The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has forever changed public relations, especially when it relates to travel.
While the virus has certainly devastated tourism worldwide, it has also opened the door to more responsible messaging and more creative content.
Here are five ways in which COVID-19 has transformed PR, for the better.
The importance of information
Gone are the days of promotional fluff. Consumers now demand the most up-to-date information from the most reliable sources.
PR professionals have thus become the middleman, constantly sharing facts from trusted sources and government entities to ensure clients can make the most informed travel decisions.
Press releases, once riddled with details related to room sizes and chef assignments, are now filled with information about sanitation practices and broader topics like outbreak numbers in specific countries, the changing travel insurance landscape and important updates to air travel requirements.
Alternative destination knowledge
There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has forced PR firms to change direction. This is especially true in relation to destination knowledge.
Marketers can no longer rely on the big city money makers such as London, Paris and Rome. Instead, they have had to beef up their familiarity with less crowded regions in order to avoid the uncertain risk associated with the over-populated hotspots.
They have also had to shift their destination priorities to align with the travel industry’s safety standards. It’s not just the flashiest hotel that gets top billing anymore. Now, PR professionals care more about which Alaska cruise is the safest, which tour operators value social distancing and which international hotel chains are going above and beyond to ensure the health of their guests.
A focus on the future
Throughout the pandemic, the travel industry has been on the frontlines of both the economic fallout and the responsible messaging required for the emergency at hand. They also recognized the importance of focusing on the future, even in the midst of immediate crisis.
This involved everything from outlining how the travel sector can be a leader in flattening the curve to the augmentation of safe domestic travel ideas. It also served as a reminder to the world that travel is an essential human and economic good, highlighting the value of different cultures and injecting money directly into the community.
More creative content
As borders closed and travel came to a standstill, PR leaders realized that they needed to get creative to keep the industry afloat. The result was a wealth of content that will undoubtedly be of value long after the pandemic has subsided.
Whether it’s a safari in Botswana, a traditional salsa dancing class in Puerto Rico or a gelato masterclass in Italy, virtual tours and training have become the travel industry’s biggest asset. They allow people to travel the world from the comfort of their couch and keep them inspired as they wait for the day when they can travel again.
Promotional efforts have also included flashback campaigns on social media, which encourage consumers to share past travel memories. This has helped people remember why they travel and how it feels to travel.
Both are examples of how storytelling has become such an integral force in the promotional sphere.
A sense of community
Perhaps the healthiest outcome of the pandemic is the comradery that has formed between travel business and professionals. Everyone has had to make sacrifices, from cutting costs to furloughing employees.
Because of this, competitors have become colleagues in the face of turmoil. There is a sense that survival and growth is possible, as long as everyone sticks together.
In the end, conversations and community have led to a level of strength and positivity the field has perhaps never seen before.
Public relations have changed drastically in the face of COVID-19. While the sector has taken an unimaginable toll, it has also risen to become an incredible source of comfort and creativity for the market.
Not only have marketers been able to craft and communicate appropriate messages in the middle of a crisis, they have also been torchbearers for safety and visionaries for the future of the industry through it all.