While travellers remain stationary for the time being, it’s just as important for travel advisors and agencies to continue with marketing efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit in a different direction than what would normally be taking place at this time of year.
For Ensemble Travel Group’s Liz Metlitsky, senior manager - North American member marketing, the current global situation saw her team pivot from the development of springtime marketing campaigns featuring supplier deals and seasonal travel offers to a brand-new strategy for which there was no playbook to reference, one of information for Ensemble members and inspiration for their clients.
“What we’ve found is while the way we market today looks differently from a month ago, people want to get inspired while they’re ‘on pause,’ Metlitsky said, adding that she is personally dreaming of travel to Switzerland and London in the future. “It’s important to meet that inspiration and hope for the future, to show client where to go and to stay connected.”
Developing a strategy
According to Ensemble, the new marketing strategy consists of three main pillars, specifically:
- Member support - coalescing the teams from supplier relations, IT, business development team, the teams worked together to quickly create a Member Portal with information from governments and public health agencies, resources, links, and supplier news for both the U.S. and Canada.
- Shifting of messages for digital and print marketing – helping Ensemble members stay connected with clients through the creation of a customizable social media campaign that members can use based on what resonates with them, including suggested copy and images highlighting the value of working with professional travel advisors to encourage consumers to continue dreaming about travel and to book now for travel later taking advantage of deals and flexible cancellation policies.
- Staying Connected – with everyone home and feeling isolated, Ensemble has also created several resources to help members stay connected with each other. This includes the creation of an #EnsembleStrong Facebook Group, which features everything from inspiring music and quotes to practical advice and tools from to help everyone manage their mental health and well-being.
“We are inspiring members to pivot their marketing and adapt to the current situation and, while this may not be the time to market travel, it is the perfect time to communicate the value of travel as well as the benefits of working with a professional travel advisor,” said Carl Schmitt, Ensemble’s vice-president of marketing. “Our entire marketing team has been instrumental in working together and has responded to this current crisis by creating relevant and critical tools and resources to benefit our members. We truly believe that our members do now will be critical to how quickly they recover.”
In crafting this new strategy, Metlitsky said that adaptation, flexibility and communication were key for her and her team, adding that the development process allowed team members to showcase additional creative skills not normally required by their job description.
“We haven’t seen anything like this before, so we had to get creative and adapt in real time,” she recalled. “Everyone has played a role in this effort and raised their hand to help and contribute skills they don’t normally have; for example, one our team members has used their graphic design skills, although they don’t work as a graphic designer with Ensemble.”
“Inspiration to overcome isolation”
Regarding marketing, Metlitsky told PAX that the main questions have focused around the necessity and appropriateness of travel marketing during a pandemic. While some advisors may be hesitant to continue with any marketing efforts, Metlitsky said that it simply needs to take on another form at the moment, such as the inspirational social media collateral that Ensemble has supplied members. In the end, all roads lead to the importance of booking via travel agent.
“What we’re doing is encouraging our members to be human about the situation,” she explained, “to acknowledge that while they’re clients may not be travelling soon, it’s about inspiration to overcome isolation.”
While the new campaign and strategies may have been born of an unprecedented situation, Metlitsky said that it will also influence the way the team works together in the post-pandemic world.
“I think that everything we’re doing now that once this is over, it won’t fall to the wayside - it’s a new normal,” she said. “We’re working in a very fluid way with all departments to support membership. We’ve always worked in a close way – we always use the word family – and that sentiment has never been truer.”
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