In March of 2020, travel ground to a halt due to the pandemic. Before the onset of summer, government and health authorities began to ease restrictions, allowing people to begin traveling locally and then regionally, as long as infection rates didn’t increase. Kelowna, like other destinations, needed to start rebuilding their tourism business.
Third-party research showed that the biggest feeling of loss that people experienced over the first two months of the pandemic was a loss of freedom – freedom of movement and/or freedom of choice. As restrictions lifted, we chose to tap into this idea of freedom, something that had been denied to us all for so long.
We wanted to let people know that the wait was over and Kelowna was ready to welcome them whenever they were ready to visit. To acknowledge their patience and extend an encouraging invitation, we created a campaign that leveraged a familiar expression from the hospitality industry which spoke directly to our audience, “Thank you for waiting, your table is ready.”
With a lower-than-normal budget and a need to drive results quickly, we chose to focus on reaching travellers who were most ready to travel. This resulted in an emphasis on the booking stage, through OTAs, search, display, native and social, as well as modest support in the inspiration and planning stages, via lower-thirds on Global TV, social and e-blasts. In addition, we took advantage of a Google grant and the Destination BC print partnership opportunity, given the reach it provided and the contextual fit of their Water, Wine and Culinary feature.
Kelowna experienced a remarkable recovery in the summer months. Hotel occupancy grew from a record low of 11.7% in April to 36.5% in June, 70.3% in July and 79.2% in August. And, after months of decreases, visitation grew and actually surpassed that of 2019 for June through August.