Destination marketers have faced massive challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. When countries around the world asked their citizens to go into self-isolation, it meant that marketing and sales leaders in events, festivals, travel, tourism, and destination management had to change everything they’d been doing and adapt to a new way of living.
Established COVID protocols feel anti-event. As these safety measures, like keeping 6-feet of distance between people, wearing masks, and only dining in outdoor areas continue—destination marketing organizations (DMOs) might feel at a loss for ways to generate revenue for their locations. This is particularly true for those DMOs and Convention Bureaus that heavily rely on meeting and conference business.
It has been over a year of dealing with these new rules. States have open, closed, and reopened. Many event planners are starting to move forward with returning to in-person activations. Now, the pressure is on destinations to clearly and effectively articulate the safety of the venues.
We’ve highlighted four ways that destination marketing organizations can showcase their event spaces as top choices for businesses that seek to host in-person events and are committed to the safety of all guests and staff.
#1: Showcase Your Commitment To Safety
Showing meeting planners what a safe meeting, conference, or event would look like at your venue is more powerful than just telling them. Just like in marketing products and services, people want to see what they’re getting before they get it. Amazon strategically puts image photos on their platform to ensure a buyer can get as close as digitally possible to holding the product before buying—and you need to do the same.
You can use user-generated content (UGC) images and videos created by customers to showcase how you’ve run past events to ensure safety for all guests and staff. This content generally shares their experience with a brand, and in this case, how safe they felt at a particular event.
If you’re able to find a tweet from a past event guest saying something like, “This hotel was the gold standard for COVID-19 safety guidelines.” that user-generated content can be used to show new event holders that you’re really focused on the safety of your guests and staff. You can use it while pitching meeting and conference planners as proof of your commitment to the current safety standards imposed by your state or country.
These meeting and conference planners are looking to make sure that events are run safely—and it’s up to them to find the party they trust to do that. Showcasing your safety commitment to them is essential in becoming a priority destination for the events they plan.
#2: Show The New Spaces You’re Using
Established venues with conference rooms, stages, green rooms, and all the works are definitely realizing that a lot of their meeting and conference space is no longer able to be used due to lack of airflow or space. This doesn’t mean venues aren’t usable though—it just requires a bit more creativity.
New safety regulations can be used to inspire the use of spaces in venues that you wouldn’t have thought of previously. As a destination marketer, you can utilize these spaces to show the raw space you have that can be used for events. For example, outdoor space that was previously unused like rooftops, balconies, green space, etc. are all places that can be utilized responsibly. As a marketing and sales leader in the hospitality, tourism, and venue space you can use UGC to showcase how happy guests are enjoying their time in these new locations.
Just like we highlighted above, finding user-generated content that compliments the use of space and how well it follows guidelines is a great way for destination and sales marketers to show potential clients their new spaces are being well received by happy customers. If you’re wondering how you can find UGC for your events, you can use a tool like TINT to collect, organize, and find the best UGC for a particular venue or event.
#3: Highlight Your Community’s Commitment To Safety
Meeting and conference planners want to know that guests will be safe while they’re at an event at your venue—if they’re not, the responsibility will fall back on them. This is why focusing on showcasing that safety through your safety guidelines and new use of safe, open spaces is essential to pitching them as the next place to host events. You can also showcase your community’s commitment to safety.
For example, if you plan to get catering from a local restaurant, you can send organizers proof that venue-serving restaurants are committed to making and delivering food safely. Sending them proof that the restaurant uses masks and gloves while preparing food and that everyone involved in the delivery, unloading, and set up process is going to be wearing a mask and gloves as well can show planners that you’re on top of all regulations.
The same applies to any other local businesses you’ll be collaborating with for the event. You can showcase the safety of catered bartenders, hired entertainment, speakers, etc. to ensure that planners know you are just as committed to safety as they are—and in turn, making their lives easier. You can also work with elected officials, downtown and Main Street programs, and academic organizations (as applicable) to show your communities focus on allowing events as long as they comply with current safety regulations.
Using a tool like TINT, you can create a centralized hub for communities to submit their content showcasing proof that they’ve complied with regulations. For example, restaurants can send photos they’ve taken or images from customers that show safety regulations. You can then organize this content and use it in your marketing and advertising as necessary.
#4: Reach Out To Meeting and Conference Planners
It’s time to start using that lead generation muscle and start reaching out to meeting and conference planners to let them know you’re open for business. If these planners don’t know that you’re following safety precautions, have allocated new spaces for events, and are prioritizing local businesses committed to safety—they can’t reach out to you and ask to host events at your venue.
Make sure booking listings and your website are updated regularly with new information pertaining to the specific safety regulations in your area. You know how marketing works, you want to make it easy for them to see that your space is a great choice for them to connect events with. If they can’t see what you’re up to—how can you expect them to choose your venue?
Just make sure you’re aware of what we’re calling the user-generated content reset. There might be UGC and marketing materials you used in the past that were great for promotion but now, they’re no longer relevant. For example, having a photo of a packed bar or event space isn’t going to do any promotion for you. Anyone looking to host an event wants to know what that space can look like now in a way that’s safe for all guests and staff. Update your UGC and marketing materials with images and videos that show the same spaces with 6 feet of distance between patrons and the other safety regulations your state or country has requested. You can also update them on new attrition and cancellation policies.
Then, you can start to reach out to meeting and conference planning organizations with a clear pitch about how well you’ve adapted to the new normal of event planning. Here are some organizations you can reach out to:
- Destinations International
- DMO Proz Home
- International Festivals and Events Association
- American Planning Association
- Meeting Professionals International
- American Society of Association Executives
- The Events Council
- Meetings Industry Association
- National Association of Catering and Events
With trust and safety being more important than ever, showing meeting and conference planners that you’ve left no stone unturned in your commitment to the safety of all event guests and staff at your venue is the best way to bring in revenue while we wait for normalcy to come back.
Since we’re not promised that normalcy is coming back anytime soon, the venues that embrace these new changes and utilized their destination marketing and sales teams to find clients looking to host events are going to be the ones that are able to keep their business moving forward. Now is the time for destinations to reconnect and re-engage with meeting planners and travelers as they rediscovered the world, on new terms.