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Published on Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Expert insight: Covid is a chance for destinations to reinvent themselves






Covid-19 has been a major challenge for tourism destinations but Ryan Tym, director of brand agency Lantern, says destinations should use this hiatus to reassess how they want to define themselves and think about the visitors they want to attract.

From creating a unified brand story for the European Travel Commission to repositioning Visit Estonia and rebranding Leicester Square, we've been helping places shape their identities and reach new audiences for years. We think there are four key questions destinations need to ask themselves if they're going to reshape their brands for a post-Covid future:

What are travellers looking for right now?
Where once we might have been drawn to the buzzing pavements of megacities like Tokyo and New York, or the pulsing nightlife of places like Amsterdam and Bangkok, now many people will value more space.






They may look for destinations with lower environmental impact. Or infrastructures that demand less physical contact. Estonia, for example, is one of the most digitally advanced societies in the world. There's a real opportunity for it to build on this as a touch-free destination. It's vital to create a strategy that considers these longer term shifts in attitudes.

What sort of visitor do we want?
Places gain reputations over time, often without forethought or planning. While people tend to visit Vienna for its culture, Prague has long had a reputation as a late-night party venue. And many of its 1.3 million residents have long been unhappy with a situation that sees six times that number arriving every year for an average stay of 2.3 days of noisy revelry.
 





Prague's Dancing House

It's little surprise that its tourist board has announced that it is looking to attract a different type of visitor. This is a rare opportunity to reshape its image so that it attracts people who might enjoy the architecture more than the pilsner.

What is our truth?
Could we have rebranded Leicester Square as London's premium district? We could have tried, but as soon as anyone walked into the area they'd have known that it's not, it's the home of film, theatre and entertainment.

Destination branding is about shifting perceptions but it must be grounded in reality. Think about who you want to attract and what they might want from your area, but also take time to explore your area's past and present, its buildings and places, its stories and secrets - it's in those truths that you'll find your most valuable material.

Utah ski resort Snowbird did this brilliantly with its One Star campaign. Long known as a tough place to ski, it sifted through all the one-star reviews, finding the ones where people complained about it being too hard - and then used them in an ad campaign juxtaposing those words with shots of vertiginous vistas and knee-deep-in-powder skiers. It was a top thread on Reddit for weeks.



Snowbird advert

What is the experience we offer?
Remember that people don't want to see or hear about mountains, galleries or remote villages. They want to know what it feels like to carve through fresh snow, to see a Velasquez for the first time, or to drink tea with an old man who speaks no English. Give them that.

Think your story through. Work on your tone of voice. Draw out the emotional benefits - what does it feel like to visit your destination? If you can capture this then you will begin to inspire people to visit you.

We need to be brave. We need to seize the opportunity to imagine the future we want and act now to start creating it. If we get that right then these long months of empty cities and silent streets will not have been entirely wasted.

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