Responsible Destination Marketing During the Pandemic: Which Pitfalls to Avoid

Published 30/07/2020
Sustainable destination marketing during pandemic

Some destinations will be desperate to get tourists to come back, which may challenge destination sustainability. What things should destination marketing teams avoid or be careful about, in their rush to restart tourism?

We asked our panel of sustainable tourism specialists, in partnership with The Place Brand Observer. Below the answers (highlighted respondents are available as consultants or speakers).

Our key takeaways:

  • At your destination, do what it takes to ensure and support public health, hygiene and sanitation, as lack of those will be a deal-breaker for potential visitors when deciding where to go during these uncertain times.
  • Communicate clearly about the various measures in place, including physical distancing rules.
  • Smart destination: implement visitor management systems to avoid overcrowding in tourist hotspots.
  • Involve locals and local businesses in your strategy and decision-making, so they are confident and happy to welcome visitors.

With thanks to PRÁTTO Consulting d.o.o. and Good Place – helping tourism businesses and destinations succeed at sustainability.

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Brian Mullis, sustainable tourism expert panel member

Brian Mullis

Interview | Book Brian as speaker

A lack of implementation of health, hygiene, and sanitation standards including social distancing will likely result in an increase in COVID-19 cases and a decrease in visitation due to perceptions of poor destination health practices.

Kelly Bricker, sustainable tourism expert panel memberKelly Bricker

Interview | Book Kelly as speaker

Support local, learn about destinations ahead of time, support cultural and ecological conservation initiatives – identify non-peak opportunities, and support community efforts to manage visitation through education, marketing venues, and social media outlets.

Kirsi Hyvaerinen

Kirsi Hyvaerinen

Interview | PRÁTTO Consulting d.o.o / Book Kirsi as speaker

Price competition must be avoided – once you go that way, it’s pretty hard to come back. Adding value and listening carefully to your customers about what they need and want. It may sound like an old recipe but it’s a healthy one.

Jeremy Sampson


It is unlikely that tourism can be rushed back in 2020 to anything like 2019 levels, particularly if social distancing is required. The issue will be ensuring that, as surviving businesses open up, demand is matched by supply, which links back to the need to understand the current state of tourism infrastructure and value chains.

Kevin Teng


In the post-pandemic season, the entire globe faces a new normal, including social distancing and hygiene practices. Destination marketers should have frequent and transparent communication with industry partners and visitors, to keep them apprised of the situation and the mitigation measures that are in place.

Avoid controversial messaging that promotes crowding, or that displays any negative social practices with regards to COVID-19.

Marcus Cotton


Continue to focus on sustainability come what may – remember there is a massive increase in sustainability awareness among travellers and this can be used positively and proactively to encourage better tourism.

Don’t rush to restart.

Masaru Takayama


Any destination that is too popular and needs visitor management to limit the number of visits to a comfortable number may experience some challenges. Sanitation and cleaning processes need to be very transparent, to be able to sell the destination.

Shannon Guihan


Ignoring the widespread conversation about restarting better will be a great mistake, in my opinion.

Steve Noakes


Avoid local stakeholder fragmentation – have local organisations that can bring local players together in an open, fair, and transparent way – rather than cause disenfranchisement, resentment, and lack of a common vision for a new preferred future for the destination.

Focus on promising a quality (and responsible) experience, rather than just chasing the numbers of tourists.

More about our sustainable tourism expert panel here – including previous sessions and answers to some of the most pressing issues linked to making tourism more sustainable.