Another Reason to Market the Mask

While my own fair city of Asheville has been under a mask wearing mandate for the last month, many states and cities are just now beginning to implement similar restrictions within their jurisdictions.  These requirements have added another element to the already fine line many destination marketing organizations and hospitality entities are walking right now–the one located between community health and commerce, marketing to local customers and visitors, and promoting responsible behavior as well as a consistent brand image.

There are plenty of reasons to wear the mask.  What might not be as obvious is whether to communicate your city or state’s mask wearing policies to your customers and visitors before they arrive at your front door, via social media, advertising, email, and/or your website. I realize there may be a reluctance to do so–masks are a stark visual reminder that life has changed and that the party came to a screeching halt.

But with so many cities and states leaving it up to businesses to enforce the mask mandate (and with so much confusion around the differing levels of restrictions from city to city), the obligation to communicate via our marketing platforms has never been so clear. Beyond the obvious need to protect their health, we’re literally asking our frontline employees to act as nightclub bouncers for mask miscreants.  This requirement, while necessary, puts an already beleaguered labor force in a difficult position. Most frontline staff, ably trained in providing hospitality and guest service, didn’t sign up to be the muscle at retailers and restaurants.

So we owe it to our employees–the people who deliver upon your brand every day–to do what we can to market the mask.  And I believe there are many savvy travelers and customers out there who are looking for places where they feel safe and in control of their surroundings.  Marketing the mask will help them make informed decisions about where to spend their time and money.



How Much Will Your Visitors Feel in Control?

New Las Vegas television adWhat happens in Vegas doesn’t always work in places that aren’t Vegas, but I often look to the smart people out in the desert for clues to trends in consumer behavior and then watch how they respond.  I don’t think any destination pivots as well as Las Vegas does.

You may have seen the new Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) television ad that debuted last week.  Themed as “a new Vegas for a new reality,” the ad emphasizes a variety of intimate experiences available in the destination.  You won’t see more than two or three people in any one shot–no artist-in-residence concerts, no crowded clubs, no imagery of a packed Strip. Some of that is likely by necessity, until more is known about how those quintessentially Vegas experiences will look and feel as they reopen.

But I think the ad is also reflective of a need to communicate the perception of personal control and safety. Even as America reopens, we know that not everyone is ready to venture into casinos, restaurants, and arenas.  And it’s impossible for any destination or tourism partner to promote or guarantee safety, especially with an unseen virus.  But you can communicate the perception of safety by showing intimate experiences, wide open outdoor spaces, and time spent with loved ones.

It’s also the perception of personal control over travelers’ surroundings.  This latest research from Destination Analysts shows that activities that travelers most prefer right now are those where the individual has a great deal of personal control (or at least the perception of control)–outdoor activities, road trips, and visiting friends and relatives. And staying at a beach resort is considered among the top three most relaxing travel experiences, along with visiting friends and relatives and taking a road trip.  Despite viral stories like the guy dressed as the Grim Reaper visiting a Florida destination, it’s likely most people feel pretty comfortable about the beach because it’s viewed as an easy place to socially distance.

So yes, the perceived safety of a destination, attraction, or activity is important. But a feeling of personal control over their circumstances may be even more critical to the traveler right now. That’s why the selection of effective imagery and being able to curate personalized and intimate experiences for the visitor (depending upon their level of comfort) is more vital than ever.