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How better can we improve destination marketing post the pandemic as people start releasing their pent‐up travel desires in the coming months

As the world begins to return to travel, we can reflect on how COVID‐19 has opened our eyes to the tremendous impact of humans on the environment and on the delicate balance between economy and ecology when it comes to tourism.

For all of the positive ecological outcomes of decreased travel or the decrease in global nitrogen dioxide concentrations, there have been negative impacts on the economies of destinations worldwide. 

So what happens now? Do we go back to our unchecked ways when travel resumes?

We believe COVID‐19 is allowing the travel industry to reevaluate, readjust and reimagine the definition of sustainable travel and, as a result, what that could mean for the future of destination marketing.

Marketers should now measure success not only by how many people it booked to a particular destination, but in what condition those visitors left that destination— both ecologically and economically – after the trip was over.

Many signs are telling us that the future of travel is sustainable, but also that the definition of sustainability is evolving from “do no harm” to “do better.”

Those that lead the way will create thriving destinations for travelers and local communities alike, benefitting both the economy and the environment.

Sustainability is a sincere aspiration of many travelers and viewed as a moral imperative in our globally connected world. Both consumers and thought leaders increasingly insist that brands be environmentally responsible.

As people start releasing their pent‐up travel desires in the coming months, how can travel destination marketers leverage this momentum?

Here are key steps to take.

Be clear with your ambitions in joining in and promoting sustainable tourism. You don’t need to have achieved your ambitions yet, but you do need to articulate your actions and determine what you need to do to get there.

Proactively communicate with tourists, local residents and the local business community about what you’re doing, how they too can help and how they could benefit from your efforts. And consider doing something big to connect with your target audience and differentiate from competitors.

According to Booking.com’s 2020 Sustainable Travel Insights, 82% of travelers think sustainable travel is important and 72% believe that travel companies should offer customers more sustainable travel choices.

And while these statistics are encouraging both ecologically and economically, many travelers don’t know how to go green or where to start. According to a National Geographic survey, only 15% of adults are sufficiently familiar with what sustainable travel actually means.

And 37% of travelers in the mentioned report admit they don’t know how to make their travel more sustainable. Travelers clearly want to do better when they travel, but they need help to be sustainable. It’s in bridging this “good intentions gap” where marketers can play a critical role.

Rather than launch a generic campaign that just asks people to “be responsible” — which everyone can agree with and what you’re probably doing already — focus on recommending small behavior changes that can have an outsized impact.

Tourism impacts all areas of the community, so think beyond your own industry by involving transportation authorities, energy partners, local farmers, and others to find opportunities and reduce impact.

Organize and incentivize the local tourism community and local businesses to build more sustainable offerings, such as tours, accommodations, activities, menus, and the like.

This year will offer more opportunities for travelers to reignite their traveling spirit. With your help, they’ll be able to reimagine it, too. Determine your ambition, work toward it and talk about it. Influence customer behavior by making small changes easy.

Partner with like‐minded individuals and groups to achieve greater strength in numbers and incentivize them to drive sustainability efforts.

All of these seemingly modest actions can result in a significant positive impact to promote sustainability and keep your destination accessible and beautiful for many years to come while building a strong economic foundation for the future.

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