What Will Tourism Marketing Look Like Now?
How will travelers determine their first post-covid vacation? The destination debates are back again with the world opening up and the majority of people getting vaccinated. This is great news for the tourism industry, as they took a hard hit the past year. Travel industry losses were estimated to result in a GDP impact of $1.2 trillion in 2020. However, just like everything else, tourism marketing will not return to a pre-2020 normal. Destination marketing will be reinvented, with data and experiences as the new differentiator.
Online marketing matters more than ever now with the pandemic fast-tracking the tourism industry to a digital world. Around 51% of U.S. adults have increased their social media usage since the outbreak. Not only does tourism marketing have to become more digitally focused, but the messaging used must focus on two things: safety and flexibility. Travelers need to know they will be cared for when choosing their next destination after more than a year of uncertainty. If something happens again, are places going to be flexible with cancellations and postponements. Are they doing everything they can to ensure the health and safety of travelers?
Key Findings to Know
Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and behaviors surrounding travel—specifically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—and explored a variety of topics. The key findings presented below represent data collected May 20th-22nd.
International, Convention + Urban Travel Make Important Gains: Positive movement towards recovery was measured this week in some of the travel industry’s hardest-hit sectors. The proportion of American travelers who say they will be avoiding international trips tumbled over 5 percentage points in the last week, reaching a pandemic-low 58.8%. Now, one-in-five actively disagree that they will avoid international travel. The avoidance of conventions and conferences also reached a pandemic low (51.7%). Similarly, 21.5% disagree they will be avoiding these events. In addition, 37.4% of travelers who plan to take a leisure trip in the next 3 months say they will be visiting cities and urban areas, on par with rural and beach destination performance.
Optimism Is Up as Vaccinations Continue: Now 73.4% of American travelers have or will get vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those who have been inoculated, 87.3% are more comfortable with the idea of traveling. Overall, nearly two-thirds of American travelers believe the pandemic situation will improve in the U.S. in the next month; only 8.6% anticipate it will worsen. Americans are feeling safer and more confident about travel than ever during the pandemic.
Americans Continue to Actively Dream and Plan: In the last week, 77.5% dreamt and/or planned traveled, up nearly 5 percentage points. One-third report that they researched travel ideas online. Nearly 77% of American travelers say they are in a ready-to-travel mindset.
Americans are Booking + Going: In the last week, 18.7% of American travelers made a travel booking and/or reservation, primarily hotels (56.9% of travel bookers) and airline tickets (43.5% of travel bookers, up from 32.5% last week). Americans report they will take an average of 2.3 leisure trips over the next 3 months.
So, what do marketers need to focus on in this new age of travel? Let’s take a look.
Empathy AND Safety
We believe empathy is something the travel industry needs to focus heavily on. It’s been a tough time for everyone and people want to know they are understood. Brands have to show empathy in their communications and be less about sales and promotions, and more about the human connection and the storytelling. Their efforts should also focus on highlighting the safety aspects of traveling to a certain destination. People are skeptical. And they have a right to be. Behaviors and expectations have shifted, and marketers must follow along.
As mentioned above, around 51% of U.S. adults have increased their social media usage since the start of the pandemic. Everything has a huge online focus now and for good reason. For travel brands, social media holds high potential for storytelling and getting messages across to target audiences. It also has more and more features that can help destinations, hotels, or restaurants getting noticed.
Stories are a great way to interact with travelers before, during, and after their trip. Reels tap into the younger audiences with their TikTok-like music and approach. Carrousel images and videos also out-perform regular newsfeed posts. Not to mention ads that remain under-used compared to other, more popular placements on Google or Facebook for example.
Finally, let’s get back to the basics. More than ever, users now get inspired, search and buy online. Being found when users search online for given keywords in your area, the field of expertise or type of experience has become more pivotal than ever. The big players – Expedia, Booking, Tripadvisor – will continue to outspend everyone else on Google Ads, but brands are still required to have a mobile-optimized website. A website that loads quickly, with fresh, relevant content. Domain Authority, with relevant URLs, quality internal and external links, matter more than ever.