One of the biggest casualties of the coronavirus crisis has been the travel and tourism industry. But tourist authorities have already begun pumping out content with a view to restarting the industry after lockdown ends.
Tourism Australia, for example, launched ‘Live From Aus’, the latest iteration of its ‘With Love From Aus’ campaign. Aimed at boosting domestic tourism, it has featured a dance party with The Wiggles, workouts in Byron Bay, crocodile encounters with the Outback Wrangler Matt Wright, pro-golfing lessons, and a dinner party with Australian chef, Matt Moran – opening with a one-hour special on Network 10’s The Project. Philippa Harrison, Tourism Australia’s managing director, said that the multi-channel campaign would incorporate broadcast, digital and social channels. An ongoing streaming program is aimed at reconnecting Australians with the country’s wildlife, landscapes, food and wine, indigenous heritage, and arts and cultural experiences.
With domestic tourism making up around two-thirds of total tourism spend in Australia (equating to around $106 billion last year), there’s a lot at stake. Australia’s Minister for Tourism, Simon Birmingham, has said that restarting the tourism industry was crucial to Australia’s overall economic recovery. Tourism Australia’s program seems to be working, as viewing of live content across digital and social media globally has nearly tripled in the past month alone, while TV viewing in Australia has increased 11% on last year due to the effects of lockdown.
Virtual tourism – high-quality live streaming of key destinations – is another type of content that has been boosted by the coronavirus crisis. This has been pioneered by the likes of Norway’s Slow TV (Sakte-TV), whose ‘Hurtigruten’ show – a 134-hour minute-by-minute documentary of the voyage of MS Nordnorge between Bergen and Kirkenes – is the most viewed programme in Norwegian television history. Since the success of Hurtigruten, Slow TV and others have produced lengthy realtime documentaries on reindeer migrations and buses travelling around English rural towns. The shows have an escapist quality which gives the feeling of travelling without the inconvenience or risk and demand for them is rising.
Real tourism, however, will be different – at least for a time – post-COVID. But even here the media industry has a role to play.
Rebecca Walsh, marketing manager at data monetisation and roaming specialists Tango Telecom, says that many tourists may opt for self-catering style accommodation in rural areas where they can remove themselves from crowds and where they have more control over hygiene levels. “These tourists are going to need mobile data roaming to access important information and for contact tracing,” she explains. “They’re also likely to stay in at night rather than mingle in crowded areas, leading to increases in demand for streaming services while travelling.”
Omnisperience’s Chief Analyst and regular Disruptive.Asia contributor, Teresa Cottam agrees. “Both business and leisure travellers are going to have a less social experience of travelling for the time being, because of the requirement to socially distance and isolate.” She says travellers will fill their evenings with films or boxed sets, or call home using videoconferencing or video calling – challenging the media industry to unpick the barriers to travellers accessing content outside their home region. “I think this is where telecoms operators will have a key role to play,” she says.
Cottam envisages a ‘content roaming’ model that sees local operators providing both the connectivity and content services in a roamed location. “Much of this is simply to do with packaging,” she comments. “If the service provider already offers content, then the licensing issues are already in place. So it’s simply a question of providing 1 or 2 week packages aimed at travellers.”
These services could form part of a larger traveller’s package that provides connectivity, entertainment, information, health advice and more. Hotels, too, are challenged with unlocking unfavourable and overly-expensive content to deliver more affordable packages that are personalised to the needs of individual travellers. According to Walsh, this favours a partnership approach between telecoms service providers, media firms and the hospitality and travel industry. “There are opportunities here for operators who are ready to seize them,” she says. “As restrictions are easing and we emerge from lockdown, our data access – especially when travelling – could become our virtual safety blanket.”
“Travelling is going to change, and both media firms and telecoms service providers need to think about the opportunities to repackage their offerings to meet the needs of travellers in the new normal,” advises Cottam.
Written by Angharad Rhiannon