VSW COVID-19 Response
Beginning in March of 2020, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) led to extreme social distancing measures in order to slow community spread. These measures caused closure of restaurants, bars and stores across the country, and South Walton was no different. In addition to shifting to takeout/delivery only for restaurants, the beaches closed to the public on March 19. With stay at home orders enacted nationwide and a ban on most travel, the Walton County TDC’s charge has shifted. Rather than driving tourism to our 16 beach neighborhoods, it became critically important to reiterate health and safety, to support our partners, to be a beacon for our fans/potential visitors and to have a plan in place for accelerating the key economic driver – tourism – when it is once again safe to do so.
Though all were working remotely, the Zehnder and Visit South Walton teams remained in contact nearly hourly via text, phone call, Zoom and email to strategize, develop and launch the elements of the response.
The response to the global pandemic came in two phases:
The Virtual Beach Vibes campaign was launched at the end of March to support South Walton industry partners including bed-tax collectors, musicians, artists and chefs, while also providing a respite for fans around the country, allowing them to feel part of the South Walton experience while quarantined at home. Utilizing social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, the team promoted live musical performances, chef demos, Instagram activity templates, children's book readings, virtual tours and partner content that aligned with the virtual experience theme.
In total, the Virtual Beach Vibes series received more than 21.6 million impressions on Facebook, and more than 8.7 million impressions on Instagram from March 16 –May 31, 2020.
With the beaches officially open in South Walton, we knew that non-residents would be slowly coming back to the destination. To make sure that South Walton cases of COVID-19 remained as low as possible and that local infrastructure was not pushed past its limits, our teams worked together to communicate the “new normal” to guests. A “Beach Safely” message was developed and amplified through social media (organic + paid), Pandora, weather apps, programmatic display and search engine marketing targeted to visitors in our drive markets with intent to travel and also in-market.
In just the first month, the campaign received over 2 million impressions and 15,000 clicks to the COVID-19 Travel Updates page on VisitSouthWalton.com.
The Virtual Beach Vibes series received more than 21.6 million impressions on Facebook from March 16 –May 31, 2020.
The Virtual Beach Vibes series received more than 8.7 million impressions on Instagram from March 16 –May 31, 2020.
In just the first month, the "Stay Safe Campaign" received over 2 million impressions on the COVID-19 Travel Updates page on VisitSouthWalton.com.
In just the first month, the "Stay Safe Campaign" received 15,000 clicks to the COVID-19 Travel Updates page on VisitSouthWalton.com.
Though no campaign messaging included a “book now” call-to-action, top-of-mind awareness and pent up demand led to YOY visitation increases July – September 2020.