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Marketing in times of financial crisis: Tourism recovery strategies for turbulent times

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A common believe among tourism professionals is that the financial crisis has damaged the entire tourism industry evenly.

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A common believe among tourism professionals is that the financial crisis has damaged the entire tourism industry evenly. In contrast, a closer inspection of tourism news and statistics from the last 6 months indicates that this is not always the case. Hence, while some tourism segments were severely damaged, others are demonstrating unique stability and firmness. Taken together with past crisis situations, these cases can be induced into four tourism recovery strategies that can assist tourism professionals in developing and marketing better tourism products for these turbulent times.

Religious Tourism
A recent report from Rome, Italy, indicates that tourism to the Vatican City stayed the same in spite of the crisis. That, demonstrating the devotion of the religious target audience. Similarly, Israel focused on religious tourism to keep attracting visitors during the on-going conflict in the early 2000’s. Using the slogan: “Don’t let your soul wait any longer, come visit Israel”, the country successfully addressed a well-segmented target audience that is less vulnerable to crises situations.

Domestic Tourism
In times when traveling abroad may become too costly, DMO’s can re-define their destinations target audiences, focusing on internal tourism. In London, for example, the decrease in international tourism was balanced by an 11.5 percent annual increase in the number of visitors from other parts of Britain. Supporting the trend, Visit London has now launched a local marketing campaign under the slogan “Only in London”. In a similar manner, following the security issues and the economic slowdown of the early 2000’s, North Carolina managed to increase domestic tourism by launching an inner-state campaign titled “Discover the state you’re in”.

Value Tourism
While much was said on increasing the value of tourism services and products, value can also be used as part of a marketing campaign. Following this method, at the beginning of 2009 the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched a global campaign titled “Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value”. By emphasizing the country’s worthwhile proposition, Thailand can now better address travelers who still like to go on vacation, but to a less-costly one. A recent survey by CNN International demonstrates the campaign effectiveness, titling Thailand as the best value destination in Asia-Pacific.

Volunteer Tourism
Another segment that is less affected by the international financial crisis is volunteer tourism. “i-to-i”, a leading international firm in the field of volunteer tourism, had recently reported a year-on-year revenue increase of 28 percent, according to its sales figures for March 2009. From the perspective of tourism destinations, this implies that providing visitors with volunteer opportunities is an additional way to create and increase value. Consequently, developing and marketing volunteering products can enhance the visitor’s experience, assist in maintain market share and for sure benefit the local community.

To conclude, these four recovery strategies are just an example for the various marketing strategies available for overcoming crises situations. The choice of the most appropriate strategy is based on three major factors: the crisis, the audience and the place characteristics. Naturally it is not an easy choice but using the professional advice of a media strategist can assist DMO’s in making the best marketing decision, overcoming this crisis and successfully attract tourist, visitors and investors.

Eran Ketter is a place marketing specialist, the director of E. Ketter Consulting and the author of the book: “Media Strategies for Marketing Place in Crisis: Improving the Image of Cites, Countries and Tourist Destinations” (Elsevier, 2008). Website:

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