The COVID-19 outbreak had a devastating impact on the travel, tourism, and
hospitality industry with the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
reporting that international tourist arrivals
A cross-cutting economic activity unlike any other, tourism will need to be an
important priority for future recovery efforts as countries are beginning to relax
travel restrictions, roll out vaccine programmes and open up borders again.
were down 70 percent globally in
January-August 2020 compared to the
same period of 2019.
The Tourism Industry post COVID-19
Communications Strategies to Rebuild
“Last year was no doubt, one of the most unusual and challenging years on
record for our industry. The pandemic has not only had a sustained significant
impact on the hospitality sector and the overall tourism industry, but also on
how we operate our properties. Despite all that has happened, we are beyond
grateful to have managed to keep all our properties open with reasonable
occupancy during the pandemic. Our team at TIME also went above and
beyond to ensure guests felt safe, secure, and welcome in our properties
throughout the pandemic.
Looking ahead and as aptly pointed out in the report, in businesses such as
ours and across many of our industry counterparts, it is important to
continuously look at ways to adapt to the changing market and guest
preferences. From our perspective, providing more varied and specialized
offers and promotions to cater to changes in guest expectations and emerging
new markets such as Israel and just recently, Qatar, is the way forward. We
have also commenced offering contactless dining and payment options and
initiated moving towards a more ‘digital’ approach.
The commencement of vaccine distribution across some parts of the world and
in the UAE will undoubtedly bring optimism and confidence back to travel, and
we look forward to welcoming guests from around the world once again.”
CEO, TIME Hotels
“The entire global economy is driven by tourism and hospitality
sectors. Unless we see a drastic change in the current travel
restrictions and communication strategies on safety, it’s unlikely
for the economy of certain countries, that rely heavily on tourism,
CEO, YYT Food Corp
“Well, it’s about time to build a brand value, look beyond the new normal,
rethink business models and operations through innovative approaches, and
capture growth opportunities by developing winning strategies.
It’s now the moment to plant the seeds of sustainable growth in hospitality, gain
competitive edge and win (Back) the “New” customer. Embed sustainability
ambitions, transform accordingly our strategies, adapt, be ready for the “New
Now” and win the game.
Re-imagine TTH (Tourism Travel Hospitality) in a simple way and achieve more
with less, re-design our road-map based on a solid master plan having
understood and analyzed new clients demands and needs.
The time is now to transform, re-imagine your business!”
Chief Executive Officer and
Strategic Hotel Consultant for
Luxury & Lifestyle Hospitality
“In chaos ... no limit for opportunities!!!!!!”
District Director Radisson
hotel group western province
“Communicating in the era of COVID-19 was a lesson in the necessity for radical transparency,
nimbleness and forward thinking by communications teams. The usual hospitality “fluff pieces”
of communications are simply not going to work anymore. The opportunity is to find interesting
and meaningful ways to connect with your guests and provide them content that builds trust,
loyalty and engagement. Guests will really want to understand how we can make sure that
they are safe, nurtured and rejuvenated during their next stay – and how does that continue
when they return home? COVID-19 showed us that we are all very interconnected - with our
neighbors, our communities and our environment - so the challenge for us as hoteliers is to
understand what we can do in order to take more of a guardianship role and protect the
wellbeing of all our stakeholders and planet”.
Guardian of the Brand
(Chief Commercial Officer),
“During the pandemic, domestic tourism was the main for hotels across the Kingdom, and
particularly in Jeddah. One of the first major step that has been taken by Sheraton Hotels &
Resorts, similar to all the hotels in the Marriott Group, was committing strictly to the
precautionary measures implemented by the Ministry of Health such as social distancing and
continuous sterilization. Then come the special offers and promotions, whether for rooms or
restaurants, which are aimed at attracting local tourists. We also ensured an enjoyable stay
with affordable prices, such as providing accommodation discounts of up to 50%. In addition
to the new offer of renting rooms and spaces to businessmen for half a day so they would be
able to conduct their urgent businesses in a quiet workplace that allows them to enjoy working
Additionally, we can not forget the efforts of the Ministry of Tourism in promoting domestic
tourism, which what reflected on the rise in hotels operations, especially after the COVID-19 hit
the hospitality sector, which resulted in a decrease of 35% and 45% in hotels operations. On a
personal level, I regard the travel ban as a unique opportunity to explore and visit new places
in the Kingdom that we, as Saudi citizens, were not familiar with”.
