In a recent article by Travel Gossip, it seems some EU countries have got together and effectively put the brakes on the vast majority of people making travel plans for 2022.
It is stated that…
“A handful of EU countries have announced they will only allow access to fully vaccinated holidaymakers for up to nine months after they receive their second dose.
Green-listed Austria and Croatia, and the Netherlands, which is on the UK’s amber travel list, are among those countries to put an expiry date on vaccines for international travel.
All three countries say they only consider arrivals to be fully vaccinated for up to 270 days after they receive their second dose.
By early June this year, half of all British adults had received both doses, which means that, under current restrictions, the latest they’ll be able to travel to countries that have put a nine-month expiry date on the fully vaccinated is February 2022.”
If this is what the EU has implemented, it truly is devastating to the travel industry, and it is yet another setback to every business owner and professional working in travel, hospitality, events, attractions, and accommodation.
A disastrous move
Personally, I was fully vaccinated in July 2021, so for me to travel to the countries that are implementing this, I would have to travel prior to March 2022. Many others around the same age or older than me, have already been making travel plans for 2022, thinking that travel would be permitted as long as we are fully vaccinated, show our vaccination certificates, and provide a negative covid test. It seems this may no longer be the case.
What these destinations have done is effectively close the doors on many potential travellers by expecting us all to be triple vaccinated in order to arrive at their destination. In the UK, vaccinations have been going well, with over 60% of the population now double vaccinated (at time of writing), but how quickly do we really think a booster vaccination will come?
The UK and the US have already said that boosters will be available in the later part of 2021, but what about all the other destinations that are still way behind in their vaccination programs? It saddens me to say this, but anyone who still thinks this will be all over by the end of 2021 is being optimistic.
Because of this decision, tourism businesses may need to focus on the local and domestic markets more than ever, as this may be the only option left for some.
You need a plan B, C, D, or Z.
From disaster comes opportunity
For those destinations not enforcing these restrictions, there is a huge opportunity to attract travellers who would normally visit one of the listed destinations. Travel demand is huge and anyone wanting to escape and travel will do so to any country that will let them (as long as the price of flights, accommodation, and tours are all fair). I am seeing this first hand for the many operators we help, with the booking and enquiries we have been seeing already for 2022.
For those who already focus on local and domestic, this opens up more opportunities to attract greater numbers. For those of you who still hold out hope for international travellers, I hate to say it, but you need to seriously rethink your business model. We are still in the middle of the woods with no real path to escaping the clutches of this pandemic. If anything, there are many paths for you to choose from and you need to select the right one quickly.
After speaking about this situation with Peter Syme of Disrupt Travel and 1000 Mile Journeys, we both agreed that this is a disaster and that going local is now a long-term strategy… Here’s what Peter had to say on the matter:
“The lack of international coordination between governments is staggering. Remember pre-pandemic travel and tourism was the World’s largest industry and created one in five new jobs. Also, this is a few EU countries, for now, others may follow. It just kills pre-booking for next year dead as who will book not knowing if they can even get a third vaccination? Many governments have not even decided if a third vaccination will be applied! Then we have the even bigger issue of the more the developed countries gobble up all the vaccines that are produced the more the world becomes divided as billions of people will not have had one vaccine, never mind three!
A year ago, we were all telling operators to switch to local as a short-term and medium-term solution. It is increasingly looking like that is a longish term essential strategy.
Opportunity in the travel industry abounds as the world works through the pandemic but it increasingly looks like so many operators will not be allowed to just return to what they did in 2019.”
The industry needs cashflow now!
The travel industry needs an injection of cash now so that many of them can survive this year, never mind February 2022. So it is imperative that travel starts back up again as best it can. I completely understand that wearing masks and getting a test prior to travel will now become the norm, but I am dumbfounded as to why some destinations seem hell-bent on destroying the biggest source of income around the world. Maybe this is their way of also trying to resolve the climate change issue… I joke, but I am pretty confused about the thinking (or lack thereof) of this decision.
I know that we are still some way away from 2019 levels of travel freedom, but we have been promised that being fully vaccinated would solve all our issues. The goalposts have changed and our industry has been left in the lurch once again.
What should you do if you work in the tourism industry?
First off, I’m sure that most people working in the tourism industry over the pandemic are as tough as nails by now. So I won’t patronise you by telling you to hang in there. But I will congratulate you on sticking at it this far.
Firstly, I’d recommend that you perhaps remember your strategy 6–9 months ago, when most marketing efforts and budget was likely spent on local campaigns. This really is the best focus for the foreseeable future. Operators in the USA and Canada are at a distinct advantage as North Americans are significantly more likely to engage in domestic tourism than many European, Asian, African, and Australasian people. But domestic tourism has grown in all travel sectors, so there’s more reason than ever to compete for local customers.
If you’d like more insight into this, take a look at our Covid Battle Plan as it includes a plethora of fascinating and useful statistics about traveller intent across the globe. As we’ve never been in a situation quite like COVID-19, we felt it was necessary to make decisions based on accurate information instead of irrelevant stats from the tourism world pre-covid.
Plan for the worst while hoping for the best
Be hopeful, but always plan for the worst. The trickiest part of marketing during covid is that we can plan based on government advice and guidelines and we can still be thrown a curve ball in the form of the Delta Variant. This is why targeting local audiences is so important as it is much harder to stop local people from exploring within their country’s border.
Don’t simply rebrand your products, as locals are often not interested in the same kinds of experiences as visitors. Instead, look to pivot your resources and knowledge, creating entirely new products that appeal to locals. If you aren’t sure what locals want, you can ask them. Or get an agency like mine to carry out a well-constructed survey, asking local people all the questions you want to know in order to create and market your products just to them.
Some destinations can tap into large influxes of tourists
For countries that will remain open to visitors in February, March, April, and onwards, this really is a good opportunity for you to tap into what will likely be a large influx of travellers looking for a replacement trip for the one they had originally planned to take.
Google Ads and social media marketing could help you grab a bigger slice of the pie as the exposure can be earned instantly, as opposed to gradually developed through organic SEO. If you’d like TMA’s help with your paid ads and marketing efforts, please feel free to get in touch. We’re always happy to talk to new people and offer some advice on their websites. If we can work together to get you more bookers, we’ll certainly do our best!