How the travel industry can recover through marketing
Few industries have been as immediately hard-hit from COVID-19 as the travel sector, which has come to a virtual stand-still as most consumers heed federal advice to stay home. The US Travel Association predicts that virus-related travel losses will result in a $910 billion hit to the U.S. economy. But the industry has been through crises before, including the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the SARS virus and, more recently, the mosquito-born Zika virus which took a toll on Caribbean travel, says Clayton Reid, CEO of travel marketing firm MMGY Global.
Speaking on the latest edition of Ad Age’s “Marketer’s Brief” podcast, Reid says travel marketers should be taking this time to engage their best customers and boost brand awareness.
Many travelers are already looking past the pandemic. Hotel occupancy across the U.S. is currently in the single digits, Reid says, but notes that some people are still booking rooms for several months out. An MMGY survey found that 41 percent of people have canceled their travel plans for the year—but in past crises, 50 percent have rebooked.
“There are ways to lean into the market where as a brand, you can be providing information at the same time as creating some awareness for your brand so when we come out of the recovery, you are well-positioned,” Reid says, noting that marketers should be laying into search-engine marketing, email programs and paid social channels right now as well as planning in a “wait and ready-set-go” approach.
“Brands need to be prepared for this travel resurgence—they need to have plans ready to drive the demand,” he says. “It will be an increasingly competitive environment where [marketers] will be scrambling to not only bring back their current customers but to steal market share.”