For businesses in the travel industry, the start of 2020 has been a roller coaster of worst-case scenarios. As of this writing, there is not much resolution to the economic fallout that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on travel and tourism. If your company is feeling this hurt, too, know that you are far from alone. A recent report from industry expert Skift indicates that the downturn is everywhere. It also, however, provides some hope – travel marketing during Coronavirus is not for nothing, and there are some ways you can prepare for what may come in the near future.
The Entire Travel Industry is Hurting
Skift reports that nearly 90% of travel marketers have had no choice but to slash their budgets as a result of the current state of the industry. Between lockdowns, cancelled flights, and a dramatically diminished interest in travel, the money just isn’t there for marketing as usual right now. If your company has taken similar steps and felt they were drastic, you’re not alone.
We know that the dreamer phase of travel planning is a critical one when it comes to earning consumer loyalty. Now, while most tourists are stuck at home, browsing virtual experiences on their smartphones, would be a fabulous time to catch their interest. Ideally, you could then stay top-of-mind for a future trip, when their safety and finances permitted.
Certainly, if you have any ability to continue in your marketing efforts, do so, for this and other reasons. According to the Skift report, unthought-out budget cuts risk loss of institutional knowledge and marketing know-how that you will definitely need when scaling back up after we reach some semblance of normalcy. Travel companies are faced now with the herculean task of keeping up with quickly changing consumer needs in the short term, as well as maintaining their market share in the long term.
First Reactions to Lockdowns
The Skift report indicates that most travel industry businesses surveyed slammed on the brakes, budget-wise, the minute they sensed what might be about to happen. If your company did this, too, know that you’re not alone. This is a pretty big deal when, according to statistics gathered by Skift researchers, many companies normally spend 10% or even 15% of their revenues on marketing.
Skift noted that airlines, meetings and events venues, and corporate travel providers were the hardest hit by the pandemic and its impact on travel. These sectors of the industry were likely to cut more when it came to marketing. In fact, of the 42 aviation companies sampled in this report, 100% cut their marketing budgets. Hotels, rentals, and vacation destinations have proved more resilient, though they are also struggling immensely. A total of 91% of the hotels surveyed had cut their budgets.
Changes to Paid Media Spending
Within the travel industry, 78% of the companies surveyed by Skift had made recent cuts to their planned paid media spending. This makes sense—most paid advertising features sun-drenched destinations and happy vacationers, all of which would be quite tone deaf during current circumstances.
According to the Skift report, 36% of those who cut paid media withdrew all of their search spending, and 28% withdrew all social spending. While this could mean now is a great time to stand out on social, chances are slim that your company would be able to attract much of a return on your investment. The value in paid media at this time seems rather low. Your business is not alone if you also have pulled paid media.
Both Google and Facebook announced sharp revenue declines in March of 2020, due in large part to this decline in paid search. This should come as no surprise, given current events. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recession are likely to continue impacting paid search, too. Skift estimates that the travel industry spent $16 billion advertising with Google alone last year, representing 12% of the search giant’s ad revenue. Expedia and Booking, huge customers for Google in this area, are expected to cut their ad spend by at least half for the rest of the year, which will cause these figures to drop sharply.
Advertising on television and in print media has also been impacted, with drops of 78% over last year up to this point. Skift reports that the majority of travel industry businesses have pulled all of their spending in this marketing category already.
Travel Marketing During Coronavirus
The Skift report should theoretically make travel industry businesses breathe a (very) small sigh of relief. While things are bad now, they’re bad for everyone. Your company likely hasn’t made any wrong decisions to lead to revenue loss. Cutting marketing is a normal reaction to such a scenario.
So how should you approach travel marketing during Coronavirus? Must you eliminate it completely? Skift writers suggest that doing so could prove problematic down the line. Removing members of your team who have created proven marketing campaigns for you in the past leaves you at square one when you’re able to afford fresh ad spend.
Skift reports that 54% of those businesses surveyed made cuts to their marketing staff already. A whopping 12% of those surveyed have already shut down their entire marketing department. They estimate this equates to 6.5% of all travel-industry businesses. That’s a pretty major deal.
By retaining some of your marketing talent, you’ll at least be one small step ahead of those 6.5% of industry competition who took more drastic action right off the bat. If you must cut costs, consider shifting your marketing team to another area where you might need additional help in the short term: communications. With cancellations and rescheduling top of mind for many consumers, chances are your customer service and PR teams are stretched to the limit. By shifting resources around, you will retain talent and put money where you need it in the short term. You can then correct for these changes later on down the line.
Strategies to Maintain a Presence
Another important consideration for travel marketing during Coronavirus is how you can recalibrate strategies to still have a presence and stay top-of-mind for consumers. Inspirational marketing plays into this, reminding travelers that, while they are currently stuck at home, travel will eventually resume and will mean even more later on.
Practical marketing is also an important tool to deploy. This includes virtual tours, at-home experiences, and education you can provide to travelers about your company or destination. By providing free, valuable content to travelers, you become ingrained in their minds as a place worth visiting in the future.
You should also consider including social responsibility marketing in your current efforts. At this time, it is considered unwise for most people to travel. Many around the world are experiencing immense hardships of various kinds. How you, as a travel-industry business, react to this can speak volumes about your core values. Creating programs to help employees, customers, and those in your areas of service may have tremendous impact on your bottom line down the road.
If you’re seeking assistance with your marketing or SEO strategy during the time of COVID-19, we can help. Skift reports that 44% of those surveyed are struggling with reallocating resources and shifting their marketing goals. Galileo Tech Media is a trusted partner of many travel-industry businesses and is fully operational, thanks to our scalable and remote company structure. Contact us today to see how we can help.