Tourism is a phenomenal industry, enriching the lives of millions of people around the world. But it’s been a tough year (to put it mildly) for those of us who work in it.
Brands have shown ingenuity during the pandemic by keeping their marketing campaigns on simmer, displaying messages of hope and inspiration for future times rather than pushy calls to action. Yet, as 2020 draws to a close, we need to remember that the hard times won’t last forever. With recent news of Covid-19 vaccine rollouts, spring 2021 looks like it could be a light at the end of the tunnel for us all.
Are you prepared to reboot your strategy with full-scale campaigns that will attract travellers next year? Here’s a checklist of the 7 things you should be thinking about.
Travel restrictions, destination perceptions, the rise of staycations, average length of trip… all of these factors may shift the demographics interested in your brand next year. The volume and frequency of travel from your primary and secondary markets may change. Can you find stats or, better yet, conduct your own research to help you finesse who you should be targeting in 2021? How can you get to know these new markets? And how can you mine your existing customer database to keep up with changing attitudes?
Email or social media surveys will prove helpful, no matter how brief. Broad studies are helpful to a point, though they may be less conclusive. For example, a recent Yougov survey showed that well-off young adults in Londoners were the most likely Brits to have international travel plans for the first half of 2021. Yet Yougov has also found that Millennials (aged 25 to 34) are the age group most likely to book a staycation in 2021.
Rehashed versions of old strategies and plans will probably have little relevance in the post-pandemic world. Draw up a fresh strategy that’s both inspirational and incorporates messaging on logistics (do people know the latest rules in your destination?), safety (what measures have you and other places near you taken to tackle Covid-19?), policy (will people get a refund or voucher if they can no longer travel?), and other new priorities consumers have.
You’ll need to be more adaptable than ever before to make sure your messaging is relevant to the current situation. Who’s constantly checking the content you’re going to put out to ensure it matches the latest government guidelines and other travel news stories? Getting slammed on social media for coming across as irresponsible or inappropriate is not an outcome anyone wants.
Despite a targeted pickup over the summer, advertising budgets overall plummeted this year. Travel and tourism ad spend has dropped by more than a third ($8.4 billion) since the pandemic began, according to Warc’s Global advertising trends report, with Warc’s head of data describing 2020 as “the most hostile year for the advertising economy ever seen in our 40 years of market monitoring.” By media company Skift’s reckoning, an even higher 90% of travel marketers have cut their budgets this year. Ouch.
So what about 2021? Numerous forecasts expect there to be a pick-up in spend across all industries that have been hit hard by Covid, though not to pre-pandemic levels. Warc projects tourism to be one of the fastest-growing sectors for this in 2021, at +19.5%. Flexibility will be key given the many factors outside of your control quarter by quarter, as will keeping a close eye on cost per lead, return on ad spend and other metrics.
That being said, some of your campaign metrics for success may not look the same as they did previously; have you reassessed your aims and expectations? For example, building trust in your brand through a campaign may be more important – and ultimately successful – than simply gaining as much engagement as possible.
That’s backed up by Deloitte’s Global Marketing Trends 2021 report, which included ‘trust’ in its seven trends for 2021, and found that trust and brand loyalty are more entwined than ever. In its survey of 2,447 people, 66% could recall when a brand had acted self-interestedly, and more than one in four said it had caused them to walk away from that brand. Deloitte defines trust as “essentially whether brands deliver on their promises,” but it’s clearly also about WHAT they are promising.
Using the right advertising channels to reach the right audience will be even more crucial if budget is tight. Do you know which channels will give you the best results and bang for your buck? Media costs have changed since the pandemic began, with an 11% drop in CPC (cost per click) across the travel vertical, according to the Q3 2020 Merkle Digital Marketing Report. Across platforms, paid social ad investment saw a 19% growth year over year in Q3 2020. Comparatively, display ads saw a 3% decline in investment. Both are an improvement from Q2 2020, when paid social ad investment only grew by 11% and display investment decreased 11%.
Instagram continues to outperform Facebook for spend, impressions and cost-per-impression (CPM), with the image-oriented platform seeing a 34% growth in ad spend year-on-year in Q3 (though that was down from 46% in Q2). Do you have people on your team who understand trends on the platform, like reels, interactive stories and text-heavy posts?
Tragically, the global travel and tourism market is predicted to see a loss of 75.2 million jobs globally in 2020. Teams have had to downsize, and marketing teams in 2021 may need to look at bridging their skills gap either through re-hires or outsourcing marketing to specialists.
Do you agree with the above points, or have your own to add? Or are you looking for help perfecting your marketing strategy for 2021? Get in touch.
About the author
Manish is the founder of one of UK’s leading tourism and travel focused marketing agencies, Digital Dialog. He is also founder and chief editor of Travelbounce, a news website that helps travellers find essential travel information amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Manish has been helping tourism, travel and hospitality brands leverage digital channels effectively since 2012. Some of the brands he has worked with include Switzerland Tourism, Tourism Ireland, Atout France, Austria Tourism, Visit Wiltshire, Travelodge, Preferred Hotels to name a few.
If you would like to get in touch with Manish to discuss any of your marketing needs, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org