Disaster strikes! How communications can help tourism recover
At this stage in SVG’s disaster response, actions and thoughts are directed towards recovery efforts. Naturally, consideration has to be given to how we as a nation will recover economically. Tourism is a key driver of growth and employment in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and as such, can be a way to boost economic recovery efforts. With COVID-19 vaccinations now ‘in play’, many anticipated the return of visitors in the very near future. However, with the eruption of the Soufriere volcano, some fear that the local tourism industry can be further affected. Be that as it may, there is light at the end of the tunnel; marketing communication plays an undeniable role in restoring destination confidence and visitation. After a disaster, a lack of a planned, coordinated communications effort can significantly delay the time it takes for a tourism business or destination to attract visitors, mainly due to the extensive reputational implications.
Here are two essential communication tips:
Proactive communications to restimulate demand – Your recovery communications should be honest and optimistic. At this critical time, it’s about managing perceptions. Why? Because many tourists tend to avoid disaster prone areas even after the ‘all clear’ is given; those that do visit may be driven by empathy, especially if SVG is one of their favourite destinations. At this present time, much of the world has the impression that our island is almost destroyed or somewhat uninhabitable, therefore, it’s vital that the tourism market be made aware of areas that are not adversely affected by the eruption. Any sensationalized coverage by the media can rapidly lead to the formation of negative perceptions and it’s these perceptions, all of which may not reflect reality, that can dissuade visitors in the future.
Through media relations, you should strive to encourage the press, vloggers and bloggers to also share ‘positive news’ stories that are based on the community spirit that has developed as a result of the disaster, as well as stories about rebuilding and reconstruction; having these stories showcased by the international press who are on location can also assist with correcting any negative perceptions.
Share your status & share the positive! – If you’re an accommodation provider or tour operator, provide an update on the status of your business and your business location in the context of the volcanic eruption. You should be giving reassurance by acknowledging the situation and sharing the facts. How close are you to the red zone? How has your business been affected? How involved are you in relief efforts? Try to imagine what potential travellers are thinking – they may be hearing that the volcano will continue to erupt for weeks or months and so they may be worried about safety, air quality , they maybe be wondering what kind of activities they can engage in if they do visit. Much of these concerns can be addressed via social media posts or website stories with accompanying appropriate imagery. Genuine content allows people to feel connected; with the exhaustion that comes from a natural disaster, uplifting stories can go a long way; stories of comraderie are very appealing. How has your team banded together during this disaster? How about stories focusing on selfless acts? Grasp any opportunity to spread good news. Think about how you can use and showcase these stories on your social media networks or even a blog post.
Candice Sealey is the Founder & Principal Consultant at Ignite! a Full-service Marketing & PR Consultancy that helps businesses/brands to stand out, engage and connect with the right people through Strategy, Marketing, Media services and Design solutions.
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