Director of Marketing and Communications,
Sheraton Jeddah, Marriott International
Recovery is expected to be slower than originally predicted with virus
containment measures lifted gradually and the possibility of reversal should
new waves arise. Travel and tourism operators need to consider the longer
term implications of the crisis, constantly staying ahead of the curve. Now is
the time for the travel industry and governments to reinforce coordination
efforts that will restore the sector and create the structural transformation
needed to build a stronger, sustainable, and resilient tourism economy.
Paving the Way to Recovery
The road to recovery for the industry may be long, however the tourism sector
has always proven to be resilient. While demand for international travel
currently remains low, domestic tourism is strengthening significantly.
Countries are looking for ways to re-boot, restore visitor confidence and
reshape tourism in the post COVID-19 future. Effective PR and
communications will be essential in ensuring continued reassurance and
confidence to secure the trust of stakeholders.
The people-to-people nature of the sector means public health protocols will
have an effect on the way companies run their operations for the foreseeable
future. With public opinion of travel still volatile, businesses must redefine their
communications using strategies and tactics that promote safety and
responsible travel. Destination marketing will need to shift from promoting
travel to promoting safety and supporting local communities.
Source: • Chart: COVID-19's
Crushing Impact On International
Tourism | Statista
1 Stakeholder Mapping
7 Steps for a Winning Future
The key to maintaining trust with stakeholders, employees and customers is to
be clear about what you are doing to keep them safe. put the
following 7-steps together to help travel and tourism businesses create a
successful communications strategy that will help steer them through to
Stakeholder mapping is crucial to your recovery communications plan. This is
to identify all audience groups in your value chain that have been affected
by the COVID-19 crisis. Your stakeholder map should include employees,
customers, suppliers, tourism industry bodies, community partners, the media,
and the public.
Categorize your audiences by sentiment, as in positive, neutral and
opposition, to then define each audience’s issue around the situation.
Consider how your organization needs to communicate with each group and
focus on stakeholders open to influence. As we are gradually moving out of
the crisis, you will need to monitor and review the changing situation for shifts
in your stakeholder landscape.
Engage and align with strategic partners and government support efforts to
cooperate toward recovery and connect with local businesses and
communities. This is an opportunity to help your industry and community stay
resourceful and resilient.
2 Adapt Your Messaging
Tailor your messaging to instil trust and give a sense of security and create
positive attitudes towards your brand around COVID-19 protocols and how
you have adapted your operations. Begin to encourage audiences to plan
for the future by tapping into what they are most excited about after
lockdown, such as the resumption of freedom, nature, a much deserved
holiday after stressful times, reuniting with relatives and loved ones abroad.
Communicate on the specifics of the crisis and your response with all
stakeholders to maintain engagement and provide reassurance. As you
begin to build the dream of a better future, repurpose your image catalogue
to showcase your brand experience. Enhance this by identifying distribution
channels that have increased viewership since COVID-19, such as YouTube,
Instagram and Twitter. Review any pre-programmed social media content
and your earned media outreach to ensure the tone is suitably mindful of the
People are constantly online since the pandemic, scrolling through their
timelines looking for information and news. This is your opportunity to share
business updates, policy information, or changes implemented to your
operation. Social media is a key tool for organizations in the travel and
tourism industry to outlast this crisis by staying connected with past and future
customers regardless of physical distance. You need to ensure constant
interest and plant the seeds of future travel plans with calming but
evidence-based messages and continuous engagement. If your marketing
budget permits, put paid media effort behind your posts to ensure ongoing
Recreate memories of your brand experience and your social media
channels can provide this opportunity. Employ advocacy and influencer
campaigns by generating reviews from past travellers and re-engaging with
past positive comments from visitors on your platforms. Get creative with your
social messaging by recording a video to show how your staff is going the
extra mile to ensure the safety of customers. These types of appreciation and
gratitude posts are generating a lot of positive engagement and traction
online right now. Tapping into the current public mood, post and share
Do your best to keep consumers dreaming about what they want to do, so
you can build their commitment to make their dreams a reality. Be responsive
to shifting travel planning trends, capture consumers who are shifting plans
from international travel to domestic travel, and staycations.
