. The conventional wisdom says to discount heavily: $99 special! 50% discount! Buy 3 nights, get one free! These are all tried and true tactics but will they work in a situation where everybody is doing the same thing? Personally, I see no redeeming quality in joining a race to the bottom.
  2. Let’s get creative. Right now my property is offering all those who had existing hotel reservations a promotion called “Bring Your BFF to Belize!” We are giving all paid reservation holders a full credit for future stay PLUS an equal free stay for any friend or family of their choice travelling with them. Why is this better than a simple 50% discount? Many reasons:

    a. First it doubles the numbers of heads in beds. It exposes more new people to Belize and even though their rooms are free, they spend money on F&B, tours and spa services—not just at our properties but at tourism businesses all over Belize. Having plenty of visitors at various destinations is a great psychological as well as financial boost.
    b. Plus it gives our potential guests an automatic way to exercise generosity – a quality highly valued and appreciated in  a Covid-19-ravaged society.
    c. Perhaps most importantly it avoids the “price drop”. The price drop works once but it hurts in the long run. Once you begin to discount heavily it’s hard to go back to normal profitable pricing. This is true for individual businesses and for entire countries. Example: would  we ever buy a gadget off a late night infomercial that didn’t say “But wait, get a second set Veggie Chopper free!”?

  3. Note that there is no reason that same type of “BFF” promotion can’t work as an original pitch for new business and not just as a device to hold our existing reservations without refunding cash. Put yourself in the shoes of our potential client sitting at home on lockdown in Manhattan dreaming of that post-confinement vacation. What is more appealing: the prospect of a discounted hotel stay in Costa Rica or the prospect of including a deserving friend or relative in the holiday of a lifetime? My feeling is that after months of lonely isolation the idea of a vacation with loved ones will be very appealing.
  4. Again, the BFF idea is just an example of creative marketing. If we can find a similar idea let’s use it. A national campaign to which individual properties can sign onto would be ideal as the BTB and individual property campaigns would reinforce each other. I would rather see all of us united competing with Costa Rica than a hundred individual Belizean resorts competing with each other.
  5. One final admonition. We need to realize that the most likely scenario for a return to significant arrivals of visitors is November. We didn’t believe Trump when he said go to church at Easter and we don’t believe him when he talks about end of April 2020. Face it guys: in the absence of a vaccine or widely distributed 15 minute test, the USA will be having hotspots well through the summer…and September/October are dead months anyway. And that’s not even factoring in a second wave of virus or what may be happening in Belize. So make your cash flow for six months, husband your precious financial and human resources and keep your mind working on great marketing ideas. projections

By: Stewart Krohn, 2nd Vice President, BTIA