The survival strategy

July 12, 2020

Ways to successfully pivot travel content during Covid-19

While we enter the second half of 2020, we are now gradually getting used to the idea that the world as we once knew it has changed, dramatically. The impacts of Covid-19 on the economy all over the world have been devastating. They are far from over.

The travel industry is no different. Right now, the one question troubling travel content creators and brands all around the world is, “how do we find solutions for surviving in the short-run while focusing on long-term goals?”

The News on Sunday talks to Ali Hamdani, CEO of Landmark Pakistan, tourism promotion and destination marketing company and Anam Hakeem, travel storyteller and owner of a digital agency, about the strategies content creators in Pakistan can adopt to survive this difficult time.

“For one, instead of focusing on the selling or influencing part, content creators will now have to focus more on building a long-term relationship with their audience and making content that is relatable,” says Hamdani. He says that for basic travel content creation “all one needs to have is a people-friendly personality, a good frame of mind, a picturesque city, bustling town, and a good camera.” But in these circumstances, content creators are suffering from a ‘creative limbo’.

According to Hakeem improvisation is key to successful content creation at the moment. “The international travellers that I am following had no clue initially to what to do about their content strategy. Pretty much everyone was just sharing their previous trips, stories and content. They were just rolling out their old stuff.”

However, with time all of them devised proper strategies for their content to get on with the current times. “My followers send me messages, asking me to share travel tips, which is interesting as there is no travelling going on right now. But they say that they’re planning for their future trips, utilising their time, making concrete plans.”

She says that one content strategy is to keep sharing travel tips, travel planning and visa-related content. As long as people hope that travel will get back to normal, “there’s always going to be an audience for this content, even if there is less of it than previously.”

However, she warns content creators to not overdo this. “Truth is, when no one in the world can travel easily, no one really wants to hear too much about travel tips or guides or plans. So there needs to be a balance.”

Hamdani says that Pakistani travel content creators can take a look at international travel bloggers to get new ideas about how to make content that is out of the box, relevant to the times and also responsible. “When the lockdown happened, Mark Weins – who is an international Food Youtuber and traveller – began putting up videos of him cooking traditional food from various countries he had visited, in his own backyard.

“The video where Wiens – who was also one of the first international bloggers to have visited Pakistan – made chicken karahi in his own yard now has almost three million views and is also one of his most successful videos ever,” says Hamdani.

He adds that there is no single solution that fits all. “Improvisation is the one thing that is needed in the content right now. One can only stabilise or minimise the damage to the economy, the losses to one’s channels, and the loss of one’s subscribers, nothing more.”

According to him the business model of Pakistani content creators is different from that of their international counterparts. “International content creators have a large presence, their audience is large, they post a lot and their major stream of income is YouTube or AdSense money. They create content, they post it, people view it from all over the world and they generate their income from the number of views. They earn from that model. Pakistani content creators mostly rely on brand partnerships.

“Secondly, international content creation model does not rely on new content. They get paid for views on all of their content. Even if they don’t create anything for two or three months they will still be getting hundreds or thousands of views on their old stuff, and hence will continue earning on their old content” continues Hamdani. He says that since Pakistani content creators mostly rely on branded content, the dynamics are different for them during the current times when brands might not seem too willing to spend much on advertising. “So their strategy right now is to improvise content and forge strong relationships with the audience that they already have. They can do so by creating content that is both relatable to the present times and responsible.”

“Many international travellers now have camper vans,” says Hakeem, “to travel by road in their own countries on account of current air travel restrictions. This is one way of making interesting alternative travel content. Other than that, one can open up one’s platform to other kinds of content related to travel.”

Both Hakeem and Hamdani agree that the relationships content producers form with their audience right now will be a lot more significant than the products and services they sell to them through brand partnerships.

“They cannot wait for the perfect moment. They need to connect with their audience now. As long as there’s value in the content, chances are, their audience will stay,” concludes Hakeem.

The writer is a staff member

The survival strategy: Ways to successfully pivot travel content during Covid-19