Tourism Marketing During A Crisis

March 18, 2020

A Guide for Businesses in Hawaii Affected by Corona Virus

Recent measures being taken to control the spread of Coronavirus have many businesses seriously concerned. Trips from Asia have already steeply declined compared to the same period in 2019, plummeting over 32% in just the first week of March. On Wednesday, Governor Ige has called for visitors to reschedule their visits to Hawaii for at least the next 30 days, and has instituted a quarantine on all restaurants and bars.  Worryingly, a new report from the Imperial College in London is suggesting that in order to contain the spread of the virus we may need 18 months of strict isolation practices. While no one knows for sure how long it will take to return to normalcy it is important that businesses prepare for the worst and do what they can in the mean time to adapt.

The problem that local businesses face is excess capacity: a decline in demand without a similar decline in supply. Large operating expenses aren’t an issue when money is flowing in to the state and into the local economy, but cashflow issues can quickly become an issue when the flow of tourists starts to dry up.

While every business should be taking proper precautions to protect their employees, vendors, customers and guests, that doesn’t mean they should put their feet up and wait for the storm to blow over. Provided you are following official guidelines for reducing transmission — there are steps you can follow to take control of your messaging, reassure your customers, and plan for the future.

Here are some strategies you can use to help offset your losses and put your assets back to work:

Use your database

Visitors have the edge when local businesses are in competition. Rather than make no money at all, many businesses are dropping their rates to fill their vacancies and to recoup some of their lost sales. I’m not suggesting you stop advertising; I’m simply suggesting that in a cash crunch it is important to get the highest ROI for your money and your time. So before you boost your daily ad budget to compete for less, businesses should consider creating offers specifically for your known customer database.

The four main ways to reach your audience are through email, sms, facebook messenger, or posting on social media. Each of those platforms is either free to use, or extremely low cost, and past customers have a significantly higher chance of making a purchase over a cold audience.

Reward customer loyalty and increase your top line revenue by offering bulk pricing: It seems to be working well for the toilet paper companies 

Communicate your plan

Be proactive in letting your audience know the status of your business operations. Make it clear the precautions you are putting in place to ensure your staff and your customers stay safe and healthy.

Use this messaging opportunity to introduce new service like curb-side pick-up, whether you are reducing your hours, or to announce a sick leave program — all of these will help assuage your customers concerns and help them to incorporate your business in to their “new normal”.

For more detail on risk reduction procedures for your business, read the OSHA guide and for Hawaii specific tips and updates bookmark this page by the Chamber of Commerce Hawaii.

Support the community

Hawaii workers may be among the hardest hit in the entire nation as the tourism industry employs over 215,000 people in the state. With a struggling economy and outright travel moratoriums, workers face indefinite periods of unemployment that will still take months to ramp back up to full capacity even after the outbreak is contained.

I don’t expect Luis Vuitton to start offering discounts on their handbags, but businesses local to Hawaii can support the community by offering double reward points, BOGOs, free delivery, or group rates / package discounts marketed specifically to island residents.

Businesses in Hawaii have a unique opportunity to control their messaging and build loyalty with local customers that can last for years.

Create content

When things are busy (and they’re always busy), many businesses struggle to make the time to focus on their marketing. Even if your business has a steady stream of customers, I guarantee you that an updated online presence will only further drive new customers to your store. New social content and fresh new advertisements can also contribute to gathering more reviews and may let you command a higher price for your product or services.

You can’t throw a rock in Hawaii without hitting 3 photographers, so there’s no excuse not to use this opportunity to improve your visuals and your visibility.

photo: Hello Fashion Blog


Partner with creators

It’s a bit of a running joke to see destination businesses assailed with requests from influencers hoping to exchange social media shout outs for goods and services. That said; partnering with the right content creators can actually produce very positive results for your business.

It is important to choose creators who’s style you enjoy, but make sure that you discuss you expectations about the type of content you are hoping for before engaging in a partnership. This could include a selfie-video thank you or testimonial, as well as sequential photos and videos taken throughout their experience that can be used to tell a story.

In addition to posting the content on their personal accounts, your business should make it clear that you would require usage rights to incorporate their content into your future marketing campaigns.

Marketing housekeeping tasks

Sometimes there are tedious “spring cleaning” marketing tasks that often get de-prioritized, such as updating your business NAP listings across the web, uploading all your new photos to TripAdvisor and Google My Business, and cleaning your email subscriber database.

We hope this guide was useful in providing some actionable steps that businesses can use to ride out this storm and to prepare for the future.

Have any other tips for businesses in Hawaii? Drop a comment below. 👇



By Greg Hadley

Greg is the founder and lead digital strategist for Devour Hawaii; a digital marketing agency focused on working with local businesses. He has a passion for solving business problems using a combination of creativity and technology.

Subscribe to our blog

Related Articles

No Results Found

The page you requested could not be found. Try refining your search, or use the navigation above to locate the post.



    I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get setup? I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I’m not very internet smart so I’m not 100% certain. Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks recept pa snittar recept pa snittar

    • Greg Hadley

      Aloha, It looks like you already have a nice looking blog. What specifically would you like advice on?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *