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Reopening of domestic travel: Attracting tourist dollars closer to home

24 August 2020

By: Adibah Isa

Since COVID-19 has wiped out international tourist numbers, markets that heavily relied on foreign tourist dollars are now looking inwards to recover from the losses of COVID-19.

While the borders in Southeast Asia generally remain closed to short-term foreign arrivals (save for some exceptions), inter-city and inter-state travel restrictions are now being eased. As domestic air, land, and sea transport resume, domestic tourists who have been cooped up for months can take respite in a neighbouring locale.

The restart of the domestic travel market bodes well for restaurateurs, who have been crippled by COVID-19. For holiday islands such as Bali and Phuket, things are looking up. The Indonesian government has reportedly set aside 3.0 trillion rupiah to develop quality destinations, launching new marketing initiatives such as #IndonesiaCARE and Bali Rebound. With the support of the Phuket Provincial Administrative Organisation and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, The Phuket Tourism Fair was recently held in August to promote, support, and rehabilitate tourism in the island. Thailand’s upcoming ‘Safe and Sealed’ campaign, though largely targeted at international tourists, is also a step forward. 

While appealing to domestic tourism may not completely compensate for the losses incurred from the months of international travel restrictions, doing so will bring you some relief as the situation in the coming months remains uncertain. Keep yourself updated on the rules on travel bubbles and green lanes in your market, and ensure you have a plan to lead tourists to your restaurant as your area opens up. In the meantime, here are some ways you can go loco for locals: 

1. Speak the local language

While your restaurant has relied on foreign tourists to boost revenue, travelling locals are a niche market. The good news? You already speak their language. Tap into your diner directory on online reservation systems such as ChopeBook to identify diners with local phone numbers and send them a marketing message in the local lingo. 

Include a “Welcome Back” discount code for returning customers, an offer to redeem a complimentary menu item, or 1-for-1 specials. For a broader message, target locals on social media marketing platforms with discount codes just for locals according to the city they’re from.

2. Partner with airlines’ loyalty program

Now that domestic air travel has resumed, partner with an airline to channel incoming traffic to your restaurant. Some simple ways restaurants can partner with airlines include offering passengers an exclusive promotion, or participating as a venue to redeem airline miles. See examples from Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines.

Not only do these partnerships raise awareness and interest in your restaurant, offering deals through these partnerships also incentivises diners to visit your establishment above others.

3. Play up your local strengths

Once local visitors start to look inwards and rediscover all their home country has to offer, it’ll ease up their cabin fever — slowly but surely.

Take this as an opportunity to highlight local produce, farmers, artisans, and the wonders of the unique land and region your restaurant is in. An authentic experience can instil a great sense of pride and allow local diners to reconnect with restaurant businesses during this time. 

4. Collaborate with hotels on ‘Stay and Dine’ Packages 

Partnering with hotels are a great way to attract new diners to the restaurant and build relationships with members of the hospitality community. Not only do ‘Stay and Dine’ packages offer attractive deals to local travellers, it’ll raise your restaurant’s awareness as diners see an alignment you have with an established hotel name. 

5. Collaborate with other local restaurants and F&B establishments

Since international travel is out of the question, diners are itching for even more one-of-a-kind experiences they can get closer to home. It might be a good time to get creative and partner with other chefs. If your restaurant is building a partnership with a hotel, consider working with a chef from the hotel on an exclusive dinner or menu. Collaborations are a great way for both partners to leverage each other’s diner database for marketing.

Want to tap on Chope’s database of diners or need our help to build your own? Drop us a note and our team will get right back to you.


Adibah Isa

A digital and print journalist turned content manager for brands that believe in the power of storytelling.


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