Loud and clear

In times of suppressed business demand, communications need to be strategic, frequent and clear to pave the way for a quick return to activity when the time is right.

Correct execution, constant reassuance, and clear messaging are what destinations and MICE suppliers need to focus on during this period of travel restrictions and border closures, to stay at the top of buyers’ minds.

Such actions also help brands be prepared to pounce once the global market moves again, said independent tourism communication specialists.

A critical message to convey today is the destination’s ability to contain Covid-19, opined Paul Hicks, founder and chairman of GHC Asia.

He said: “Destinations and MICE suppliers will first have to demonstrate that they have the disease under control, and thoroughly review the protocols of how they operate with increased hygiene, cleanliness and a degree of social distancing to mitigate any health risks.”

In their bid to stay visible, brands must also ensure that their communications are not tone-deaf and executed at the right time, advised Felicity Zadro, managing director of Zadro Communications. She added that there is also value in telling stories of their people, brand promise, care, and effort.

When asked for examples of brands that have managed their crisis communications well, Hicks pointed to the cruising industry “because they have a greater reassurance job to do”.

For instance, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed up with Royal Caribbean Group to launch the Healthy Sail Panel, which has just recommended to the US Centre for Disease Control a range of health and safety protocols.

“It’s well thought out, and goes much further than any other areas of the travel industry. It’s likely to help cruise resume more quickly and (may be) taken as the gold standard across the travel industry,” he opined.

For Zadro, the Professional Convention Management Association stands out, for launching a fresh research piece which offered regional insights about the current MICE situation.

“They took those insights and developed practical sessions as part of their Convening Asia-Pacific: The Global Recovery Forum. This is information plus action, playing up to their brand promise and relevance in the sector,” she elaborated.

While there seems to be no daylight to break this long winter spell, Hicks said this would eventually come to pass, and “there is absolutely no doubt that people will still want to travel”.

He advised companies to use the time to analyse and refocus their brands, get their communications strategy in order, and make sure that messages used before will still resonate in the future.

Zadro recommended a six-step framework for managing communications through the pandemic and beyond: Response, Recovery, Reimagination, Relationships, Rebuild, and Results. These stages aren’t lineal, for every company would be going through them at different paces. Aside from offering insights and directions, the stages were designed to be thought-provoking and spark conversations among teams.

“Keep your name and your destination out there and in people’s thoughts, let them dream and yearn to come back. And they will. Because when the industry makes its comeback, those with the louder voices will (stand to gain more) market share,” Hicks concluded.

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