How to Pivot Messaging for Covid Travel Trends

How to Pivot Your Adventure Brand’s Messaging & Targeting to Local Tourism

*This blog was created in the peak of the pandemic, but we still find this information relevant in 2021*

Reopening: Geo-Targeting & First-Time Customers

Americans are getting outdoors in greater numbers than ever before. Families that have hardly ventured out for outdoor recreation are looking for fun things to do to replace cancelled summer and sports camps. Affluent travelers who enjoy heading overseas for their holidays have turned their attention to RVs and Sprinter vans and are driving to their newest adventures. While any of these groups may not have historically been your adventure brand’s customers… you have an opportunity to help them find you and understand the amazing guided and self-guided adventures you offer.

USA domestic outfitter markets have reopened already, or are in the process of reopening. It looks different thanks to new logistics complexity and significantly reduced operating capacities. International markets are still mostly closed. Air travel has restarted… while capacity and interest are increasing, it is still reduced.

Your glass half-empty may see a difficult landscape and the lack of traditional, tried-and-true customers. Your glass half-full may see geo-targeted marketing opportunities for driving distance customers, and new audiences who have never participated in the adventure you offer before.

Turn to “Local” Tourism to Find New Opportunities for Your Marketing

When your adventure brand might typically operate with visitors coming from far distances, your marketing efforts reflects this on a large scale. From the messaging you use to highlight your location as a true destination worth flying to, to the audiences you target for your paid campaigns: you have most likely fine-tuned your targeting. You have a finger on the pulse of your customer profile.

Now that travel trends have changed, adventure brands may be looking at an entirely different group of tourists: “local” tourists!

These tourists are a wonderful opportunity. They may or may not overlap the customers you’ve typically catered to. In fact, they may be younger, older, or they may travel in a multi-generational family setting. They may be of diverse ethnicities, backgrounds, or income levels. By pivoting as much as possible to attract more local travelers, you keep things moving in your business.

What is “Local” Tourism?

Local Tourism means you’re targeting people within driving distance of your operation. Local tourism can be considered in three categories.

  1. Local: Immediate neighboring towns and cities, all within an hour or two driving distance.
  2. Weekenders & Micro-cationers: Neighboring towns and states within an 8 hour driving distance.
  3. Road Trippers: Neighboring towns and states within a few days’ drive. (Think RV Camping folks, and the like.)

Geo-Targeted Marketing Messaging to Audiences Within Driving Distances

Reaching Your Local Community

Think of your local community as the immediate neighboring towns and cities within an hour or two driving distance. Some are your best customers. Others haven’t heard of you!

Sometimes locals are the last to consider the fun things to do in the area because they tend to look outside of their own backyard for adventure. Therefore, when developing your messaging for this audience, you want to make sure your content appeals to this prospect’s need for close fun… fun they can easily drive to, and fun that is lower risk (than, say, flying overseas to travel).

The campaign would most likely be “Explore Your Own Backyard” and include these key points:

  • Geofence your paid social media campaigns to neighboring cities.
  • Geofence your PPC campaigns to only locations within driving distance of your brand.
  • Check your analytics carefully, where are people coming from, and capitalize on any shifts you see. You don’t need to spend funds to market to customers flying in yet—wait till those customers are ready to fly!
  • Tailor your message for exploring hidden gems of the area, getting out of the house, and having fun with friends/family while social distancing.
  • Messaging can include “Make a day of it!” and you can call out other fun favorite local activities.
  • Are these new customers or new audiences for your brand? Think about a First Timer’s value-added offer, like a free souvenir from your shop.

Reaching Weekenders & Micro-Cationers from a Little Further Away

Oh, we love weekenders and micro-cationers! After all, these people are from neighboring towns and states that are still within driving distance but are most interested in a mini getaway to make the drive worthwhile.

