Tourism ads shifts from travelling to pandemic precautions

Published on : Saturday, August 21, 2021

Tourism was one of the industries hit hardest throughout the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, and tourism organisations had to make major shifts in their marketing operations — mostly away from encouraging travel, though not completely.


Tourism officials initially slammed the brakes on marketing in the early stages of the pandemic. The Breckenridge Tourism Office “went dark” in paid advertising from mid-March to mid-June 2020, according to CEO and President Lucy Kay. She said the organisation shifted its funding to safety and responsible travel messaging as well as information on what to expect upon arrival.


She said the organisation continued encouraging visits to Summit County but not to the extent it normally would.
“As a destination marketing and management organisation, you can think of our work throughout the pandemic on a pendulum,” tourism office spokesperson Austyn Dineen wrote in an email. “When restrictions and concerns are high, we swing into education/safety and management for those who are choosing to travel. When restrictions/concerns relax, we swing more heavily into inspirational marketing space.”


Breckenridge Tourism Office’s approved budget in 2020 was $5.6 million, which was about $49,000 less than its 2019 budget. In 2020, the office returned $750,000 from its unused budget back to the town of Breckenridge and $150,000 to Breckenridge Ski Resort. Its 2021 approved budget is nearly $4.4 million.


As pandemic restrictions eased in Summit County, Kay said paid advertising returned slowly and that it intentionally excluded areas with high COVID-19 numbers. International advertising still has yet to make a comeback.


“We have to balance keeping our businesses viable with public health safety,” Kay wrote in an email.


In counties with high vaccination rates, the rate among visitors is often lower than residents, according to Wineland, who showed data detailing that a portion of visitors are coming from states with low vaccination rates.


Summit County’s most recent rate of fully vaccinated residents is 79 per cent, and 88 per cent have received at least one dose.


Using mobility data, the county’s health department calculated what it called an “imported unvaccinated multiplier,” or a measure of the impact visitors have on the number of unvaccinated people in the county. A value greater than one indicates visitors are causing the share of unvaccinated people in a county to be larger than the resident vaccination numbers indicate.


Summit County came in at 1.39, the second highest number in the state behind only San Miguel County, home of Telluride. That brings Summit County’s vaccination rate including visitors down to below 70 per cent.


“We definitely are not able to fully benefit from our high vaccination rate here in our community because it has been diluted from our visitors,” Wineland said at the meeting. “We love our visitors; we need our visitors. They’re key to our economic recovery, but it is important to keep this in mind as we’ve been able to do pretty much everything we needed and wanted to do this summer without restriction.”

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