Reputation management is an essential tool for a destination to begin marketing again after a global crisis (such as COVID-19).
This is according to industry experts in the Western Cape, where tourism is slowly reopening and there is a need to restore traveller confidence in the province.
During a Western Cape Tourism webinar on August 27, tourism stakeholders discussed the value of reputation management, along with the Western Cape’s latest campaign based on this.
According to Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the UNWTO, Anita Mendiratta, reputation management following a crisis is hugely important. “If we don’t define the message, the message will be defined for us,” she said.
Mendiratta has identified five focus points for destination reputation management in the time of COVID.
- Own the identity – Destinations are currently being defined by the numbers and statistics of COVID they have. “If we don’t own the identity, it’s going to stick,” said Mendiratta.
- Recognise – Mendiratta said when a destination did not recognise an issue through its communication, negative assumptions about the destination were made. “Silence speaks and it says ‘something is wrong’,” she explained adding that open communication recognising the issue was much preferred.
- Travel as escape – “COVID-19 has not only been a physical health crisis, but a mental health crisis and, as such, people are using travel as a means to escape.” Mendiratta added that this meant the ‘dreaming’ stage of planning for travel had been extended and that decisions were being made a lot faster. “Never underestimate the power of owning the narrative and keeping the invitation alive while people still can’t travel.”
- ‘Travel for heart’ – She said people would firstly be travelling to see the people and places they had missed and that destinations should communicate this sense of longing through their marketing.
- “Now is not the time for campaigns, it’s a time for connection” – She urged destinations to connect with potential travellers in a meaningful way.
During the lockdown period, the Western Cape launched its ‘One Day’ campaign, and Cape Town Tourism released its ‘We are worth waiting for’ campaign, both aimed at keeping the destination top of mind for future travellers and managing the reputation of the destination.
The latest campaign launched by the Western Cape, ‘We Are Open’, is being marketed for domestic travellers.
“The campaign is geared to encourage and urge South Africans to explore some of the finest experiences in Cape Town and the Western Cape,” said the Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier.
“The ‘We Are Open’ campaign builds on our efforts to support the tourism industry during the COVID-19 crisis and, importantly, is also one of the first of our immediate action steps towards economic recovery in the Western Cape.”