Hotels.com tries to capture rising demand for ‘revenge travel’ in new campaign
As spring heats up and vaccine rollouts convince consumers to travel outside their homes—in some cases, for the first time in a year—airline and hotel brands are hoping to take advantage. Brands such as Southwest Airlines and Marriott have said they’re expecting consumers to take more trips this spring and summer. Now, Hotels.com is debuting its first campaign this year ahead of the spring break vacation surge and one year after the pandemic changed our lives.
“The consensus is showing that the world is turning a corner. There are numbers of people traveling already, steadily increasing in the U.S. already and we want to make sure we’re top of mind,” says Josh Belkin, VP, global brand at Dallas-based Hotels.com, noting the idea of “revenge travel,” where travelers try to make up for a year of lost getaways. Yet, even still, Belkin says that consumers still have a lot of anxiety—traveling was already stressful, but that’s heightened during COVID-19 as people worry about germs or cases rising. To that end, the brand’s new campaign highlight its free cancellation policy.
In a series of three new spots, actors create dramatic situations that appear to be one thing but are in actuality just travel bookings that become less stressful because of Hotels.com’s free cancelation policy. For example, in one spot a woman demands answers from a man in a police-style interrogation about something that turns out to be a surprise beach vacation. Too bad for the man, his wife doesn’t like surprises.
“Booking a trip can feel dramatic but with free cancellation, you can’t go wrong with Hotels.com,” says Captain Obvious, who also appears in the spot. The brand tapped CPB, which it has worked with since 2013, for the new work.
“The business message of this ad campaign is that we have free cancellations,” says Belkin. “You can make that reservation but know you can get out of it if the plan changes or world changes.”
The campaign is more forward-looking than Hotels.com’s dreamy work last summer, when Captain Obvious gently tried to help pandemic-traumatized consumers remember places other than their homes. At that time, few were traveling out of their local regions as many remained under lockdowns.
Yet while there are signs of a coming "revenge travel" season, travel brands are still dealing with financial losses from the last year. Expedia Group, which owns Hotels.com, recently reported fourth-quarter earnings that included a 64% revenue drop to $702 million for its retail brands segment, which includes brands such as Hotels.com, Expedia.com and Orbitz.