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Branding it right for the travel industry

For tourism destinations, there has never been a more significant time for getting destination branding right.
Ritu Kishore Raizada, Senior Vice President – Marketing & Communications, Think Strawberries.

The journey of Covid has been riddled with disruptions. It created the need for several things and it made several things redundant. In the tourism ecosystem, it created a stark demand-supply imbalance and as the scale is slowly tipping back to its original place, we are seeing the need for alterations in almost every related business. For tourism destinations there has never been a more significant time for getting destination branding right. Will try and put it in perspective. Take an instance- there are two destinations. Both places have similar comparable attractions, attributes and offerings. What will ensure a tourist chooses one destination over the other?

The answer is — the one with the more positive ’brand image’. Branding helps to give meaning to products by shaping an image in people’s minds. People not only connect to a brand physically but also emotionally because of its ability to invoke feelings in a person. Keeping this in mind, now as countries have begun to relax travel restrictions, there are certain strategies that a destination must adopt in order to remain attractive and relevant for travellers.

To be on the SAFE side                                    

During Covid, safety played the most important role for tourists, and post-Covid, it will continue to remain a top priority while making travel decisions as we will learn to live in the new-normal. While promoting one of our prominent clients, Maldives, we kept its, ‘One Island One Resort’ concept at the forefront of all our marketing efforts to promote safety, and seclusion of travellers. Safety along with the other factors made it one of the most visited nations by Indians during the pandemic and India quickly ascended to become the #1 source market for Maldives in 2020. Today, as the vaccination drive is on full throttle around the world, we are now focussing a large part of our messaging on the efforts Maldives is taking to vaccinate its staff in its pursuit to become the first fully vaccinated tourism sector in the world.

India quickly ascended to become the #1 source market for Maldives in 2020.

The NEED of the hour

Other than the safety and health of travellers, destinations offering unique and off-beat experiences are gaining prominence over others. Wellness, sports, cuisine, ‘living like a local’, are some of the activities/experiences that tourists seem to be increasingly attracted to. For Maldives, romance and family vacations stood out as couples flocked the destination in 2020-21, including Bollywood stars that celebrated their love at the backdrop of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Although, we continue to promote these segments, we are also focussing on adventure, cuisine, and different stay options like guesthouses and liveaboards to attract varied customer segments. This will not only build aspiration for other travellers, but will also bust the myth that Maldives is only for the wealthy, thus opening up to more tourists.

The time to ramp up is NOW

Destinations that rely heavily on international travellers will have to immediately ramp up marketing and representation models to ensure the protection of market share. In the case of Maldives, it not only became more aggressive in the face of the pandemic but also strengthened its partnership with us in India, diversified consumer segments and broadened its reach.

Match the CURRENT mindset

Identify target consumer segments, understand their mindset, do social listening and put a thoughtful strategy behind your messaging. Most importantly, get the timing right. Understand that your call to action may strike the wrong chord if it’s too direct or untimely. The environment is changing on an everyday basis so creating a long-term strategy may lead to missteps and make you appear tone-deaf. It has never been more important to stay connected with the customer.  

OMNIPRESENCE is the key!

In a world where rapid information is consumed every single second of the day, it becomes crucial for a brand to remain relevant for its target audience through constant visibility and engagement. Owing to this, we at Think Strawberries, have adopted an aggressive plan for 360-degree visibility through various platforms for our clients. From accessing outdoor channels putting the focus on certain key cities in India to leveraging the power of digital and social media platforms, we make sure that our audience remains well-versed with the destinations we represent. Recently, we did an awareness campaign with Amazon India to promote Maldives, and currently, we have an ongoing campaign with Times of India to provide more visibility to the island nation and to highlight some of its special aspects that were not covered earlier. We have also recently collaborated with Tripoto for Disneyland Paris.

The message TODAY

A lot of destinations, erring on the side of caution, are still closed to Indian travellers. But, that does not mean destinations must pause communication with their Indian customers. In fact, the messaging needs to be consistent, empathetic and designed to instill the confidence that resumption of travel is closer than ever, that your brand will respond, and adjust to meet the travellers’ needs while always keeping health and safety as priority.

TONE it right

Many countries have begun to welcome back Indian travellers, but Covid still remains a threat to some. With the talks of the third wave making rounds in India, it becomes essential to keep the tone of the messages in alignment with the situation and prevailing circumstances in mind. We are staying agile with our communication strategy but compassion, hope and optimism continue to remain the three buzzwords for us.

Ritu Kishore Raizada is the Senior Vice President– Marketing & Communications at Think Strawberries. She plays a lead role in shaping account and brand planning, client strategy, marketing technology and campaigns for the company.

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