“Staycationers,” “backyard travelers,” “weekend tourists.” Whatever you prefer to call them, it’s these folks – your drive market guests – who are going to be making up the bulk of hotel business for the foreseeable future, even as travel restrictions loosen and a vaccine or proven treatment is eventually found. That’s owed to two core reasons: Consumers apprehension of air travel and a desire to embrace more affordable, close-to-home destinations in order keep more money in their pocket (in case of an additional shock to the system…after all, 2020 has been a year of many unexpected major events). Some hard but honest truth: In late July, the International Air Transport Association released an updated global passenger forecast predicting that air travel will not return to pre-COVID-19 levels until 2024, now a year later than previously projected.
Despite all this, the US is still experiencing an undeniable wave of “revenge travel,” a term used to describe the act of consumers zealously indulging in leisure travel – even taking more trips than they usually do – on account of not being able to do so for the past several months. Think of it like trying to make up for lost time. And that’s why we’re seeing a growing segment of staycationers, backyard travelers, and weekend tourists. So how do you capitalize on this movement and appeal to your drive-market, wanderlust-hungry guest, while doing so safely and effectively? Here are a few content marketing must-haves that, if your hotel or resort marketing team hasn’t yet already implemented, should do so – and fast.
Sell Your Destination First
In a post-COVID world, travelers will be more cautious than ever, therefore, will want to know what the experience is like in the destination: what businesses are open and how many, what social-distancing or hygiene measures are being put into place, what kind activities – cultural, outdoor, etc. – are available? It doesn’t matter if the destination is an hour or a several-hour drive away – they won’t decide to travel there until they’ve considered these factors. And the best way to position your hotel in front of them is to deliver that destination information they’re craving by clearly integrating local to-dos into your website. A few suggestions:
- Update Your Landing Page Make sure it focuses not just on your beautiful property, but your activity-rich destination and all you can still do here while keeping a safe social distance (i.e. outdoor activities, nearby hikes, outdoor dining experiences – Troutbeck in New York is a good example).
- Destination-Dedicated Pages Build out an additional page (or pages) – linked in the top nav – that caters to regional travelers with insights about the status of local restaurants, tour operators, and hidden gems (i.e. Phoenix Park Hotel added a “Drive DC” page in its navigation bar, which is designed to showcase just how much there is to do in and around the DC area).
- Blog Content Use your website’s blog content to regularly push out posts that naturally speak to attractions/to-dos that encourage social distancing (I.e. “X Location’s Best Outdoor Dining Experiences” or something akin to this post from Eat This, Not That).
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Create Drive-Oriented Content or Campaigns
Since guests will clearly be driving, road trip–themed content from the nearest major cities demonstrate how close you are, shows off all the recently reopened stops and attractions en-route to your property, and inspires what to do once they are in your destination. Much like destination-focused content, this themed content can live on your website and your blog and even become part of a larger campaign. A couple of examples to inspire:
- Road Trip-Themed Blog Post Series For our Opal Collection client, for whom we manage the blog, Opal Unpacked, we created a road-trip themed series, promoting different road trips that link together driving-distance attractions as well as the client’s various properties to post up at during the trip. Not only do the hotels’ own independent websites link to the story rooted to their respective destination, but we then pushed these pieces out in various email campaigns targeting former drive-market guests who have stayed at their various properties.
- Road Trip-Themed Website Page Instead of living on a blog, Provenance Hotels’ “Last Ditch” road-trip series lives on a separate page they built on their collection’s website promotes various road-trips, as well as a road-trip-themed offer from featured hotels. They also promoted the content with a custom video that was shared across their various social media platforms.
- Personalized Road Trip/Driving Directions Perhaps the easiest: You can create separate pages on your website, detailing directions to your destination or hotel from major surrounding cities or regions, but then weave in fun places for your guests to stop along the way. Want to make it feel really personalized to better engage different drive markets? You can make each set of directions/road-trip routes display solely to certain users depending on their location (called geotargeting, more on that in the final paragraph). And it can be as small as changing a paragraph or word to as big as an entirely different page.
Cater Specials & Packages to Locals
In the post 4 Essential Steps Hotels Should Take Now to Market Themselves in a Post-Pandemic World, we talked about how you shouldn’t be discounting your product too steeply. But there are other ways to add value by creating packages or specials that cater to regional guests. For example, perhaps a creative family package that, with the price of a typical two-night stay, comes with a branded backpack containing instructions or clues for an on-foot, outdoor scavenger hunt that reveals a true local’s look at the destination. Or maybe a girlfriends’ getaway package that includes a discount to the on-site spa. Or a wellness package, featuring daily use of your resort’s kayaks or bikes or free smoothies each morning.
Ramp up Your Geotargeting Efforts
The hope is that all the above efforts will reach your potential guests via a simple Google search or, if they’re already following or subscribed, via your social media or email marketing. But, if you really want to get in front of your ideal audience fast and effectively, the name of the game is geotargeting advertising.
Geotargeting through social media and other paid advertisements will allow you to advertise all of the above content, packages, or any other specific hotel messaging to your various drive markets – whether you want to serve it up on a silver platter to consumers within your state or neighboring states, a certain neighboring city or cities, or within a specified mile-radius of your hotel. Yes, this costs money, but by filtering your audience, it actually extends your advertising budget (as you’re spending less money on a smaller audience) and increases engagement (since you’re serving people the right content at the right time) – all of which contributes to an increased ROI.