Footloose again

From virtual tours of signature attractions to interactive sessions with chefs, freshly-minted campaigns are being unleashed to keep travellers hooked, writes Neeta Lal
Last Updated 27 June 2020, 19:15 IST

International travel has taken a plunge amid the coronavirus pandemic. Flights have been grounded. Borders have been sealed. All businesses, communities and livelihoods related to the industry have been upended globally. Restrictions by governments to tackle the pandemic have left tourist boards facing one of their toughest challenges while promoting their destinations. Be that as it may, innovative tactics are being devised by these organisations to keep travellers’ engagement high.

Every destination is employing an inventive approach to re-establish its branding. Social media has become a key tool for promotions and channels such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are being leveraged for optimal effect.

Destinations such as Canada and the Vienna Tourist Board have been amongst the first to set up dedicated pages on their websites, sharing emergency hotline information, transport updates, how to stay safe and any potential travel restrictions.

Khinalig, Azerbaijan
Khinalig, Azerbaijan

Uncharted territories

“There’s an innate desire in us all to explore, so once the borders are open and flights are back in the sky, people will get back to travelling again. They will be keener to explore uncharted territories, new countries, unravel hidden gems, and discover diverse cultures. In this sense, post-pandemic, Azerbaijan, can be one of the most attractive places to visit with its vibrant culture and warm hospitality,” says Florian Sengstschmid, CEO of Azerbaijan Tourism Board.

In keeping with the new normal, Azerbaijan Tourism Board is focusing on virtual communication and online tools to promote the destination among stakeholders
globally. It has also launched an innovative health and safety programme called SAHMAN for local industry players to improve standards of hygiene and sanitation.

Virtual talks, webinars and online tours showcasing the country’s signature attractions like capital city Baku, its UNESCO-listed Old City and Flame Towers as well as world-class museums, and mud volcanoes are all part of the new promotion package. Meanwhile, Tourism Ireland’s accent is on educating travel companies about the island nation’s stunning landscapes, rural idylls, mesmerising castles and cathedrals, Irish distilleries and breweries.

Maraya Concert Hall, Saudi Arabia
Maraya Concert Hall, Saudi Arabia

Viewers can log on to virtual tours of the world’s longest, clearly defined coastal self-driving route, the Wild Atlantic Way.

The drive stretches across 2,500 km along Ireland’s soaring cliffs, hidden beaches and epic bays.

A series of ‘serenity videos’ underscore Ireland’s natural beauty with the mellifluous music.

Beena Menon, India representative, Tourism Ireland, says the idea is to continue to maintain travel interest. “Ireland is the land of myths and legends and is imbued with a strong sense of history and culture. We’ve leveraged these aspects to craft a unique campaign that resonates with consumers and they aspire to travel to the country once the restrictions are lifted.”

Celebrating food

A compelling stop for travelling gastronomes, Ireland’s iconic food and beverage is being showcased through ‘World Whiskey Day’ and ‘World Cheese Day’, traditional Irish recipes, virtual tours of museums, gardens and castles, virtual concerts of favourite Irish musicians are all a part of the blitzkrieg.

Regular watch parties are also being hosted with influencers of movies/shows shot in Ireland, particularly Game of Thrones and Star Wars.

‘Visit Victoria’ — which promotes Melbourne and Regional Victoria in Australia — is drawing attention to Melbourne’s unique café culture, food and wine, its wildlife, including penguins of Philip Island Nature Park, Melbourne Cricket Ground and the National Gallery of Victoria.

A Virtual tour called ‘Travel Dreaming from Home’ gives viewers a glimpse of Melbourne from the comfort of their homes. Cute penguins and koalas can be ogled at up close.

The pioneering digital initiative also includes a dekko of the city’s signature art galleries, museums, wildlife sanctuaries, heritage sites and scenic locations.

Gourmet experiences of the region are provided through DIY recipes from award-winning chefs like Jaques Reymond and Scott Pickett. DIY coffee recipes are shared focusing on minimum ingredients to reinforce Melbourne’s distinctive café culture.


Online tours

To encourage virtual family fun, Melbourne’s family-friendly attractions for children such as Melbourne Legoland, science-based programmes for kids over radio and online tours by Museums Victoria are being beamed. Visit Victoria has also launched a free book wherein the World is Melbourne is designed for families to enjoy iconic attractions like Melbourne’s Laneways, the 12 Apostles, and of course Aussie animals in the wild.

“The idea is to keep destinations alive in the minds of travellers so that they remain motivated and dream of going there once the borders open up,” explains Huzan Fraser Motivala of Beautiful Planet, a company that represents a number of international tourism boards.

Beautiful Planet also represents the exotic Al Ula region of Saudi Arabia in India. Located in north-western Saudi Arabia, Al Ula is cradled in a spectacular valley with palm groves and sandstone cliffs peppering its stunning landscape. An area the size of Belgium, this site is accessible by road, with thrice-weekly flights from Jeddah and Riyadh, and soon flights from overseas.

The region’s hidden treasures, like the beautiful Maraya Concert Hall (a Guinness World Record holder), Hegra, a World UNESCO heritage site, Dadan ,one of the most developed 1st Millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula, are included in the promotions.

Despite the pervading atmosphere of doom and gloom, driving these tourism boards is the sentiment that people are still seeking positive content that allows them to escape the current travel reality and focus on future trips and holidays they hope to book.

(Published 27 June 2020, 18:34 IST)

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