Travel & Tourism: Opportunities for Wide-Format Printers
While we have turned a corner in the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no denying that some industries were harder hit than others, and will also take longer to see a full recovery. One of those hit the hardest was the travel and tourism space, with the world itself mostly closed for business for months in 2020. Even though families are itching to get back out and explore, the recovery won’t happen overnight.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, the pandemic has resulted in a cumulative loss of $645 billion through May 2021. The association also had some good news — more than two-thirds of American adults are now reporting that they feel comfortable enough to travel and vacation again, and 55% of businesses expect to resume domestic travel within the next several months.
It’s still a work in progress, though. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) notes that overall, tourism was down 83% in Q1 of 2021 compared to the same period last year — although those numbers also reflect tourism pre-pandemic, before the shutdowns really began to take effect. However, that amounts to roughly 180 million fewer visitors to tourist destinations worldwide, a significant number.
In the report, UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili comments, “There is significant pent-up demand, and we see confidence slowly returning. Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere.”
UNWTO surveyed a global panel of experts, and found that only 19% of respondents really believe tourism will recover fully by the end of 2021. However, that jumps to 69% predicting a healthy recovery by 2022, so while there is still a lot of work to be done, there is light at the end of this very long tunnel.
The Opportunities for Wide-Format Printers
As tourism begins to slowly pick back up, there is a host of great opportunities for wide-format printers to take advantage of. Those shops that previously specialized in this market will be best positioned to rebound, but many struggled to keep the doors open when the bulk of the work evaporated overnight. This means there is a window of opportunity for any shop with the right equipment to step in and offer new solutions that will help draw in visitors. After all, with the entire world looking to vacation at roughly the same time lockdowns ease — and with the end of cabin fever in sight — destinations will begin to compete fiercely for those tourists, and the dollars they bring to the local economies.
“A huge trend right now in travel and tourism is the idea of the ‘last-minute’ trip — a quick trip within driving distance that can be planned on short notice,” says Kara Jones, print marketing consultant at U.S. Press, a commercial digital, offset, and wide-format printing company based out of Valdosta, Ga. “While consumers are certainly itching to venture out and travel again, I believe there’s still some hesitancy to plan vacations far in advance or those that require air travel. … We’re seeing this translate into demand for fast-turn projects that can be turned around within just a couple of days.”
So what types of work should wide-format printers look to offer? First and foremost, make sure you’re bringing something new or different to the table. Don’t go in and quote the same thing you’ve always done, or try to compete on price. Right now, everyone is looking for creative, eye-catching, viral-worthy campaigns, not the lowest possible price.
Look at your equipment list, the finishing options you have, and the substrates you can run. Try to come up with new and innovative ways to put a piece together, and then pitch ideas, not products. Knowing the types of materials a city, state, theme park, national park, or landmark might use to promote its destination is key, since it gives you a great place to start in knowing where to spend your energy coming up with new innovations.
- Brochures. The quintessential trifold brochure has been a staple for travel and tourism destinations for a long time now. How can your shop shake that up? Can you print on a different substrate that will make it stand out in a sea of similar brochures? Can you add a finishing technique that will make people want to pick it up? What about diecutting, or other finishing options to do something unique that will stick in people’s minds, and increase the likelihood of them visiting that destination?
- Banners. Every destination — yes, even national parks — is going to want to put up banners welcoming visitors back. Instead of just a “welcome back” banner though, a creative wide-format shop can find ways to make the banner more eye-catching and interesting. For example, look to add a QR code that can be scanned for a gift shop coupon, or create an interactive campaign that guides visitors around a site and gives them more information about points of interest, but also provides links or codes to get even more information, such as videos or music.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in pole banners and Coroplast signs as our clients in the attractions industry are reopening and welcoming back guests,” notes Jones. “Those are products that can be produced quickly and installed easily, which is especially important right now as the industry is having to react quickly to changes.”
- Maps. Many destinations offer a map that guides visitors through a location, in addition to offering information such as the run times for various shows or live events that might happen throughout the day at the venue. How can your shop improve on the static map? Can you add an interactive element? Could a different substrate or finishing technique make a map more useful or easy to navigate?
- Stickers. Who doesn’t love a good sticker? No matter what type of destination you target, there is always an opportunity to add a sticker element. It could be tied into a promotion that identifies VIP visitors, giving them access to premium experiences. Or, the venue could hand out cards at the entrance and encourage visitors to collect stickers throughout their experience to trade in for a small prize or discount at the gift shop. Stickers are a versatile medium with which a creative wide-format shop can find innovative ways to make an experience more immersive and entertaining for all visitors.
- Signage. A “bread-and-butter” staple for many wide-format printers, signage doesn’t have to be boring or standard. New ink technologies make it easier to achieve special effects like neon, metallic, or fluorescent. Backlit technologies have come a long way, offering shops a chance to get creative; for example, alternating the day and night signage can give visitors a different experience. Most destinations don’t refresh their wayfinding signage every year, but coming off a pandemic, this is a great time to pitch a refresh in the look and feel to welcome visitors back.
These are just a few of the materials and applications travel and tourism locations will be looking for as they continue to reopen post-pandemic. For wide-format printers looking for new vertical markets, new applications, and new ideas, these locations and experiences provide an opportunity to get creative. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries and stretch technology to its limits — be innovative, and you might just win a few new lucrative customers that otherwise wouldn’t have thought to reevaluate their print program.
“Think about what products or services you can already do well, and how you can expand those offerings to the travel and tourism industry,” says Jones. “How are some of the products you’re already producing being used by that industry? Think about it from that perspective, and try to focus on how you can simply modify it to fit the industry’s specific needs.”