Our staycation guide to saving the world – specifically, the world’s tourism and hospitality industries – is a call to bring back the staycation, a stay at home vacation or holiday in your own town, city, state, region, or country to support the world’s tourism and hospitality industries being impacted by the novel coronavirus.

The public health emergency, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) currently classifies the global spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, is devastating the travel, tourism and hospitality industry, one of the world’s largest industries, employing one in 10 people on the planet in around 319 million jobs, and contributing trillions of dollars annually to the global economy, according to a recent CNN piece. No other industry is more at risk from the coronavirus and it has the potential to drag the rest of the global economy down with it.

Why have people stopped travelling? Simply because they are scared of catching the virus so they have postponed or cancelled travel plans and are staying home. As a result, major tourist destinations and their star attractions are bereft of tourists – from Venice and its piazzas to Milan and its lakes, from Siem Reap and its temples to Istanbul and its bazaars, from Cairo and its pyramids to Cairns and its reefs. For the many millions of business owners, large and small, massive and micro, and the workers in tourism and hospitality who rely on income that tourists bring – from hoteliers to restaurateurs, waiters to street food cooks, tour guides to travel writers – it’s disastrous.

Airlines that had already cancelled flights to coronavirus affected areas have had to dramatically reduce seat prices to ‘safe’ destinations rather than operate empty planes, hotels running on low occupancies have heavily discounted rooms, travel agencies and tour companies are offering low prices on packages, trips and excursions, and sights, attractions, shops, restaurants, cafés, and bars are all running special promotions and deals. Even here in Siem Reap you can get free days on your Angkor tickets for the next four months.

Cheap flights, reduced hotel rates, discounted tours, meal deals, empty temples ruins… for intrepid travellers, there has never been a better and cheaper time to travel the world. For those still fearful, then why not be a tourist at home?

Follow our staycation guide to saving the world’s hospitality and tourism industries for ideas as to how you can help reduce the devastating impact of the coronavirus, so when this all settles we still have airlines to fly, hotels to stay at. and restaurants to eat at. But first, to help you understand how bad things are out there, here are some insights from our neighbourhood in Siem Reap.

A Staycation Guide to Saving the World – Why You Need to Be a Tourist At Home

How Tourist Destinations Are Being Impacted by the Coronavirus Crisis – Insights From Siem Reap

“It’s a ghost town,” my husband Terence said, shaking his head, as we left our apartment complex last night to stroll to the nearest supermarket, a block away on Siem Reap’s main street. Our building’s security guard was on the footpath chatting to the security guy next door. They grinned goodbye to us as they watched three couples dance salsa in the South American bar across the road. Their classes were full a few weeks ago.

At the adjoining Chinese Business Association headquarters and hotel, the spacious ground floor lobby was aglow but upstairs the lights were off in all but one of the rooms. Towels were drying on the balcony. The car park, ordinarily full of mini-vans and tour buses, was in darkness. A tuk tuk driver dozed in the hammock he’d hung up in his vehicle’s carriage.

A group of Cambodian teens in fashionably ripped jeans and denim jackets laughed and chatted between themselves as they buzzed by on a handful of motorbikes, riding five abreast across the empty street. I got whiffs of soap, shampoo and hairspray as they whizzed past us. Obviously undeterred by the situation, they were heading out.

“Um, this is still two-way, right?!” I double-checked with Terence. “Yep,” he said, crossing the road. The kids weren’t in danger as there was no oncoming traffic. Around the corner, it was even quieter. The new Cambodian noodle joint that recently had a grand opening was closed. The shutter was down on the Japanese izakaya.

There were just three tables of diners in the Korean barbecue joint that at this time of night used to be packed both inside and out. There was just one woman spruiking massages outside the spa next door. Typically it was her and three or four girls calling out “Massage, lady? Massage, sir?” to passers-by.

The big two-storey suki restaurant, normally busy with families who filled the big booths, dipping skewers into bubbling hot pots and slurping steaming bowls of Vietnamese pho, appeared to be closing for the night. The manager was meeting with despondent-looking staff who sat at the empty tables.

At 8.30pm on a Friday the main street of Siem Reap was dark and almost devoid of traffic. Ordinarily at this time of year, nearing the end of the short tourist high season, the streets would be gridlocked with tuk tuks, motorbikes, tour buses, and fancy four-wheel-drive vehicles from five-star hotels ferrying tourists to and from the Phare circus, apsara shows, restaurants, cocktail bars, and Pub Street.

These days in Cambodia’s main tourist destination, the departure point for one of the world’s most breathtaking temples, Angkor Wat, and the vast UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Archaeological Park, I can count the number of tourists I spotted on the streets on two hands.

Our friends and colleagues in the industry in towns and cities in neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia, Australia and Europe say the situation is the same. Airports, planes, hotels, restaurants, cafés, and bars are empty. No-one is going out. Nobody is spending money on anything (other than toilet paper and hand sanitiser it seems). The hospitality and tourism industries are in deep trouble and there’s a fear that economies will paralyse if people don’t start going places and doing things and spending money.

As Terence and I crossed the road to the supermarket with ease – normally on a Friday night we’d be zig-zagging to dodge traffic on the congested main street – all I could think was that it was time to bring back the staycation. So here’s our staycation guide to saving the world, or, at the very least, saving the world’s tourism and hospitality industries.

A Staycation Guide to Saving the World – Why You Need to Be a Tourist At Home

Remember when staycations were the latest hippest and happening travel trend? No? Okay, well they were for a while, and now it’s time to bring them back in fashion again. Here’s our guide to the staycation and how it can save the world’s tourism and hospitality industries.

What is a Staycation?

A staycation is a portmanteau of ‘stay’ and ‘vacation’, what our north American friends call a holiday. It’s essentially a holiday at home, rather than abroad, and ‘home’ could be the town, city, region, state, or country in which the holidaymaker or ‘staycationer’ lives. There were attempts to adopt ‘holistay’ (‘holiday’ + ‘stay’) outside the USA, but it didn’t really take off, for fairly obvious reasons.

The concept of staycations did, however, and was quickly embraced by every single tourism and hospitality marketing executive to promote their destination, attraction, accommodation, spa, museum, restaurant, you name it. Which probably explains why the staycation was soon derided by cynics, particularly our travel writing colleagues, as little more than a marketeer’s concoction rather than an innovative solution.

The History of the Staycation

Although there’s a long history of people holidaying at home or nearby, writer Terry Massey is credited with coining the term ‘staycation’, when he wrote a story called ‘Sports World Doesn’t Stop for Vacation’ published in the Myrtle Beach Sun News on 11 July 2003. In the piece he describes how he spent nine vacation days at home watching sports on television while he prepared a nursery for his new baby.

Stories on staycations appeared periodically in the following years, but the notion of having a staycation rather than going on an overseas vacation didn’t really stick until 2006. That year it became the hottest travel trend when the 2006 summer was declared the ‘Summer of the Staycation’ by numerous publications.

There’s no coincidence that the staycation was popularised the year after during the global financial crisis of 2007 when people who couldn’t afford to take a major trip abroad could now be tourists in their own home without embarrassment, have a more affordable holiday in the process, and be able to boast that they’d take a fashionable staycation. Which is why and how it can be popularised again.

What Form Did the Staycation Take?

People who couldn’t afford to travel internationally became tourists in their own hometowns and cities. They might have packed an overnight bag and checked into a local hotel, resort or B&B not far from their home to do very little at all except relax by a pool, treat themselves to massages and spas, order room service, and watch in-house movies.

They’d rediscover their backyards, visiting museums, galleries, sights, and attractions that they may never have visited before or hadn’t been in many years. They’d drop into cafes, bars and pubs they’d overlooked, pop into shops they’d walked by countless times before without even a look, and eat out at restaurants they might normally forgo to save up for a Michelin-starred fine-diner they’d deemed more special overseas.

They’d plan weekend itineraries that included going places and doing things they’d previously left to interstate visitors and foreign tourists to do, discovering neighbourhoods, suburbs and regions they’d never ventured before, doing activities they previously hadn’t considered. They took mini-breaks interstate to explore new cities, tour wine regions or follow food trails.

They’d spend two weeks journeying around their own country when once upon a time they would have saved their road trips for vacations abroad and holidays overseas, not wanting to waste their precious annual leave at home.

How Does The Staycation Benefit Tourism and Hospitality?

By spending your money locally, instead of preserving your savings for overseas trips, staycationers inject valuable funds into their local economies and support the individuals, businesses and industries that feel the greatest pain during financial crises such as these: the hospitality and tourism industries.

The hospitality and tourism industries includes airlines, travel agents, online travel booking sites, destination management companies, transport companies, bus, train and ferry services, hotels, resorts, spas, guesthouses, B&Bs, motels, backpacker hostels, caravan parks, restaurants, local eateries, cafés, street food stalls, mobile vendors, wineries, bars, pubs, clubs, department stores, retail shops, boutiques, markets, art galleries, museums, tourist attractions, cultural shows, music venues, theatres, performers, artists, craftspeople, tour operators, tour guides, drivers, and so on.

