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Tourism recovery: marketing strategies and actions of European destinations

While the tourism sector has been heavily impacted by the health crisis for two consecutive years, the activity seems to be recovering. With competition between destinations now stronger than ever, it is essential to get the best out of the game. This is where destination marketing comes into its own. It thus becomes an indispensable strategy and promotional tool for tourist destinations wishing to recover their pre-Covid attendance figures.

The pandemic was both a curse and a blessing for tourist destinations. Tourists could no longer travel at will and many normally crowded destinations were deserted for many months. Whcich represented a considerable loss of revenue. However, these particular months were also an opportunity for these destinations to reflect and draw up new bases for their future promotion strategies. New ways of promoting a destination have also emerged in recent years.

France

This period of calm in terms of tourism has enabled Lyon to draw up its "Manifesto for more responsible tourism in Lyon and its metropolis". This work was carried out by ONLYLYON Tourism and Conventions as part of the Lyon Metropolitan Council's responsible tourism development plan. Already strongly committed to an eco-responsible approach before the health crisis, the pandemic has only strengthened the region's desire to become a leading sustainable destination in France. This commitment has earned Lyon 7th place in the GDS ranking. In 2022, the destination intends to finalise its Lucie26000 and ISO20121 certification and labelling procedures.

The pandemic has also highlighted a tourism trend that is now very popular: proximity tourism. A trend that the CRT Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes has seized upon with the launch of the Partir Ici platform aimed at promoting the destination's tourism offers to the region's inhabitants. This approach has already been successful, but Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme would like to encourage more actors to take part in this approach. And to do so, it is launching the Destinations Challenge in spring 2022. The region's tourist offices must mobilise the socio-professionals in their area to take part in the self-diagnosis process of their offers in order to be listed on Partir Ici. The prize is an advertorial and its broadcast to promote their destination on BFM TV Lyon, with the right to use the images for their own communication.

Alentour, a platform specialising in local tourism that facilitates the distribution and booking of activities, has become a member of the tourist information platform Apidae Tourisme. Through this collaboration, the two actors wish to "facilitate the circulation of tourist data at all levels of the territory" in order to multiply "the opportunities for consumption of activity offers in the destinations". Alentour will thus be able to enrich its offer by adding the data contained in Apidae Tourisme. Apidae Tourisme is a tourist information management platform present in 600 French destinations, allowing the tourist offers of all these destinations to be highlighted.

Other destinations rely on more innovative marketing tools such as Normandie Tourisme which has decided to use audio storytelling. A soft, calm voice reads a text explaining why Normandy is one of the most attractive tourist destinations, including its values and identity. The reading is accompanied by a light piano melody as well as sounds such as the sound of waves or children's laughter. Images complete this immersive experience by illustrating the story being told. This experience is reminiscent of the "Get a Log" podcast series developed by Destination Canada. This series is designed as an interactive radio show with guests, testimonials, anecdotes, games and musical excerpts. The aim is to help people discover Canada and, above all, to encourage listeners to travel there.

Spain

Turespaña, Spain's tourism promotion agency, recently unveiled its tourism recovery plan, which is a transformation of its traditional model. The central objective is to increase the profitability of the destination, which will then contribute to the positive transformation of the destination. In order to be in line with the new expectations of visitors, the destination has to be increasingly sustainable, digitalized and inclusive. With an appropriate budget, the destination will be able to develop in this direction. Enabling it to attract more tourists and therefore to record more tourist expenditure to reinvest in its model, a virtuous circle. Nevertheless, Spain does not necessarily want to attract more tourists than before the crisis, it hopes to attract tourists with a higher average basket. The country is looking for qualitative tourism rather than quantitative tourism from now on. Turespaña's roadmap to make the destination profitable is based on 3 main pillars: diversity, digitalization and experience.

Turespaña is also launching a new model of cooperative promotional campaigns with Spanish tourist destinations. This is a new tool that will enable international marketing actions co-financed by Turespaña to be carried out effectively. The new strategy establishes three campaign models: premium sun and beach, urban and natural tourism, rural tourism and sustainability. Four to six proposals will be selected per campaign/partner until the co-financing budget is exhausted. In the first call launched in early February 2022, two types of campaigns were proposed: the "Co-Op", with Expedia and Tripadvisor, and branded content, with National Geographic and Conde Nást. The advantages of these new generation campaigns are multiple: 

  • Access to a qualified audience 
  • Better measurement of campaign results and awareness to sales 
  • Multiply the impact of initial investments
  • Access to preferential conditions

Valencia has once again been named the healthiest city in the world in 2022 by Money.co.uk for the second year running. The study assesses how cities prioritise the health of their residents and visitors through a number of key factors such as climate, local food and produce, pollution levels, medical care and life expectancy. Valencia enjoys a notable amount of sunshine with a wide variety of quality restaurants and markets. Due to its close proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, the air is relatively clean. Finally, thanks to a quiet lifestyle, combined with a healthy Mediterranean diet, low levels of pollution and a low crime rate, the life expectancy rate is 83.5 years.

United Kingdom 

After a drastic drop in tourism activity due to Covid, the UK is once again opening its borders to international tourists. To mark the occasion, VisitBritain is launching a major promotional campaign aimed at the French market. Called "Welcome to another Britain", this campaign was launched on 18 February and will end on 31 March. The aim of this campaign is to achieve, by 2023, figures similar to those of 2019, i.e. 3.6 million French visitors. Urban destinations are also being given pride of place in this campaign. The destination has released a budget of one million euros for its tourism promotion. This campaign targets "the 20-44 year olds, active, hyper-connected, in search of novelty, memorable, original and varied experiences, spontaneity and conviviality".