The campaign would most likely be “A Getaway Close to Home” and include these key points:

  • Geofence your paid social media campaigns to places within your state and possibly neighboring states that are within a day’s drive away.
  • Test new, out-of-left-field audiences to find “first timers”. These are people who may not fit your typical adventure prospect profile, and who would be interested in trying something new to spice up their weekend. This is because what we see across clients is an influx of first timers who are finally choosing to explore the outdoors due to other activity options being limited. Consider working with campgrounds, RV rental and sales dealers, and other retailers on possible introductory options.
  • Be sure to develop messaging, blog content, and/or downloadable assets that support information First Timers would consider important. This could include your long-standing leadership track record in the outdoors, extensive training and safety protocols, cancellation policies, what to expect on their first trip out with you, sample day itineraries, and top 10 things to do in your area.

So focus on the fact that this is truly an easy and fun getaway. Feel miles away. Escape and disconnect. It’s hassle-free. If guided trips are an option, consider highlighting this option as it’s a great way to ease into outdoor adventure for new adventurers, too!

Reaching Road Trippers

Road trippers can look like the family that loads up and drives around for a week or two, or they can look like RV campers, or maybe even folks who have historically opted for international travel over local options and want to scratch the travel itch but can’t/won’t fly yet.

The campaign would most likely be “Your Next Vacation is Only a Drive Away” and include these key points:

  • Geofence your paid social media and PPC campaigns to neighboring states within driving distance.
  • Your typical adventure prospect could fit this bill, but their geo-location becomes a key  factor in this.
  • Attempt to position your adventure alongside the fun things to do in your area, as well.
  • You want to sell the sizzle of your location as a destination worthy of their effort to drive there and make a full vacation out of it.
  • Share resources that make the logistics and planning easy for them. This can include sample multi-day trip itineraries for different age groups and fitness levels, top 10 things to do in your local area and nearby areas.

Help Position Your Local Region as a Clear Best Choice for a Successful 2020 Getaway

Here is a refreshing, yet not novel, concept around marketing—especially within the social media realm: focus on your local community.

Why? Because focusing on local can be a micro-movement that starts to put your community on the map as a destination that is worth driving to for a few hours or days of adventure. If your community is already a strong destination, you can emphasize this in your marketing message.

Are you leveraging all the tourism support of your local community?

  • Are you getting inquiry lists from your local chambers, local economic development association, tourism development councils, sustainability councils, etc.
  • Are you actively engaged in these local organizations so your brand is the first on their minds and actively referred?
  • Partner up with non-profit organizations to extend your reach, attract new customers, and do good work.
  • Tag those local businesses you love. IE: While you’re in town to have this adventure, here are some great places to: grab a coffee, shop, grab lunch, grab dinner, see another attraction, hike a great trail, must-dos, must-sees. Consider all the ways you can leverage this, too, with a downloadable visitor’s guide for the adventure lover, or a scavenger hunt for your customers to participate in.
  • Create content that helps website visitors get educated, minimize their research time, and find important information easily—and make it easy for them to take action!

But, isn’t that supporting “the competition”?

Does this idea make your stomach knot up a bit? Are you worried about inadvertently taking business away from yourself?

The work of sharing more about your community is not, for example, about using hashtags that engage your competitors. It’s about finding ways to share what you love about your community with your followers. It’s about tagging your favorite local non-profit and sharing more about the work they do, and how it plays into the adventures you have. It’s about tagging your favorite local coffee shop as the place to stop in before you check in for your tour, or a local bar as the place to go after your tour for happy hour.  If you have done the hard work of differentiating your brand experience and high value from your competitors, those new community visitors will be knocking on your door, too.

In conclusion, know that there is a balance you can strike where you are acting as a valuable resource for people planning to come out with you. When you begin to nurture a supportive role within your community, and new visitors start coming to your location to explore, everyone benefits.

The plan of action we all started the year with has to be tweaked and changed in order to make sure we’re showing up in the best way possible—and that will include reaching into a whole new pocket of local travelers…

This is a great opportunity for adventure brands to reach the people closer to home.

Want more tips specific to adventure companies during this period of disruption?