The tragedy of Sept. 11 not only left its mark on our national psyche but had an equally powerful effect on our economy in general and the consumer in particular. Businesses across the nation are searching for new and better ways to promote and market their products and services in the ever-changing post-Sept. 11 economy -- and tourism is no exception.
A new travel consumer profile has begun to emerge out of the uncertain economic and social environment of the past 12 months. Basically, today's traveler is looking for stress-free vacations. Many are looking for quality time spent with family and visiting relatives. More than ever before, value is king. The majority of consumers (53 percent) now use the Internet to plan their vacation and search for bargains on everything from room rates to airline tickets online.
The psychology of the average traveler has also changed. Consumers are trying to gain control of their out-of-control lives. Time and energy are valued resources and Americans now realize that you can't make up for lost time with loved ones. Personal relationships, especially family, are at the heart of what's essential to consumers today.
They are looking for what is real, what is relevant, and what is important to them. Major lifestyle shifts are under way as Americans strive to focus on their priorities.
According to the 2002 Leisure Travel Monitor released recently by YP&B/Yankelovich Partners, 73 percent of consumers find themselves spending more time thinking about what "works" in their life, and what doesn't. Studies show that 59 percent of all consumers now "want to spend more time exploring their spiritual side," with more Americans looking to integrate mind, body and spirit. Interest in nature and outdoor recreation is on the rise. From spiritual pursuits to yoga to outdoor recreation to historic sites, Americans are seeking new ways to feed their souls and touch what is real.
It is to this new traveling persona the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau (ConVis) seeks to direct its marketing efforts. Our new campaign, "Nature and Nuture," will sell the potential traveler all that is natural, healthful and soothing about this region. Blessed by Mother Nature with the nation's best climate, diverse scenery, outdoor attractions and activities, beaches and parks, spas and therapeutic services, San Diego is well positioned to offer the visitor a restful, rejuvenating, holistic experience while vacationing here.
Reaching out to target a specific travel market is nothing new to ConVis. Back in 1997, we recognized the importance of "branding" and created a San Diego "brand" built on a lifestyle and state of being. Our brand evokes warmth, diversity and simplicity, as well as freedom to do what you want, when you want, and to come as you are.
Since then, we have launched eight major marketing initiatives to broaden San Diego's appeal beyond "sun, sand and surf." These initiatives include arts and culture, golf, dining, shopping, resort, waterfront, casinos and family attractions. These product initiatives add depth to our brand and provide a platform to talk about "what's new" in the San Diego region.
As true for any business or corporation, San Diego's visitor industry also needs to constantly serve up something new, different and exciting to keep consumer interest high. The "Nature and Nurture" campaign, our latest marketing initiative, addresses the changing psychology of the travel consumer while offering up a whole new palate of experiences. The outdoor and therapeutic activities available to our visitors are far too numerous to list, but those of us who live here know what they are.
We boast some of the world's finest spas; hiking and biking trails; breathtaking coastal, mountain and desert scenery; fresh, healthy cuisine; miles of expansive beaches ... and the list goes on. San Diego is a place desired by many who look to escape extremes. Being outdoors and exercising one's option to surf, sail, run, bike, skate, swim or simply relax in a spa is a 365-days-per-year reality in San Diego.
We're getting the word out about this campaign through ads focusing on outdoor recreation and wellness in national publications such as Travel Holiday, Real Simple and National Geographic Adventure. We are working closely with our local visitor industry community to package vacation experiences encompassing the nature and wellness theme that we can effectively pass onto the consumer via the Internet (www.sandiego.org), targeted ads and direct mail promotions.
In sum, understanding consumer behavior is at the core of marketing any product or service in these changing times. The American consumer has been profoundly impacted by the events of 2001. New realities exist and motivations have changed. The savvy marketer will recognize these changes and develop products and advertising strategies around the needs of this new consumer.
For San Diego's visitor industry, selling the basics that make our region such a relaxing and nurturing destination is the key to increasing our market share and keeping our industry stable and healthy in the years ahead, for the benefit of our visitors and residents alike.
Reinders is president and CEO of the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau.