You are currently viewing Which Tourist Profiles Arrive in North Macedonia, Prior to COVID-19 and During the Pandemic Crisis

Which Tourist Profiles Arrive in North Macedonia, Prior to COVID-19 and During the Pandemic Crisis

Existing Traveler’s Persona in Macedonia

Knowing “persona types” i.e. tourist profiles allows – especially online – to develop a more comprehensive marketing strategy, personalize marketing messages, and target them to ideal customers.

Knowing buyer profile insights allows to tailor the customer’s journey to the specific needs of each individual, not just the general customer base.

Creating content that directly targets ideal customers has huge benefits for marketing strategy. When done right, a strategy based on content marketing personas can become the driving force behind any marketing decision.

Pre-COVID-19 demand

Until March 2019 numbers of arrivals domestically and internationally were reaching its peak .Domestic arrivals for 2018 were 419,590. Registered overnight arrivals from domestic arrivals reached a number of 1,685,273. Number of international arrivals in 2018 were 707,345. Number of international overnights reached out to 1,491,535.Here are the statistical data for the crucial years prior and during the pandemic.

The New Normal: Demand for Macedonian destinations during COVID-19 crisis 

COVID-19 pandemic has hit the travel industry in North Macedonia mid-March 2020.

The immediate lockdown first of borders, then of working shifts in service-based industries started blocking tourism immediately. Once borders were blocked, regional and global travel was impossible to function. After that quarantine measures in North Macedonia has shut down every airline, transporting company, opened travel agency, restaurant, bars, hotels.

In the period January – June 2020, compared to the same period 2019, the number of tourists decreased by 71.8%: the number of domestic tourists decreased by 64.8%, while that of foreign tourists decreased by 74.8%. In the same period, the number of nights spent decreased by 71.3%: the number of nights spent by domestic tourists decreased by 64.1%, while those by foreign tourists decreased by 75.3%.

This number is “saved” by the incoming tourism from Asian countries that happen from December until the end of February, which in fact was the last big wave of international tourists.

This recorded a $ 64.7 million share in the Macedonian economy, representing a 0.7% increase over the same period in 2019.

Already, the second quarter showed the cruelty of the pandemic and the need for complete closure which led to a strong blow to tourism and service activities.International reservations for the start of high season in North Macedonia – April, May, June have been canceled at almost 100% of the hotels, 89% of the hotels have canceled group reservations in July, 69% of the hoteliers canceled in August, 50% of the respondents canceled in September, and there are cancellations for December and January 2021.

A thorough research that was conducted by the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, the Economic Chamber of Northwest Macedonia, the Economic Chamber of Information and Communication Technologies – MASIT and the Association of Chambers of Commerce of Macedonia shows that by August-September the cancellation of arrangements is massive and there was a drastic decline in the number of tourists expected from abroad.*1

Most tourism and hospitality companies would have needed at least six months to a year to recover if the Covid-19 epidemic ends by the end of 2020.According to a designed scenario, if the crisis continues after 2020, 4,000 – 20,000 jobs will be lost, the inflow will be over 80% and the recovery can be expected in 2027.

In order to improve the situation in the tourism sector, the study stated in May 2020, that it was necessary to stimulate domestic tourism by introducing special subsidized arrangements and conducting a strong campaign to encourage domestic tourism. Yet,some of the recommendations were followed, others were accepted and partially implemented. According to the State Statistical Office, the number of domestic tourists decreased by 11.4 percent, while the number of foreign tourists by 87.4 percent.

The Agency for Promotion and Support of Tourism created the Coordination Body which included all relevant stakeholders in the sector. Almost 90 percent of all government aid measures have been passed through this body, the main goal of which was to preserve every job. The measures were designed to cover as large a target group as possible and carried out quarterly, as the negative effects of the pandemic were monitored.

In our research we interviewed the chambers of commerce for the tourism sector, to find out if there is new relevant personas, beside the ones we already have. Surprisingly, the culture lovers, lost ability to come in time of pandemics, but business travelers and domestic explorers didn’t stop. Once safety protocols were in place, business travelers are the ones who continued using the restaurants for meeting outside  during pandemics and domestic explorers were directly stimulated by the Government measures with travel vouchers.

Another completely non-developed offer, received customers: apartments and hotels for longer stay of remote workers and digital nomads. In fact, pandemic created remote workers “from home” like never before. This, in specific season of the year (summer 2020) was well spent in picturesque destinations and holiday places

As the demand for Adventure Traveler is already forecasted, and macedonian tourism stakeholders are already preparing for these tourism profiles, further elaboration was done for the following new appealing profiles:

Who are they and how to make them happy? 

1)    Adventure fans

First on the list, no matter the influence of the pandemics, stays to adventure travelers.  Tourists also, will be with a  universal hunger for wide-open spaces. In an immediate action, state and national parks have experienced huge influxes of visitors post-lockdown, and the trend is set to continue in 2021 and beyond as time spent in the wilderness is felt to be an antidote to modern urban life. The point-to-point holiday, whereby travelers fly to a single location and then return home, will be rivalled by an emerging trend for trips that take in multiple locations, occur at a slower pace, and are as much about the journey as the ultimate destination.

