5 ways travel marketers should prepare for the recovery

Surfer

Travel is resilient

This boom led to marketing strategies focused on the last-click-as-conversion attribution, price-driven offers and a proliferation of choice. While those strategies worked then, we’re entering a new era in travel marketing. 

Throughout my experience working in the travel industry, I’ve seen other major industry downturns, like the H1N1 pandemic and the Great Recession. Travel was immediately—and deeply—affected during these periods, just like now, with the repercussions from COVID-19. 

But, travel is resilient. Pent-up demand inevitably translates into people planning and booking trips as soon as they’re free to get back out in the world.

 

Looking for travel inspiration

We’re already seeing this trend on Pinterest. Despite a sharp drop in spring travel searches in March, Pinners are still looking for travel inspiration. In March, searches for summer vacations jumped more than 100% over the previous year.2 We credit a combination of pent-up demand, time spent cooped up at home and upended spring vacation plans.  

There’s also been a 59% increase in searches for “places to travel” in the last month vs. the same period last year as people look for inspiration.3 Searches for “beautiful places” have risen 78% in the same period.3 And searches for “bucket list ideas” have spiked 90% as people refocus their priorities on what matters.3 

To learn more about what Pinners are thinking about when it comes to travel, check out our trends tool

Comeback in a safe way

What will the travel industry look like on the other side of this thing? No one knows for sure. As for my predictions, I see the responsible travel trend continuing to increase. I predict we’ll see domestic travel rebound before international, as people—at least initially—opt to stay closer to home. I also think travelers will seek more rural destinations over urban ones until social distancing phases out. For that reason, larger, outdoor, open-air attractions like beaches, national parks and other nature experiences are a safe bet.

Emerging from this crisis, our challenge is to get people back in action in a safe way. And to inspire travel and adventure, we need to be more creative than ever before.

Here are some key strategies for every travel marketer in 2020 and beyond: 

1. Help travelers imagine the future

Our present has been on pause, forcing people to live in the future. Position your brand to win by helping travelers envision a future full of optimism and ideal travel experiences. 

2. Reassure safety and trust

Travelers will be looking for brands marketing in channels they trust, and ensuring they’ll be safe in the physical world. The combination creates a positive association that will help reassure people that they can get back out there with confidence.

3. Inspire travel to boost demand

The average traveler has more than 40 online touchpoints before making their final booking decisions.4 The industry knows this, yet still relies on the last-click attribution via search engine marketing. Take this opportunity to shift your marketing focus further back in the decision-making process—to the all-important inspiration phase. For example, shift “One-way flights to Hawaii” to “Beach dreaming? Plan a future trip to Honolulu.”

4. Move travelers from dreaming to booking

Once you’ve inspired travelers, follow up with content that guides them from research to planning and ultimately, booking. This process begins with reaching people who are in a “future planning” mindset. It continues with customized messaging and creative that helps travelers visualize their dream trip and drives the urge to make it a reality. Providing expert advice and recommendations help influence trip details and instill confidence in trip decisions.

5. Use passions to personalize

Every industry has a focus on personalization. For travel, passion points are key to driving relevancy and engagement. Passions fuel our travels. And travel, likewise, fuels our passions. Understanding what travelers want and love—food, adventure, romance—is fundamental to customizing and influencing their online experience.

 

—Ashish Arya, saving to Hotel Bars Around The World

 

1Deloitte, 2019 US Travel & Hospitality Outlook

2Pinterest internal data, US, March 2020 compared to March 2019)

3Pinterest internal data, US, Changes are calculated using US normalized searches between ‘2020-03-14’ and ‘2020-04-12’ as compared to searches between ‘2019-03-14’ and ‘2019-04-12’

4Verto Analytics, McKinsey analysis, U.S. clickstream panel data, Q4 2017–Q1 2018