The Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism is typically an in-person, three-day long event each year. And it shares education, and information about travel professionals and destination marketers. It’s one of the most sought after, important events of the year, as tourism is our state’s number one export industry, and one of our clients in the agency is Visit Glendale. But, just like a plethora of other events, the Arizona Governor’s Conference on Tourism went virtual this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And shifting from in-person to remote attendance turned the extended conference into just two days of webinars lasting just a few hours each day.
Join us as we examine our client’s first virtual event ever and learn how the adjustment to virtual attendance affected the way the conference was presented, what it means for Visit Glendale’s future, and what strategy changes came from the annual event for all of us!
To best understand our new, recommended strategy for Visit Glendale, a tourism client within the agency, we keep an eye on the Arizona Office of Tourism’s program. And we align Glendale CVB’s tourism campaign to complement the State’s activities.
Considering we target the same cities they are advertising in, including markets like Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Francisco, New York, and Dallas, we are able to amplify the message for Glendale; without having to spend as much advertising dollars. We follow a similar cadence to the Arizona Office of Tourism’s Rural Marketing program. This program allows small DMOs (Destination Marketing Organizations) and CVBs (Chamber & Visitors Bureaus) outside of Maricopa County to partner up with each other. And to advertise, along with the state, to amplify the overall message to travel to Arizona.
In terms of tourism, things are certainly a little different right now for Macro-Economic Dynamics. As COVID-19 has become an everyday worry, processes have pivoted to include social distancing policies, travel restrictions, and more. These changes are already having a huge impact on the economy. According to the conference, past recession recoveries have followed three common shapes: V (Rapid), U (Steady and Incremental) and L (Long Haul). V (Rapid) is a fast, dramatic dip in the economy followed by a narrow trough and quick, steady recovery over a period of six months. U (Steady and Incremental) is an extended trough period and a gradual upswing. And L (Long Haul) is a very long period of minimal increment improvement, which would be the worst case scenario for our state. So, what does Arizona’s plan look like, exactly?
Arizona’s Tourism Recovery
The AOT Destination Recovery Plan for the next 12-18 months is based upon the “U” Steady and Incremental plan. With the possibility of adjustment to other plans if the virus requires. And it should come as no surprise that for the state of Arizona, accelerating leisure travel activity statewide is priority #1.
As far as outdoor recreation is concerned, Arizona’s outdoor amenities allow individuals to explore. And all while maintaining social distancing protocols, which is extremely important during the pandemic. Because of this, these opportunities will become the destinations for a number of staycations as Arizonans rediscover their own backyard. Many parks have already been seeing high visitation, even with travel restrictions in place. To help, itineraries promoting the lesser visited, populated areas will aid in dispersing and spreading out visitors.
But, along with a shift in strategy comes the need for accommodations. This means supporting Destination Marketing Organization efforts. No matter whether it’s promoting staycations or campaigns related to residents rediscovering the Arizona they know and love. Plus, it will be important to develop a plan to tie travel experiences to other overnight options; and even bundle local places to stay with nearby experiences. These programs could drum up additional interest and promote community exploration. As well as keep a visitor who traveled to the destination longer than anticipated.
Interestingly enough, meetings, incentives, conferences, events, and other business travel make up a large portion of travel to urban areas in Arizona, like Visit Glendale. And what is usually a reliable source of travel and hotel stays, has changed due to COVID-19. In turn slowing down the typical indirect spending to local establishments. The Arizona Office of Tourism has historically focused on leisure travel. However, it depends if a budget becomes available. Then, they’ll focus on helping to accelerate the return of business travel that is so central to stabilizing visitor volume.
By applying these tactics on a smaller scale, we can help Glendale CVB get through these times; and help them come out on top on the other side of the pandemic.
What’s in Store
According to the Traveler Sentiment Report from Destination Analysts covering data from March to July of 2020, 18% of those surveyed are extremely worried about contracting COVID-19 by traveling. In Arizona, when asked what best describes their current state of mind regarding getting back out and traveling, 15% of those surveyed say they are ready to travel but feel some hesitation.
But, now that we’ve learned about the Strategic Recovery Plan for the state of Arizona, what’s in store for FY21? Consumer sentiment and health will drive decisions. In fact, the main initiative of the Arizona Office of Tourism will be the Rediscover Arizona campaign! And when consumers are ready to start traveling again the campaign will be expanded to drive markets; and then to the target cities and national audiences.
A Look at Arizona Governor’s Conferences Past
This year was the first time the Arizona Governor’s Conference was held virtually. And it certainly looked and operated quite a bit differently than it did years prior!
With COVID-19 leaving the future of well…everything uncertain, we’re eager to see what the conference will look like in the year(s) to come. But not only does the pandemic have the potential to change the format of the conference, but it could equally change the content that the event is centered around. Depending on how long it takes to return to a “new normal”, that includes travel, the industry could see massive changes in the near future. And that means everything from panel discussions to internal strategies are contingent upon what kind of recovery Arizona sees. So, we’re staying tuned – and so should you!
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