As people think more carefully about the way they travel, they will seek out hotels and travel companies that are doing everything they can to minimize their impact on the planet. We can also expect accreditation to gain prominence, as consumers look for reassurance from legitimate “eco-tourism”. Engaging with local communities in a safe and respectful way will also be an important aspect of trips in the future, with tourists keen to learn and form human connections. Even if visitors aren’t specifically travelling for a detox or bootcamp experience, they will want to book trips that leave them feeling better than before when they return home.

Prerequisites for their visit will be:

●  Accessible national parks

●  Adventure equipment rentals

●  Sustainable lodges

●  Information with exact promotion where they can book this

●  They equally use B2C and B2B channels 

2)    Digital Nomads

By definition, people who work remotely from their office are called “remote workers”. They often appear in the office on a short notice but are not required to be there in full working times. Remote work is a working style that allows professionals to work outside of a traditional office environment. It is based on the concept that work does not need to be done in a specific place to be executed successfully.People have the flexibility to design their days so that their professional and personal lives can be experienced to their fullest potential and coexist peacefully.

Digital Nomads on the other hand, are rarely in their home country.Digital nomads are people who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and, more generally, conduct their life in a nomadic manner. Such workers often work remotely from foreign countries, coffee shops, public libraries, co-working spaces, or recreational vehicles.

Barbados was the first country to strike on this opportunity: their “digital nomad” visa means you can work from paradise for a year. Bermuda, Anguilla, Georgia, Dubai, Estonia swiftly followed and Aruba and Croatia were next.With some travelers looking to minimise the number of tourists they come into contact with, it is anticipated that an increase in demand for local, and smaller accommodation options will be present.

These people started appealing in North Macedonia during the pandemic, usually on a local migration from any town to more attractive summer destinations , lodging in houses and apartments by the lake or at the mountains.We contacted Digital Nomads that have spent time in our country (up to 3 months) and we have highlighted below their motivation factors for arriving in North Macedonia:

·   Closeness to Greece and Kosovo

·   Low costs of stay in the apartments, houses and lodges

·   Macedonia is well connected with airlines in Eu Countries

A webinar was devoted to this subject and discussion was held for all stakeholders

 Basically needs of digital nomad were summarized and the next steps are defined. Macedonia is not an island country but is still attractive to international digital nomads.

For many travelers, the opportunity to stay in one place through local tours or other alternative accommodations will be an alternative to a big and busy hotel. With average trip durations for 2021 sitting at around two weeks, travelers are looking to have longer vacations, where they can get under the skin of a destination and have more local experiences.

The obvious challenges are  supposed to be solved in order to secure pre-conditions for their stay:

●      Visa for longer stay (more than 3 months)

●      Super fast Internet in their homestay

●      Information and “ready to sell” portals – where to go and what to do

●      B2C channels to be developed-this means more than just web portals but also marketing and promotion through social media

3)    Diaspora

Diaspora travelers appeared in hotels and apartments in Macedonia, immediately after the start of the pandemic. In an open interview with apartment owners and hotel managers it was declared that these travelers are normal to arrive for the summer period not as early as April.

The motivational factors for this demand is their registration in the state health insurance fund . In times of a health crisis, people travel where they think they can receive health aid. The only prerequisite for their longer stay is:

●      Good offer for longer stay is a starting point

●      Good information for rentals is inevitable

●      B2C channels only are relevant

4)    Business Traveler

Almost 17% of the restaurants who answered the questionnaire for the type of tourists they welcomed during the pandemic, answered – Business travelers. While 12.5% of hotels surveyed answered the same.

The prerequisites for business travelers to visit our stakeholders are

●      Safety Protocols are in place

●      Extra effort from the side of the staff that visitors feel safe

●      Working hours to be adequate to working times

●      D2C channel only

5)    Domestic Explorers

In 2020, the Government supported domestic tourism. In total 117,531 vouchers worth 6,000 mkd (around 100 euros) were issued. Out of them  61,648 were used before their deadline of 15th of December 2020.  It means half of the people who have received the voucher didn’t travel in the time frame given. The once who did use the voucher have found suitable offer.

Prerequisites for more visits from domestic explorers are:

●  Safety protocols in place

●  Concrete information about the offer what one gets for a voucher

●  Invite for exploration – first drink for free, first tour for free, first ride for free. More travel promos and free trials that will ease the first steps.

●      Word of mouth – have place where visitors can testify online or through Social Media

●      B2C channels are used, only for more complicated arrangements, very rare cases, they use Tour Agency.

Elena Ivanova

Management consultant with strong business empathy and empirical knowledge in sustainable development. Creates business models that strengthen inclusive markets and deliver a positive impact. . Dynamic and analytical opportunity seeker, driven by the customer's needs and the company's growth potential. Consider me to collaborate as a certified professional with a focus on resource planning, organizational restructuring, and change management.