This year has been completely bonkers. An out-of-control rollercoaster lurching from one crisis to the next. And it seems no-one has been spared. So much so, that one weary Canadian has now returned artefacts she pilfered from Pompeii in order to ‘break the curse’ on her and her family.
We’ve seen some crazy stories (journalists doing December’s ‘the year that was’ roundup are in for a wild ride). For example, Singapore Airlines has just turned two of their grounded Airbus A380 planes into a pop-up restaurant for those trying to ‘recapture the excitement of balancing a tiny meal on an even tinier fold-down airline table’. It sold out in minutes. Artificial intelligence can now judge your face (quite harshly too, it would seem) and Hotels.com is offering people the chance to escape the negativity and nuttiness of the US Presidential Election by going to live under a rock – literally! Guests can check in to a man-made cave built 50 feet below ground for a five-night stay between 2 – 7 November 2020. The cost to stay is an Abraham Lincoln-inspired ‘presidential rate’ of just $5 a night!
In typically 2020 news, even Christmas may be cancelled. At least in Rovaniemi, Santa’s home village in Finland, a country which has some of the strictest travel restrictions in Europe. In August, foreign tourist numbers were down 78% from a year earlier, and the situation is unlikely to change before Christmas, meaning visitors who usually flock to Lapland to see Santa’s grotto or the Northern Lights will not be making the journey this year. Leaving local tour companies, operators and establishments devastated.
It is just another reminder of a global travel and tourism community which continues to bear the brunt of COVID-19. But this week when we did a ‘sentiment check’, i.e. reading the room for our comms and newsletters, rather than despondency (even for those hitting the wall) we kept coming back to that one word: community.
Perhaps it was Tourism Tuesday’s chat with our counterparts in Germany; our sector’s Twitterstorm on Wednesday, which saw over 8,000 tweets in three hours; or Natalia celebrating this team of ours on LinkedIn. But we found ourselves in awe of our clients, colleagues and community – marvelling at everyone’s spirit, grit and tenacity.
As the old saying goes: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
The power of community
In fact, some of our best reads this week centred around the importance of community. Seth Godin kicked us off with his take on the power of community and how it creates a culture of ‘us’, which changes behaviour.
Then The Harvard Business Review took a closer look at how you can go about turning your customers into your community, with Lego using a community-driven strategy to bring itself back from the brink of bankruptcy. But it’s not just Lego. By looking at brands like Porsche, TEDx, Twitch and more, they identified 3 lessons in building your community – and making sure they continue to show up:
- Be willing to trust your customers
- Start with ‘who’ not ‘what’
- Consider a sustained collaboration, not a short-term investment
More inspiration from Netflix, who, while dominating life in lockdown, also gave a masterclass in harnessing the power of community. Last week, Protocol.com took a closer look at Netflix’s marketing strategy, and how, rather than treating it’s 200 million-strong audience as a monolith, it has created communities and audiences through dedicated social channels including NX for all things geek and sci-fi; Con Todo, a channel for Latinx audiences; LGBTQ+ channel The Most; Netflix Family for everything parents enjoy; and Strong Black Lead, an outlet celebrating Black films and TV shows.
According to Protocol.com, while you probably wouldn’t know much about these efforts just from browsing the Netflix app, these channels have become vibrant communities consisting of hundreds of thousands of followers each. It’s an approach that invites fans to connect over their shared life experiences and passions, and it’s worth studying for any company looking to cater more authentically to diverse audiences.
Interested in the topic? Ince.com also has a fascinating piece on how brand communities are fast becoming the answer to engaging a whole new generation of consumers. Ince.com explores how the needs and habits of consumers have drastically changed over the past decade and how, more than ever, a customer’s choice of brands is a reflection of their personal identity and the community they belong to. Many CMOs (chief marketing officers) have recognised this shift and are responding by developing powerful communities of brand advocates that not only serve the brand’s bottom line, but the planet and its people as well.
And there’s more. COVID-19 has been affecting consumer behaviour changes around the world with new (and often local) social media apps and social commerce flourishing. It’s an important one for travel, as the industry is seeing more ‘localised marketing and niching of communities’. Facebook Groups, for example, exploded during COVID – people wanting to find comfort online – and some travel companies and publishers are niching down into these groups.
Entrepreneur South Africa agrees, giving four reasons why focussing on community is your best marketing strategy yet:
- Community marketing is cost-effective and impactful
- Community engagement gives companies authenticity and loyalty
- Strong community marketing brings brand-activation and innovation
- Timely community management makes great customer service
COVID, content and career paths
‘Lockdown’ has been named South Africa’s word of the year, seeing off competition from ‘COVID-19’, ‘Zoom’ and ‘Jerusalema’. Not surprising, although we would have loved to see ‘Jerusalema’ take it, as it was such a great example of engaging, viral content lifting the spirits during a tough year.
In fact, we’ve seen a lot of great, different and engaging content over the last few months. COVID has flipped content on its head. In another wonderful read this week, Forbes breaks down 14 smart ways to leverage user-generated content – with many fantastic ideas for those in the travel and tourism industry looking to focus on UGC.
Lockdown as also had us relooking traditional career paths (pivot, now there’s a word for 2020) and Fast Company has us convinced that everything we knew about traditional careers paths is wrong – and that COVID-19 has taught so much about leaders, work-from-home culture, difficult conversations – and the importance of getting your hands dirty! What a ride it has been.
Dinosaurs and doppelgangers
There was also plenty to make us smile this week (and that always helps). The New York Times took a break from election madness to put together a dinosaur cheat sheet for parents of dino-obsessed kids. It’s packed with fascinating info, wit and prehistoric power levels.
Photographer Gerrard Gethings set out to match people with their feline doppelgangers – and the results are pretty purr-fect. And Banksy introduced us to a brand new, beautiful and clever hula-hooping artwork.
In tourism news, Peru opened Machu Picchu for a single tourist left stranded in the country by the coronavirus pandemic; Lonely Planet released their annual, much-anticipated, Ultimate Travel List with writing so good it had us drooling and (mentally) packing our bags. Table Mountain received the news of yet another nomination in the World Travel Awards – this time, it’s in the running to be the best tourist attraction in the entire world. But it’s up against stiff competition, so we need to rally that community spirit and vote before 25 October!
And speaking of good news … Africa Travel Week is collecting good news stories from the industry as part of their #UnlockAfrica campaign. They’ll showcase the best of our incredible continent through 50 days of feel-good stories starting from 1 November. They’re looking for anything from product updates, staff praise, a first booking, a first guest, a stellar review or a recent partnership. If you have a feel-good story that you would like to share, please submit your images and news to firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp 061 354 3286.
If you’re looking for a little more inspiration, have a read (and watch) of GAdventures’ chat with Jane Goodall. It’ll get your week off to a fabulous start.
It’s now been 200-plus days since lockdown. Let’s continue to navigate this path together – wherever it takes us.
Stay safe and strong!