London, whose tourist activity has been hit even harder by the health crisis, is also launching its own promotional campaign. The mayor of the city, Sadiq Khan, wants to support the recovery of international tourism in the capital and has allocated a budget of 7 million pounds for this campaign. He is also planning an additional £3 million for domestic tourism. 

GlobalData forecasts that international arrivals will return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, with 39.8 million visitors. However, rival cities are already advertising and spending more than London. For example, New York has been running a £30m ($40.1m) tourism campaign since April 2021. 

Hannah Free, travel and tourism analyst at GlobalData

The London North Eastern Railway has launched its new international website. The new website aims to make it easier for international customers to book their journeys. China, Japan, Spain, South Korea and Italy are among the first to benefit from direct online booking. They can browse their site in their own language and pay in their own currency. The site will automatically identify customers searching outside the UK and redirect them to the personalised site to enhance their online booking experience. A move welcomed by various UK tourism organisations such as VisitBritain and VisitScotland at a time when international tourism is picking up. 

This new initiative will help boost future bookings by making it much easier for international visitors to plan their trips. Removing barriers to travel also sends a welcoming message and will encourage visitors to explore more, travel further and stay longer, helping to boost tourism in more countries, benefiting local economies. 

Sally Balcombe, Chief Executive of VisitBritain

We welcome the launch of LNER's new international website to make booking and travelling by train easier for visitors. Rail travel is central to creating a sustainable tourism destination in Scotland and we support any initiative that will encourage its use, while assisting Scottish tourism to recover from the impact of COVID-19.

Malcolm Roughead, Chief Executive of VisitScotland

Greece

Greece has also suffered the consequences of the health crisis as have its European neighbours and intends to become a major tourist destination again. The Greek Ministry of Tourism is considering various solutions to boost international tourism, now that restrictions are gradually being lifted around the world. In particular, it aims to promote the destination through a major event, the Athens Marathon, by strengthening its promotion on an international scale. To this end, a conference on the running trend is planned to be held in the Greek capital, with the participation of renowned foreign companies.

The Spanish market is a key market for Greece in terms of tourism. These tourists seem to be particularly interested in Central Macedonia. A region that combines sea and sun with thematic tourist activities related to nature and outdoor activities as well as religious, historical and cultural tourism. The Spanish participants of the Fitur exhibition, held in Madrid this year, expressed their interest in the history of Alexander the Great, the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, Mount Olympus, the nature of Central Macedonia and the beautiful beaches of the region.

Spain is one of the largest tourist markets in Europe with visitors who wish to combine several forms of tourism and offer a high budget for their holidays. Spain is also a gateway to Europe for Spanish-speaking residents of Latin America.

Alexandros Thanos, Deputy Governor for Tourism of Central Macedonia

Germany & Austria

The German National Tourist Board is working on nature tourism to promote the destination on the French market. Tourists like to go to Germany in particular for its culture, whether it be museums, castles, operas or concerts. And they are particularly keen on large urban destinations such as Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, to name but a few. However, Germany would like French visitors to appreciate even more its rich and varied natural heritage with its coastline, forests, lakes, cycle paths and hiking trails. Nature and Culture will be the focus of its new marketing campaign called "German.Local.Culture". The campaign is being promoted on a large scale, notably on social networks with an influence mechanism. A microsite is being set up to inspire and inform potential travellers, including the provision of a chatbot. The microsite presents the four themes of the campaign:

  • Flair (secular culture)
  • Craft (traditional crafts)
  • Taste (regional cuisine)
  • Green (nature and sustainability)

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the current geopolitical situation, the tourism sector is facing many challenges. In this context, it is essential to communicate the tolerance values of travel through peaceful and inclusive tourism, synonymous with openness to the world. The German.Local.Culture. campaign highlights precisely this sustainable interaction between generations, the transmission of traditions and the varied influence of cultures through authentic local experiences in urban and rural destinations with sustainable tourism offers. The campaign positions Germany as a destination for medium and long term stays for tourists interested in culture as well as for families and sports enthusiasts. 

Petra Hedorfer, CEO of ONAT

Its Austrian neighbour is also unveiling its ambitions for the recovery of its tourist activity. The Austrian National Tourist Office has announced a budget of 20 million euros for the launch of its various communication campaigns. In the first quarter of 2022, the "Winter Love" campaign will be launched. This will be followed by the spring and summer campaigns in April. Several themes will be addressed, including cycling and urban tourism. The promotion and communication strategy for the MICE sector will start at the end of the second quarter. The budget for this has been doubled for 2022 to €2.6 million. The focus on sustainability will be implemented from the middle of the third quarter. The actions planned for winter 2022/23 will then complete the 2022 campaigns from the fourth quarter.

The destination's strategy up to 2026 is based on three axes: communication, cooperation and innovation. The Office wishes to strengthen cooperation between the various actors in the tourism sector in order to pool resources and share knowledge on the various markets. The "Innovation" sector aims to enable the Office to accelerate its projects concerning digital change and sustainability.

Impact on hotel operator activity of destinations

The graph clearly demonstrates the impact of the pandemic on these major European tourist destinations. But also the recovery that has begun since 2021 with a certain easing of health restrictions. The recovery in tourism is particularly marked in France, the United Kingdom and Spain, with occupancy rates above 40%. But this strong rebound compared to the other destinations can also be explained by a drop in this same rate which is less marked in 2020. The destination that finally managed to pull out of the game is Greece, which regains nearly 15 points between 2020 and 2021. The promotional campaigns have undoubtedly had an impact, more or less strong, on these figures and with the many other campaigns to come, these curves should continue their positive growth.

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