As the travel industry navigates its emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts will look back and try to figure out which suppliers and destinations marketed wisely and productively during the extreme lockdown period as they sought to maintain a connection with past and potential travelers.
One destination that moved early to establish and maintain that connection is multi-island European country Malta, which has become increasingly popular in recent years for its history, natural beauty and cuisine. Sitting in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta is home to the highest density of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of any nation and offers sunny weather, attractive beaches and a thriving nightlife.
The Malta Tourism Authority did not want to lose the momentum it had achieved in recent years, said Michelle Buttigieg, representative-North America. She noted that her office realized that when things do open up, there will be tremendous competition among destinations to attract returning tourists. Malta tourism wanted to ensure that the destination remained top of mind.
The strategy the authority came up with was called “Dream Malta Now… Visit Later.” The campaign launched in April with a 60-second video clip produced in 14 languages. Subsequent efforts were primarily online and accompanied by social media campaigns and virtual tours, supported in the North America market by a series of press releases focusing on niche markets like diving, cuisine, movies filmed in Malta, etc. In fact, movies filmed at least partially in Malta are “Game of Thrones,” “Troy,” “Captain Phillips” and “The DaVinci Code.” The release about the films included information about where to stream them.
Heritage Malta collaborated with Google to give people the opportunity to virtually visit several national museums and sites through the online platform Google Arts & Culture.
This resulted in the creation of 25 virtual tours of Heritage Malta sites. Social media posts and press releases were generated to promote these tours, as well as virtual cultural events, with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra presenting a virtual Valletta tour through music (Valletta is the capital.).
The overriding intent of all of this, said Buttigieg, is “to entice and excite potential travelers to plan to visit Malta in the post-COVID-19 era.”
Malta will open its airport to international travel from European countries July 1. It will take a while to determine how effective the destination’s campaign has been. As Buttigieg said, the competition will be intense not just to maintain awareness but to navigate how people will want to travel in a post-COVID-19 world. That is the next challenge, and it seems Malta will begin with a solid foundation.