And behind the scenes are even more businesses and individuals that you don’t see as a traveller, which are also severely impacted: farmers, small growers, artisanal makers of ingredients, wineries, food and beverage producers, suppliers and distributors, travel technology companies, marketing, communications, advertising, publishing, PR, and digital media businesses, content creators, and food and travel writers and photographers like ourselves. And I’m sure I’ve left some off…

Businesses in these industries are the first to suffer at times of crisis – whether that’s a financial crisis like the 2007-08 GFC, when people’s first inclination was not to go anywhere and not to spend money, or the current public health crisis that the world is experiencing now, when people stop travelling and stay at home due to fear, whether imagined or real, in order to minimise risk to their own health and that of others. Little do some people realise, but by not going anywhere and not spending money, the global public health crisis will develop into another global financial crisis.

The staycation is a win-win because not only are people getting that much-needed re-boot that travel (even travel close to home) provides – there are few things more relaxing, rejuvenating and inspiring than doing something new – but they’re helping to re-boot their local economies, which is why we need to make staycations modish again.

Staycation Ideas to Save The World by Saving Your Local Economy

Stay Home But Instead of Staying In Go Out

It’s as simple as that. Some people simply prefer to stay at home, saving their ‘going out’ time for when they go away, especially when they go on overseas holidays. Instead, spend a weekend doing some of the things that you wouldn’t normally do at home, but which you’d save for vacations: eat out at cafés for breakfast, spend the morning shopping for more than groceries, go out for lunch to a casual restaurant, get a massage in the afternoon, book a table at a fine dining restaurant, go out for Chinese, get some tapas, share some small plates, grab some takeaway, or have a moonlit picnic, before heading to the cinema or theatre or to see a live band or concert.

Stay In But Do It At a Fancy Hotel or Holiday Apartment

If you’re not really a going out person at all and would rather spend time at home, then have a lazy weekend, where you leave the work at the office, the laptop closed and switch off the phone, but do it at a fancy hotel or swanky apartment rental? If you want to spoil yourself silly check into a five-star resort, book yourself a spa, and reserve tables at the hotel restaurants for lunch and dinner. You could do the same on a mid-range to low budget at a small boutique hotel or B&B. Prefer rental apartment and holiday houses? Great. So do we. Then you can shop the farmers markets, buy some fresh produce, local ingredients, craft beers and local wines, head ‘home’ to relax with a book, play cards or boardgames, watch Netflix, open a bottle of vino, and take your time cooking a special dinner.

Take to the Road But Leave Your Car At Home

Do a weekend drive or road trip but leave your own car at home or at the car rental company office where you hire the vehicle. Why? Because if you do a trip away in your own car you’ll associate it with school drop-offs and pick-ups, dreary work commutes, weekly shops, and weekend errands. You’ll be sub-consciously following the same rituals and compelled to keep one eye on your watch. Hire a car, and not just any car but a posh convertible or a more adventurous four-wheel-drive and you’ll be much more able to forget your routine and weekday commitments and really relax while supporting another local business. That might mean a drive along the coast, into the mountains or through the countryside, exploring national parks or going off roading. You can check into B&Bs, motels or caravan parks, pitch a tent and do some camping or go glamping in a fixed luxury tent.

Live in a City? Then Visit a Smaller Town

Get out of the fast-paced city and get out of your comfort zone and escape to a smaller town and really slow down, whether that’s leaving Melbourne for a weekend in Daylesford, Bendigo, Dunkeld, Echuca, or the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, Sydney for a weekend in Orange, Perth for Rottnest Island or the Margaret River, or escaping Phnom Penh for Siem Reap or Battambang, Bangkok for Chiang Mai or Hua Hin, Saigon for Dalat or Hanoi for Sapa. Your get the idea. Replace with your own city and accessible towns. Depending on where you’re heading to, in Australia you could cram your weekend with early morning swims, cafe breakfasts, surfing lessons, a spot of fishing, oyster picking, farmers markets, lazy afternoons sprawled out on a towel on the sand, seaside picnics, beachside barbecues, and evening counter meals at friendly country pubs. In Southeast Asia you can enjoy soup breakfasts, market strolls, foodie walks, cooking classes, tuk tuk trundles, temple tours, craft lessons, street food dinners, and more. You don’t even have to do a great deal when you get away, just spend what you can and appreciate the gratitude that small-town businesses extend to giving strangers, not to mention the enviable slower pace of life.

