How can advertisers avoid the turbulence of post-pandemic travel?

While many consumers are keen to travel again there is no doubt that the tourism sector has become incredibly complex to navigate. Georgia Brammer considers how brands and advertisers in the sector can establish relevance and build greater flexibility during turbulent times. 

With a glimpse of normality on the horizon, it has been reported that four-fifths of consumers have been eager to travel again in 2021. Whether to ease pandemic stresses or give themselves something to look forward to, over 60 percent of potential globetrotters are intending to spend more than usual on their travel plans. 

On the other hand, ongoing uncertainty has meant there are plenty of would-be travellers adopting a ‘wait and see’ mentality. In fact, the top factor influencing consumers’ decisions is if the destination feels ‘safe’ (31 percent). 

For brands and advertisers in the tourism sector, this means flexibility has become even more critical to ensure campaigns hit their mark. To accommodate different motivations and ever-changing circumstances, travel brands need to be in touch with consumers in lockdowns, out of lockdowns, eager to see family, longing to escape from family and more.

Here’s how advertisers can stay relevant during these unpredictable times. 

Tackling the turbulence of the pandemic 

Across the world, the population has been experiencing varied restrictions because of COVID-19. From a country level right down to a city level. As a result, the return to travel has become localised to specific regions. 

In Japan, for instance, international and domestic travel were both brought to a halt in 2020, at a time when a wave of deep-pocketed travellers was expected to attend the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. After being postponed for a year, the pandemic’s disruption continues to impact the Games, as well as the market for hotels, travel agencies and airlines. 

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, however. ‘Travel bubbles’ have already been trialled, such as the one between Australia and New Zealand, with reports of similar arrangements with Singapore, Fiji and Japan being considered. Although this has been temporarily put on hold due to Australia’s most recent lockdowns, the months ahead could offer travel brands some respite. To seize the opportunity, they must be prepared to inspire consumer engagement at the optimal moment.  

Travel brands are reopening doors

Knowing holidaymakers have been saving up both funds and wanderlust, some brands are relaunching ad campaigns. However, navigating the new consumer landscape will require a different route than before. Instead of focusing simply on sales, marketing messaging has already shifted to be equally about brand loyalty – you may not be able to travel right now but we’re here for you when you can.

Building greater flexibility and new services into messaging is also an important factor in such uncertain times. Examples include having easier cancellation policies or offering COVID testing packages before travel. Showing an understanding of the changing needs of consumers will create deeper connections with them. 

As well as the messaging, it is essential that a brand’s marketing campaign reflects the increased reliance on a wide range of digital platforms for consumers during lockdown. For example, US company Getaway used customer journey builder Braze Canvas to develop a flow of personalised transactional emails for customers who booked a stay. This resulted in a 30 percent increase in repeat customers.

Brands in the JAPAC region could look to adopt similar campaign tactics to Marriott International, as another example. Through leveraging channels such as Pinterest, TikTok and Hulu, the hospitality brand diversified its marketing mix in response to current media consumption trends. Additionally, Marriott’s TV campaign with Hulu Gateway Go rolled out shoppable ads with mobile QR codes and used sequential messaging tools to deploy a streamlined advertising experience. 

While this type of media strategy gets brands closer to audiences, Marriott also put ad creative in the pilot’s seat for capturing engagement. With its updated ‘Power of Travel’ messaging, the ad campaign focuses on the restorative nature of travelling in a world now accustomed to socially distanced and restricted lifestyles. Marriott is staggering the rollout of the Power of Travel programme globally in order to cater for the uneven post-pandemic revival’ so that its release across Asia Pacific is timed to coincide with the ending of restrictions. In light of this, what can other brands do to follow in Marriott’s footsteps? 

Deliver relevance with dynamic creative

It’s no easy feat to produce engaging ad creative that accounts for the many variables of consumers’ current lives. From regional differences to varying attitudes and expectations of travel, brands need to maintain relevance.

One way of ensuring this relevance is harnessing Dynamic Creative Optimisation (DCO) technology, which enables advertisers to build quality ad creative quickly and effectively. Using a brand’s creative assets, DCO platforms are capable of producing and tailoring thousands of different ads. When combined with contextual insights, DCO can ensure each ad is especially suited to its environment. By efficiently leveraging available data, it automates the decision making process to produce highly personalised ad creative and messaging no matter the audience or ad placement. DCO can additionally be optimised in real-time, by analysing the effectiveness of campaigns against key metrics and then adapting creative to improve results.

For travel brands and hospitality businesses such as Airbnb, these capabilities allow them to tailor ads for all circumstances. To hone in on safety and engage more cautious consumers, for example, it can share details for COVID-19 testing sites in the vicinity of holiday accommodation. What’s more, studies looking into the future of travel show over 90 percent of trips made by Australians will be domestic and younger consumers specifically will be breaking previous trends, no longer waiting until retirement to explore the country. When experiences such as driving the Great Ocean Road and seeing Kakadu National Park are now catching their interest, advertisers need the ability to adapt ad creative to appeal to the evolving tastes of these audience segments.

As the travel industry prepares to take off, establishing relevance and agility will be essential for engaging consumers. With creative being the most impactful element of campaigns, advertisers must ensure they have flexible capabilities so that ads can reflect all circumstances. To keep pace with travel guidelines between locations, focus on the needs of particular consumers, and respond to explorers’ latest preferences, travel companies must harness premium ad formats that reach their target audience, and leverage creative effectively.

 

Georgia Brammer is the regional director, JAPAC, at Flashtalking.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash.

 

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