2020 was a year of adaptation and learning for businesses in the travel industry. From travel agencies to airlines to amusement parks to safari tours — how, where, and when we travel has changed significantly. How we advertise for our travel-associated businesses has changed even more. We recently talked with our friend Darryl Leniuk over at Aventur Marketing to get his perspective about how 2021 will shape up for tourism and how businesses should market themselves in this new climate.

As we get into 2021, many in the tourism sector are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and are planning to begin operations and tourism marketing again. But what will this new post-COVID-19 tourism landscape look like?

Open Spaces and Nature Tours

As the virus still rages around the globe, and new variants pop up along with vaccines, I don’t believe we’ll see a return to normal this year. Instead, I expect the opening and growth to be gradual, with some tourism sectors doing much better than others.

After just about every major crisis (9/11, natural disasters, stock market crashes) adventure tourism is the first sector to bounce back. This makes sense because people who are adventurous are more willing to accept risks — whatever they may be. I expect nature tours, guided kayaking tours, cycling tours, hiking tours, fishing tours and really any tourism business that takes small groups of people into the great outdoors to rebound quickly this year. There will be pent up demand.

Bus tours, cruise ships, museums, city tours and basically any tours that involve cities, groups or anything indoors will be at the other end of the spectrum. So, if you’re doing these types of tours, now could be a good time to develop some new outdoor tours or at the minimum switch to small private ones.

Marketing for Tourism in 2021

If you still don’t have a COVID-19 policy on your website as well as a safety designation, get that done now. Your guests will expect this and will be gravitating to those tourism businesses that do. On your website and social channels, I’d suggest avoiding images of crowded markets, big groups and lack of social distancing. Instead, show nature and open spaces. Messaging should focus on small groups — ‘bring your bubble’ and private tours if you offer those. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mental health, and many guests will be looking for this, so make sure that it comes across in your marketing. Here, concepts like ‘escape, rejuvenation, health and well-being’ are key.

Reconnect with your past guests and let them know you’re opening up and what that will look like. Email marketing and Facebook can work well here. Let them know what you’ve been up to along with any new offerings you have.

This is also a great time to do some in-depth customer research. Reach out to your best guests, the ones who repeat and refer, and ask them to do a phone or online survey. Here you’ll get a sense of how willing they are to travel and what they’ll be expecting. Armed with that intel, you can make sure your tours and messaging are on-point.

SEM and Google Ads for Tourism in 2021

As people begin to search for the types of tours you offer, it’s important to think of what search terms they’ll be using. Many things have changed since the pandemic, and potential customers may very well be finding you in different ways than before. Start with your Google Search Console and note what search terms are driving traffic to your site now and what landing pages are performing best. The results may surprise you.

I expect a stronger local tourism market for most of this year, so make sure you optimize your Google My Business listing. This will help drive traffic to your website. too.

Google search ads will continue to be a much-needed tool for marketing your tours, especially if you’ve developed new outdoor, small group tours that you didn’t have before. SEO takes a long time, but Google Search advertising is immediate, so for new tours, Google Ads should be a part of your marketing mix. The space is often quite competitive and building out hyper-specific campaigns that produce leads can take a lot of time and daily maintenance. Working with an agency that understands how to get you the greatest ROAS through creative thinking, inside knowledge, and good old-fashioned hard work is the best way to see both immediate and long-term results.

Darryl Leniuk is the founder and chief storyteller at Aventur Marketing, a marketing and PR agency for the tourism sector. As a recognized expert in adventure travel, he has worked with tour operators and DMOs in more than a dozen countries, produced hundreds of media articles, won awards from Destination Canada and The Travel Media Association of Canada, and authored an adventure travel column for The Globe & Mail. His media clients have included Canadian Geographic Travel, Men’s Journal, Ogilvy & Mather, Destination BC, and Hong Kong Airlines.