The term “pent-up demand” has taken on a wholly new (and surprisingly literal) meaning in the era of COVID-19. It’s not that we’ve been idle. We’ve watched a lot of Netflix, redecorated, bulked up our board game skills and learned to bake bread. We can collectively carry on a multi-minute conversation with Alexa. We’ve even managed to invent the next iteration of business casual for the modern tele-workplace: the business casual mullet (all professional wear up top, all sweatpants or athletic shorts on the bottom).
But let’s be honest: We’re bored. We miss our families. We miss our friends. We miss having a reason to wear pants with buttons on them. We miss movie theater popcorn and every other kind of food we’ve ever eaten outside our home in the company of other people. In short, we miss leaving the house for any other reason besides getting some absolutely necessary item.
And according to PYMNTS data, most people agree with that sentiment. As the vaccine rollout carries on ahead of schedule throughout the U.S., the race is on to capture the increasingly eager batch of customers who want to travel. While a lot of the standard stuff is in play — low prices, package deals, etc. — we’re seeing a whole new set of strategies, tactics and tricks to bring back travel and tourism.
Take Disneyland, which this week found an incredibly creative answer to the question: How do you attract people to an amusement park that has technically been closed for a year and isn’t rescheduled to open for another 28 days? In a word: pickles.
Well, to be more accurate, it’s a new food offering that sees a hot dog stuffed into a pickle, dipped in panko batter and deep-fried before serving. It comes with the natural topping for such a dish: peanut butter. And that’s not the only interesting new food item added to the Disneyland menu this month. There will also be the options of frozen raspberry lemonade topped with cotton candy, or a chiffon cake shaped like a literal beehive. The pickle dog, however, has generated the most buzz — and the most polarizing reviews. Some have praised the dish’s “boldness” and “unusual but delicious flavor profile,” while others have called it “vomit-inducing” and “like a pregnancy craving gone horribly wrong.”
But what all parties agree on — lovers and haters alike — is that the peanut butter pickle dog, and all of the other new menu items, photograph extremely well, meaning they are prone to generating a lot of free Disneyland advertising all over Instagram.
No Trouble in Paradise
The House of Mouse isn’t the only entity thinking outside of the box in trying to bring tourists back to town. Hawaii is offering potential visitors the chance to save the world while visiting paradise. Sustainable tourism is the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s new priority, with a focus on something called “regenerative tourism.”
Taking visitor and resident feedback into account, the plan lists 10 multi-stage actions that agencies — including HTA, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the private sector — will carry out over the next few years. The goals are to protect culturally significant places, to develop programs to perpetuate authentic Hawaiian culture, to promote environmental preservation practices among visitors and community members, to encourage agritourism on the island, to invest in community programs and infrastructure, and to improve enforcement of vacation rental regulations.
“We have a certain kind of traveler who has been interested in this kind of tourism for years,” said Ross Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau. “But now it’s really on the destinations themselves to set these things up and make them happen.”
Really Hot Vacations
And if being part of a plan to save Hawaii’s natural wonder doesn’t sound quite exciting enough, there’s always standing within spitting distance of an erupting volcano. That’s right: Kamchatka, Russia is attracting tourists to its currently erupting Klyuchevskaya Sopka, the highest active volcano in Eurasia.
The volcano has been spewing lava since late last year, but the “adventure” tourists have started showing up more recently, as the pandemic had kept thrill-seekers away. According to reports, the tourists are getting way too close to the still-erupting crater. Social media photos show people standing around the crater rim with falling lava visible in the air.
This item, we should note, is technically misplaced on the list, because though the volcano is a tourist-attracting object, it is not one Russia is trying to promote. Just the opposite, in fact: The Ministry of Emergencies continually warns visitors of the risks posed by an erupting volcano, including toxic gas emissions, mudflows and large chunks of falling lava. Fresh eruptions are also possible, and hard to predict. Regional travel agencies have been told to keep tourists away, but they keep on coming, attracted by the vivid social media shots the site generates.
Sure makes the pickle dog sound a lot less crazy, though.
Wherever tourists roam this summer, it seems certain that they will be roaming. And they’ll be looking to see something special when they finally get a chance to escape their homes.