Impact of COVID-19 on North American destination organisations

Eloise Hanson Eloise Hanson Uploaded 26 March 2020

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US: MMGY Travel Intelligence, in partnership with Destinations International Foundation, has released findings for its bi-weekly survey on the impact of coronavirus on the sectors outlook, operations and market spending.

Wave I of the study, conducted in early March (4-8), shows that less than 20 per cent had reported reducing or postponing marketing spend, and a similar amount reported restricted domestic travel for employees.

In wave II of the study, conducted last week (16-22), findings showed that more than 80 per cent of destination organisations had reduced or postponed sales and marketing spend, and more than 60 per cent had asked all employees to work from home.

The majority are now reporting a strong expectation that the coronavirus will have an extreme impact on their business over the next six months.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association has referred to the US hotel industry as “on the brink of collapse” with 33,000 small businesses at “immediate risk” following staff layoffs and low occupancy rates.

The MMGY study also reveals that the percentage of destinations reporting coronavirus-related postponements, and/or cancellations of conferences, meetings or events, surged from 40 per cent in the first wave to almost 100 per cent in the second wave. 

Only 30 per cent of respondents stated that their organisation had a pandemic emergency plan in place prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. MMGY said that it is “most likely attributable to these organisations relying on plans from state governments rather than developing their own.”

Craig Compagnone, chief operating officer for MMGY Global, said: “This is a rapidly evolving situation for our industry, and it’s important for destinations to make decisions based on facts and hard data as they begin to prepare recovery strategies. While there is no precedent for this situation, we know that travel has spiked following previous crises, and data will help influence how destinations keep travellers and communities informed until travel restrictions are eased and bookings return.”

Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer for the Destinations International Foundation, added: “Destination organisations not only serve as representatives for the broader travel industry, but as stewards of their communities. This study allows us to support these organisations by creating a tool that shares up-to-date detail on how their peers are managing through this ever-changing process."

The full report is available on MMGY Intelligence’s website here. 

MMGY Global is a marketing firm specialising in the travel, hospitality and entertainment industries. It has nine operating brands across the world. MMGY Travel Intelligence is its research and insights arm.

Destinations International is a resource for official destination organisations, convention and visitor bureaus and tourism boards. It has almost 6,000 members and partners from nearly 600 destinations in 13 countries.

The Destinations International Foundation is a nonprofit organisation that produces education, research, advocacy and leadership development to destination marketers.

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