While most of the events industry has rushed to move online over the past few months, destinations have been hard-hit by travel restrictions and have been slower to recover. However, many are making the transition to virtual in order to revitalize their businesses.
Prior to the pandemic, destinations played a key role in the organization of events worldwide. However, while many eventprofs were able to switch to hosting virtual events without a physical venue, destinations' businesses rely on people traveling to and visiting them.
With global air travel down over 40% this month compared to September 2019 — which is better than what it's been for most of 2020 — destinations have been getting creative and finding ways to continue to deliver value and stay relevant in the current global climate.
Earlier this month, Events DC — the US capital's official convention and sports authority that aims to bring a range of exciting events to the DC community — announced the launch of its virtual platform GATHER, along with a new production studio within the Walter E. Washington Convention Center that will be used to stream online events.
It's the latest destination seeking to reinvent itself in a Covid-stricken world and showcase its offerings by implementing a virtual experience.
Virtual Venues Provide High-Quality Programming
In the case of Events DC, the virtual venue it has built, Studio 801, is a key part of its online offering. According to Gregory A. O’Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC, "GATHER is a prime example of creatively keeping our communities and industries together through this new dynamic, virtual programming platform to experience live and on-demand content."
Through the platform, users can search for events and choose from a variety of content to watch on demand — including conferences, discussions, and musical performances — as well as sign up to watch future live-streamed events. In addition, event organizers can book Events DC's virtual venue for their upcoming digital events.
“Today, more than ever before, is such an important time for people and communities to come together, and conventions and meetings, sports and entertainment have the power to do that — even virtually."
-Gregory A. O’Dell, president and CEO of Events DC
This initiative by Events DC exemplifies how destinations can leverage virtual and hybrid events to continue to make an impact.
Engaging Audiences Through Virtual Tourism
Virtual tourism has become increasingly popular over the last few months as other destinations have turned to online tours and cultural experiences to keep their clientele — including both eventprofs and tourists — interested while travel plans remain uncertain.
For example, both the JNTO and Discover Puerto Rico have introduced virtual tours of their respective countries to allow eventprofs and prospective attendees to explore what these destinations have to offer. Similarly, the African Wildlife Foundation has even started organizing interactive virtual safaris throughout Africa to keep people invested in and informed about its preservation efforts.
It may be a while before these destinations see their usual visitor numbers again, but in the meantime, they're offering valuable content and experiences to a travel-starved audience.
Although it wasn't immediately apparent how destinations would fit into this new virtual world, many have taken initiative and adapted their offerings to an online format.
If one thing is for sure, it's that the allure of travel isn't going anywhere, so if destinations are able to weather the current storm and stay top of mind, they'll eventually enjoy increased business when travel is finally able to resume freely.