How has coronavirus crisis impacted travel? What are the expected consumer trends and what can brands being doing now? How can advertisers adjust their messaging? 

Will Travel Continue Post-Coronavirus?

Nearly four months into social distancing measures implemented due to the spread of coronavirus, we’re all daydreaming of jetting off to tropical beach locales and desperate to visit family and friends far and wide. Based on the latest research and best practices, travel will continue. But while consumers are eager to travel, health and safety concerns are causing trepidation. This doesn’t mean they’re down for the count: advertisers would do well to stay in touch with consumers during this time and fill them with confidence about sanitization measures and loyalty programs. We outline the latest research and best practices for travel and coronavirus.

Strong growth is expected post-vaccine, resulting in a digital travel sales growth of 21% next year in the US. (eMarketer)

Did Someone Say Road Trip? Expect More Local Travel

Summer traditionally conjures images of warmer weather, lazy days and lighter workloads, and travel. As some states begin lightening restrictions, the prospect of “summer vacation” is a tantalizing possibility. To quench the travel thirst and still remain safe, count on local travel, especially by car, which avoids crowds. Traveling by car is also cheaper, as many Americans face economic hardship and are wary of frivolous spending during a still-uncertain time. 

40% of consumers say that they plan to make fewer long distance leisure trips and instead would consider planning more short distance leisure trips (Forrester’s Consumer Energy Index Online Survey, Q2 2020).

77% of US adults feel comfortable traveling by vehicle when coronavirus restrictions are lifted (eMarketer, May 2020).

Only 19% of US adults would book and travel abroad during June-August 2020 (eMarketer, May 2020).

25% of US respondents say they’re going to make use of promotions and discounts when booking vacations post-outbreak (eMarketer, June 2020)

And according to eMarketer senior analyst Jasmine Enberg, “As summer breaks approach, US consumers’ appetite for travel is starting to increase. But fears of infection, foreign travel restrictions and the desire to avoid a quarantine will keep most of those who pack their bags closer to home. Domestic travel, particularly car trips, will be the most popular form of leisure travel this year.”  (eMarketer, June 2020)

Show Off Your Cleaning Skills

It (hopefully) goes without saying that a higher-standard of sanitization measures will be implemented once hotels, homeshares, airplanes, and other forms of travel and transportation resume (and they already have). The CDC has offered clear guidelines for cleaning and disinfection for post-coronavirus travel. Consumers feeling nervous will only feel at ease traveling armed with the knowledge that travel companies are taking these measures. 

Just as important as taking the sanitization measures is SHOWING the sanitization measures. Consumers are feeling wary, even nervous – displaying hand sanitizer, wipes, employees cleaning surfaces – will further put them at ease. 

Demonstrating safety precautions serves an emotional purpose as well as physical: for consumers, it comes down to trusting how the company is protecting consumers and employees. Consumers want to feel in control of their surroundings and in control of their health and safety.

82% of adults said they support deep cleaning after every flight (YouGov data via eMarketer, June 2020)

76% were in favor of airlines adding sanitizing guidelines during the flight safety demonstration (YouGov data via eMarketer, June 2020)

Don’t Go Dark. Keep Consumers Informed.

It doesn’t matter if they aren’t planning to travel today, tomorrow, or even next month – consumers want to hear from travel brands: whether as a reminder that things will return to normal, to know that they are still in business (!!), or to know whom to book with as soon as they are ready. Brands should be communicating constantly to keep front of mind. Consumers want to be informed and will fall back on those trusted brands.

Only 15.1% of US consumers would be very unhappy about seeing a travel ad for where they live (eMarketer)

A combined 64.6% would feel neutral, happy, or very happy about seeing a travel ad for where they live.  (eMarketer)

Only 8% say brands should stop advertising during coronavirus. Brands should deliver helpful content in a reassuring tone.  (Kantar Research

Messaging Suggestions

1. Brands can provide reassurance by being a trusted source of relevant information. Help consumers get over their fear of traveling by conveying updated travel information and cleanliness standards, for example. 

2. Communicate new sanitization measures to put consumers at ease before they travel. It will build trust with loyal customers and attract new customers on the fence about traveling or deciding between one brand or another.

3. Be positive and hopeful; be the light at the end of the dark pandemic tunnel. When consumers see a positive outlook, they will be more hopeful and likely to travel with that brand.  

4. Be mindful of the financial impact of the pandemic, as well. Offer pricing solutions, deals, flexible cancellation policies – and communicate that. Indicate sensitivity and awareness; don’t be tone deaf. 

5. Show loyalty to your loyal customers. Brands have already begun doing this, but communicate frequently with loyal members/programs and offer them incentives to resume travel with you. Stay in touch with tips on how to use points and offer easy ways for them to book in advance.

6. Big hotels and chains will have resources to fall back on. To keep up, boutique hotels and smaller travel chains should not go silent, but stay relevant and in touch. 

7. Advertise locally! A vacation in your own town, a weekend getaways, road trips, etc. will be more palatable to consumers.

So get cleaning, keep in touch, and be a beacon of hope and reassurance during this uncertain time. We’re all eager to pack our bags. Advertisers should keep in mind these changes in consumer behavior, and continue messaging during coronavirus for travel in the future.

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