When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the increasingly bright spark of wanderlust was replaced by vigilance and caution, prompting Filipinos to postpone or outright cancel travel plans. Even leisure places closer to home, such as malls and parks, had to be closed for health and safety reasons.
The pandemic put a halt to everyone’s travel plans and affected the national economy. Revenue from foreign arrivals from January to March 2020 only reached P79.8 billion, a 40.62% decrease from the P134.3 billion from the same period the previous year. With these numbers, the Department of Tourism (DOT) had to act fast to revive the ailing industry while keeping in mind that the country is still addressing a health crisis.
The easing of quarantine restrictions that started in the second half of 2020 provided the momentum needed for domestic tourism recovery. To support its recovery efforts, DOT tapped EON PR and DiG, the agency’s digital arm, to provide communications strategy planning services and social media management to create tourism awareness while emphasizing health and safety protocols in this new normal.
“We were excited to take on this project because at its core is a message of hope. Our campaign promises that we can all do our part to revive the tourism industry while still practicing important health and safety measures. A thriving tourism ecosystem does not only mean Filipinos get to rediscover the beauty of our provinces, but it also entails the restoration of jobs and stimulation of the local economy, which in turn will contribute greatly to nation-building,” says Mori Rodriguez, Chief Innovation Officer.
Balancing economic recovery with safety
EON’s communications strategy was anchored on proactively addressing the decline of the tourism industry through stakeholder engagement while also acting upon opportunities that can contribute to its recovery.
With emphasis on the safety protocols that the DOT has put in place, EON developed thoughtfully-written articles aimed to educate the public about safe travelling while enticing them to visit reopened places such as Boracay, Baguio, Ilocos, and more.
The agency promoted the Ibagiw Festival, a community celebration of Baguio’s diverse art, culture, and nature, by inviting journalists to experience the sights, sounds, and tastes of the city firsthand. EON also helped showcase the beauty of La Union during the launch of the R1 VISITA (Region 1 Visitor Information and Travel Assistance) platform. The VISITA platform monitors tourists and their activities to ensure that they practice health protocols. This messaging is included in all of EON’s initiatives to underscore the department’s commitment to economic recovery while still protecting both tourists and locals from the virus.
Tapping on nostalgia online
For its digital efforts, DiG developed and implemented a social media strategy, which entailed robust information dissemination and leveraged on Filipinos’ sense of nostalgia.
EON’s digital arm crafted always-on content announcing reopened destinations and attractions. Like its PR efforts, its online content frequently posted reminders on health and safety protocols while traveling.
A vital component was a series of video content that showcased tourist spots, activities, and local cuisines that travelers can once again experience. DiG added a special twist in its messaging: these Philippine destinations miss tourists as much as tourists miss them.
DiG also capitalized on the Philippines’ reputation as the social media capital of the world. The team sustained DOT’s successful crowdsourcing efforts by tapping on social media’s #throwback culture and encouraging netizens to share their travel photos. This stirred Filipinos’ sentimentality, thus strengthening the hype for local travel.
A culture of telling stories
EON approached its partnership with DOT the same way it services its clients in more than 20 industries: telling authentic stories and creating memorable experiences. As a firm, EON continuously searches for ways to drive and institutionalize a culture of innovation. By elevating the quality of its services and finding new ways of working, they can help their clients create meaningful and lasting change in their field.
“Our strategy has always been to take on a personal approach to our work while telling stories. For DOT, we aspire to bring back Filipinos’ curiosity and thirst for exploration through engaging content and initiatives. Equally important is educating them on the stringent health measures that local government units and the tourism department have put in place. We hope to encourage Filipinos to travel so we can recover as one,” ends Rodriguez.
1 Cervantes, F. M. (2020, April 28). DOT drafts plan for new normal in Covid-19 aftermath. Philippine News Agency. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1101261
2 dataSpring. (2020, August 27). Is the Social Media Capital of the World Ready for a Life Online? https://www.d8aspring.com/eye-on-asia/is-the-social-media-capital-of-the-world-ready-for-a-life-online