Live in a Small Town? Then Head to a Big City

If you live in a small town and you’re going to staycation in a big city, then expect that you might feel the same way that we do every time we leave Siem Reap for a few days in Phnom Penh or Bangkok or Saigon. The first days it’s all so exciting. We’re reminded of the things that we used to love about big cities – the abundance of everything, whether it’s shops, markets and malls, or cafés, restaurants, and bars. The second day it’s still lots of fun but, I don’t know about you, by the third day we’re starting to find the big city traffic, crowds and chaos a tad annoying. The art of doing a staycation in the big smoke for residents of smaller towns is to limit the stay to a weekend and plan things very carefully so you are left wanting more and have an excuse to head back. We have itineraries for most cities on our site to help you plan your weekends away, and we’re adding more all the time.

Staycation Guide to Saving the World’s Hospitality and Tourism Industries for the Hospitality and Tourism Industries – How You Can Save Yourselves By Promoting the Staycation

Promote the concept of the staycation

Start by using social media and other communications channels to explain the idea of the staycation to your existing and potentially new customers within your community, town, city and region, and communicate how it’s a win-win for both tourists and the tourism and hospitality industries. Our research revealed that the staycation is a concept that many people are not familiar with, especially those aged in their 20s and 30s, so you may need to start from scratch.

Create staycation promotional offers

Hotels, tour operators, restaurants, cafés, bars, shops, spas, shows, etc, should start promoting a discounted ‘staycation’ offer on stays at your hotels, meals at your restaurants and café, drinks at your cafés and bars, massages at your spas and hotels, cooking classes at your hotels, restaurants and cooking schools, tours ran by tour guides, operators and hotels, performances at cultural insitutions etc. For example, “20% off all spa treatments for local residents this week”, “$10 off all meals over $100 per table”, or “$1 off all coffees this week”, etc.

Develop a Staycation Strategy

Do not only run a one-off ‘staycation’ promotion, but develop a series of enticing weekly or even daily promotional offers that will not only grab the attention of local residents but will keep them engaged throughout this challenging period. Vary your staycation promotional offers week to week or even day to day and customers who love what you’re offering will keep coming back and keep checking in with you to see what the latest promotion is that you are offering.

Offer Additional ‘Thank You’ Incentives

On top of your reduced prices and other promotional offers, show your gratitude with ‘thank you’ gifts, which are essentially added bonuses and incentives for local travellers who take advantage of your offers. If they’re checking into your hotel on a staycation package, give them a complimentary spa voucher as a gift, if they’re dining at your restaurant as part of a staycation promotion, send them complimentary glasses of sparkling or if it’s a bigger group send them a bottle of wine. Make it clear that you are thanking them for supporting your business during these difficult times and keep on thanking them every time they return.

Promote Your Staycation Promotions

Use all the communication channels that you can afford to promote your offers during this challenging period: email your mailing lists, email promotional offers to local travel blogs and websites, contact your local newspapers, television and radio media, use social media to its fullest extent, from posting promotions on your own Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to sharing your promotions on relevant Facebook community pages, and don’t forget in-house opportunities to promote ongoing promotions on everything from blackboard signs to messages on invoices and simply by having staff inform your customers.

Create Social Media Staycation Campaigns and #Tags

Following the drought and bushfires in Australia, social media accounts and #tags were created to promote initiatives to encourage people to travel to drought- and fire-affected communities to support local businesses and re-boot economies, such as @RoadTripForGood #roadtripforgood to inspire people to journey to impacted communities; @BuyFromTheBush #buyfromthebush to inspire people to buy things made in rural areas; @EmptyEsky #emptyesky to encourage people to take an empty esky (insulated cool box) to buy local produce and products, such as fruit and vegetables, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, homemade jams/preserves, craft beers, small batch spirits, and wines direct from the source; and @StayInTheBush #stayinthebush and @staywiththemau #staywiththem which promotes accommodation in affected communities. The social media account is the vehicle to drive the initiative and promote the campaign while the #tags enable tourists to share experiences, inspiring others to do the same. Other Australian #tags included #bookthemout and #holidayherethisyear. If you’re creating your own accounts and #tags do not use these; you need to create something new and different. If you use the same #tags you will confuse the people you want to reach and dilute existing campaigns. To be effective campaign #tags should be used with destination #tags. For example #KangarooIsland #SiemReap #Bangkok #Milan etc.

If you have any questions or ideas we can add to our Staycation Guide to Saving the World’s Hospitality and Tourism Industries, feel free to leave a message in the Comments below. If you are a business that needs help with your strategy, contact us here.

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