3 Leverage Digital Channels
The tourism sector is a major source of employment, government revenue
and foreign exchange earnings. Governments around the world are currently
formulating a variety of stimulus support packages. Businesses need to be
prepared to address the demands that will be placed on them when they
accept funding, as these will include the adherence to new health protocols,
assuring public safety, creating wins for people and society.
Industry leaders now need to engage with politicians, policy, and
government decision makers, either directly or via their trade body, to shape
a stronger, safer, and more resilient tourism economy. Cooperation between
the public and private sectors and local communities will open dialogue and
allow the tourism ecosystem to thrive. Neither business nor government can
go this alone. See also ’s full guide on Public Affairs Efforts to
Aid COVID-19 Recovery.
4 Public Affairs
Both industry and consumer media outlets are craving reliable information
and advice on how to navigate the path forward in uncertain times. The
brands that are active now with thought leadership content will secure the
best position when it is time to rebound. During COVID-19 you need to react
in real time, constantly pivoting messaging and content to address what
customers and journalists want to know right now.
Travel and tourism are integral to local communities and companies should
continue to find ways to actively participate in the COVID-19 response. This
can be airlines flying volunteers and expats for free, hotels offering rooms for
healthcare workers or isolation purposes. Such efforts serve to demonstrate
your corporate social responsibility and that you are going above and
beyond. Journalists at national daily newspapers are tailoring their stories to
local market needs. Equally, sector media are currently most interested in the
impact on the economic impact of the crisis and how this will affect
companies, industries, and employees, so reach out to the business media
with a domestic angle.
5 Traditional Media
Remind your customers of their experience with you, to remain visible,
memorable and maintain connection with your brand. Travel and tourism
organizations need to leverage database marketing efforts for personalized
messaging, loyalty programmes, vouchers, incentives and to keep their
customers informed. Review your website and SEO efforts to preserve website
Consumer loyalty is a priceless resource, so travel and tourism businesses must
include database marketing as a means of cementing customer relationships
to create barriers against competitors. Navigating this crisis requires
understanding and attracting new customers. Direct marketing will provide
companies with a wealth of data to help analyse customer behaviour,
identify the right prospects, and look for indicators to detect when travel is
picking back up.
6 Direct Marketing
Attitudes, motivations, and preferences of tourists and business travellers will
have changed - perhaps forever. The interim plan is straightforward in
capturing as much domestic business as possible. Additionally, this can be a
time for a review of your operations and customer service to build in
digitization of the industry.
COVID-19 is proving a catalyst in the travel and tourism sector with the
adoption of new technologies. Health and safety practices are no longer a
nice-to-have, and amid stay-at-home ordering, digital tools will enable a safe
‘no-touch’ customer journey.
As a result of the pandemic, the travel industry is at a point of disruption.
Businesses need to adopt an agile communications strategy that allows their
team to detect, adapt to, and respond to changes. Recovery will not be
identical in different parts of the world and will run to different timelines. This
means that brands have to continually re-evaluate what the competitive
landscape might look like post-recovery. Companies need to take steps now
to be ready to gain market share, enter new markets, and offer new products.
Historically, major crises like COVID-19, while adversely affecting an industry, have also
been the driver of innovation and change. The hospitality and tourism industry must be
prepared to work in an environment where sustainability and operational requirements
will become more stringent, and diversification into new business models becomes even
7 Future Planning
Travel and tourism operators will need to be creative and flexible with their
offerings to keep up with demand evolution in a constantly changing
situation. Success will come down to how they package an experience for
customers who have been under lockdown and great stress. Learn to
understand the different groups and trip types to cater for the right traveller
demographics. Consider the new expectations, concerns, and preferences of
travellers to ensure your brand is their preferred option.
The industry was healthy before the pandemic hit and while we do not know
exactly when, we can be certain that travellers will be back. The crisis will be
resolved by a vaccine and increased immunity. ’s 7
Communications Strategy and Planning steps will help travel and tourism
brands make that recovery period healthier.
is an independent communications consultancy based in Saudi Arabia.
Our understanding of the local market converged with our global reach and knowledge
enables us to bridge our clients with their audiences effectively. We are aligned by the
objective of filling the gap in communication that exists in the local market. Therefore, our
specialty lies in building bridges that sustain relationships and create brand reputation and
value through innovative approaches. Our array of services includes, but is not limited to:
•Corporate Communications Strategy
•Corporate Social Responsibility
•Marketing & Brand Solutions