Tips on how your business should respond to the fire crisis.
The recent fire emergency in our region and the ongoing crisis across the state has served as a stark reminder that as a destination we too are not immune to these types of crises. It also again highlights our destination’s (and to be honest the majority of North Coast destinations) economic vulnerability.
Tourism is worth over $582 million annually to the Barrington Coast economy and as such is one of the regions key economic drivers. However, almost half of our current visitation occurs during the six-week summer holiday period. Our reliance on this so called “hyper-seasonality” is well documented and strategies to ensure our destination becomes more economically sustainable are front and centre of our long-term tourism strategy detailed in the Mid-Coast Destination Management Plan (2017).
Research and learnings from recent natural disasters in Australian tourism destinations have provided us with invaluable insights into some of the common steps we can take to limit the damage and importantly project a more positive image.
Provide factual information
Providing factual and reliable information helps to combat media sensationalism which often makes the impact appear bigger than it is. As people from outside don’t know the geography of our area they become confused over the extent of the disaster and the areas affected.
Beware of being “open for business” too soon
Research shows that messages that attempt to alter the visitor’s opinion or perceptions by suggesting that the whole region is unaffected and it’s business as usual, are the least likely to capture the visitor’s attention. So reinforcing the approach above to not “regionalise” but instead to focus on specific towns and areas will be more meaningful for potential visitors.
Make use of social media
Share current photos and video from impacted towns or experiences. This will assist in countering negatives perceptions created by the media. Showing recently captured content also build trust that the region/experience is still worth visiting.
Focus on all the great experiences still available
Whilst some of our key tourism assets such as national parks and state forests may remain temporarily closed, there are many experiences our visitors can still enjoy over summer. We’re famous for our waterways, beaches and parklands so focus on water-based activities, unique country towns, shopping and eating opportunities plus those parklands untouched by the fires.
Research shows that general advertisements offering discounts and special deals are considered by the tourism market as irrelevant and uninformative in a disaster context. But also see the next comment about your regular customers.
Talk to your customers
Relationship marketing should be the focus of your initial promotional activity. Identify your loyal customer base and make contact as soon as you can. Keep them informed and encourage their return visit with either a personalised loyalty offer or reassurances that their preferred area/community is OK.
Please remember we are here to help in anyway we can. Get in touch if you need assistance or have any suggestions or insights that can help ensure we all have a successful summer holiday period.