Choosing the next holiday destination may have been one of the last things most people were considering while staying indoors protecting themselves from COVID-19, with safety taking on a new role.

But now lockdowns are lifting in many places, travel marketers have the daunting task of luring consumers back to holiday destinations, many of which rely on the tourist dollar for survival. 

And they’re having to rethink their messaging.

The Wall Street Journal reports on how some rural destinations are leveraging their sheer remoteness and seclusion to sell themselves to nervous travellers.

One magazine ad reads, “In West Virginia, that feeling of freedom instantly returns in wide-open spaces. Safe. Uncrowded.”

And a video selling Wyoming as a destination opens with the words, “It’s going to be a while before things get back to normal. But maybe a little emptiness is what we need.”

Between March 1 and April 25, the Journal reports, leisure and business travel spending was $119 billion below last year’s figure for the same period.

Social distancing is going to be part of life for some time, said Chelsea Ruby, the tourism commissioner of West Virginia. “So what we want to let people know is that we are a place where you can both practice social distancing and enjoy the family and friends that you’ve missed so much during this period of isolation,” she said.

Safety is a key message, say marketers, but it needs to be subtle – if the messaging is too explicit there’s a danger it will actually deter potential tourists. Some campaigns offer peaceful scenery and stress that the destination will be open for business once the time is right.

Other locations are avoiding mention of the crisis all together, the Journal says. 

Will Davie, head of strategy for new business at Droga5, points out that unspoilt seclusion is not difficult to find in the U.S. and destinations will need some special sauce to stand out, just as New Zealand leveraged the fact the Lord of the Rings movies were shot there.

Elsewhere, travel marketers have tapped into the trend to move everything online to keep people safe and have launched virtual tours of popular vacation destinations. 

The Jakarta Post reports that virtual tours designed to whet the appetites of would-be travellers often incorporate Google maps, videos, images and slides, as well as perhaps an introduction to a language, and, of course, a guide. 

In some cases, they have proved so popular that some travel firms intend to keep them going even when destinations re-open for business.

One such company is travel firm The Jakarta Good Guide. Founder Farid Mardhiyanto told the Post the tours had become so sophisticated they took as long as two weeks to prepare. “For international virtual tours, we can have more than 100 people,” he said.

“We’re not trying to replace the real experience of travelling; [we want to] enhance the experience itself,” he added. “It can also be a marketing tool for our physical tours.”

Sourced from the Wall Street Journal, Jakarta Post