Whats happening?  

With pandemic cases consistently on the rise, the travel industry continues to suffer. Nearly half of Americans have no plans to travel for the remainder of 2020, and travel marketers are scrambling to figure out their next steps. 

But while traveling isn’t for everyone right now, there is a glimmer of hope. According to Destination Analysts, roughly a third of travelers plan to take a trip sometime this fall, and slightly more are at least somewhat excited to hear about new destinations.  

What does this mean? 

Even in normal times it can be tough for brands to find one cohesive, compelling and differentiating message to use as the core of their marketing campaigns. But in times like these, with some people finding travel almost irresponsible, it’s tougher than ever. And while segmentation has always been important in targeting the right audience with the right message, it has never been more crucial for travel brands than it is right now.  

What should marketers be doing?  

First of all, even though it might be tough to find the right balance, brands should continue building long-term awareness and consideration rather than going dark. At some point in the future many more people will be ready to hit the road again, and you’ll want to be well-positioned to attract their business. 

In thinking about these efforts, make sure you’re accounting for a wide range of perspectives about travel, with one constant: the desire to be safe. For example, for longtime client Visit North Carolina we developed a safety campaign – to be complemented by an inspiration campaign – that showcases the steps hotels, restaurants and attractions are taking to make visits here as safe as possible.  

In addition to longer-term initiatives, travel brands should develop tactical, tightly targeted efforts to reach those people who are currently open to travel – 34% of the population is nothing to ignore. The first group brands should turn to are those travelers with whom they’ve already established a relationship. Travel marketers should use first-party data to ask their customers directly if they are interested in traveling, then create content speaking to that desire while also providing information to help them make safe, confident choices. 

For instance, state travel offices and other destination marketers can highlight some of their more socially distant options to help allay any concerns potential visitors may have. Hotels, attractions and other travel brands can underscore specific safety precautions being taken, from capacity limits to cleaning protocols. Once you know these audiences are interested, you can sustain an ongoing one-to-one dialogue via a variety of paid and owned tactics.  

In addition to first-party data, travel brands can use highly targeted paid media tactics to reach other “near-term travelers” in more effective ways. By leveraging cell phone data, travel brands can target those who are already engaging in more active behavior, whether it’s traveling, going to malls, gyms, amusement parks, etc. This will ensure brands are focusing their efforts on those most open to a “travel now” message, while not alienating or offending those who aren’t. 

RELATED INSIGHTS

May 1, 2020: Understanding Customers is Crucial Amid COVID Chaos  
It’s time to sharpen and optimize the tools you use for customer-first marketing – here’s where to start. 

April 20, 2020: Shifting from B2B to B2H: Follow the Golden Rule  
Effective B2B marketing during COVID-19 requires a shift in approach shaped by understanding where consumers are – physically and emotionally – right now. 

April 1, 2020: 3 Reasons Travel Brands Shouldn’t Sit On The Sidelines  
Homebound consumers still want to hear from travel brands – but they’re looking for different content.


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