WIthout a domestic travel market to rely on for the post-pandemic tourism rebound, Maldives will need to sharpen its destination marketing efforts in accessible regional markets, opined industry leaders during a webinar organised by PATA and the Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation (MMPRC) on Monday.
Speakers at the COVID-19 Crisis and Maldives Tourism webinar were Thoyyib Mohamed, managing director, MMPRC; Mario Hardy, CEO, PATA; and Sarah Mathews, group head of destination marketing APAC, TripAdvisor.
All speakers agreed that domestic travel would be the first to take off, with Hardy projecting the domestic market dominance will run for an extensive period before individual travel and eventually, mass market travel returns.
Damian Cook, CEO of E-Tourism Frontiers, expected the mass market to take a long time to recover due to health risks and higher travel costs driven up by stringent health checks, certification and longer turnarounds for aircraft needing disinfection.
On a positive note, Mathews said people would be eager to travel again after being cooped up indoors for so long.
“People are planning their next trip, doing research and seeking advice,” she shared, adding that travellers will book their next trip based on quality (value for money) and not cheap offers.
However, without “a domestic tourism product”, Cook said the Maldives would have to look at attracting travellers from the region and on short-haul flights.
Cook opined that destinations without a domestic market back-up would need a proper communication plan and show a lot of digital content to entice travellers to return.
MMPRC’s Mohamed revealed that while the destination’s Visit Maldives campaign was severely disrupted at the onset of the crisis, the team had chosen to “re-adopt and re-strategise our campaigns in our source markets”.
“We have shifted to digital and online campaigns, focusing on empathy. Our content is light-hearted and our ‘visit later’ message is for people to see and dream about the Maldives,” he explained.
Mohamed acknowledged that the Maldives would have to address public health in marketing, specifically the quality of the health measures and social distancing norms.
He emphasised that the Maldives’ one island, one resort concept has helped to contain the outbreak.
The Maldives has 214 Covid-19 infections as of April 27 and no fatalities.