Agencies Agency Leadership Travel

How are marketers easing a turbulent time in the travel industry?


By Sam Anderson | Network Editor

August 7, 2023 | 8 min read

The travel industry continues to be buffeted by raising costs, strikes, and natural disasters. Here, a range of digital, PR and creative marketers from The Drum Network tell us how they’re easing the journey.

The underside of an airplane in flight, from a low angle

The travel industry doesn't have it easy right now. What can marketers do to weather the storm? / John McArthur via Unsplash

Spiraling temperatures causing wildfires across southern Europe; total costs of travel up 14% compared with pre-pandemic levels; widespread strikes from airport and air traffic workers; and continued pressure from activists and pressure groups to curtail air miles and other heavily carbon-burning activities. It's at best a transformative time for the travel industry.

So how are marketers helping their travel clients weather the turbulence? We asked six of them.

Andrea Ring, global chief strategy officer, VMLY&R: “People are so burned out that they aren’t just looking at a bucket list of places to go. They need to know that the trip is going to fit, to make them feel good, to leave them better. That’s why Virgin Voyages boosted sales by connecting through the nostalgia of a classic 80s-style music video; it went straight to the feels.

“It’s exactly what the brand’s Jen AI does too; it creates the perfect expectations for time on the ship. Other travel marketers like Airbnb are focusing on the beautiful in-between moments of travel and the memories that are made before they even happen. It’s about escape and transformation, not just ticking a box on a list of places.”

Angharad Salazar Llewellyn, editorial director, Dept: “The travel industry is facing incredibly tough times: strikes, natural disasters and the rising cost of living. But demand is as high as ever, as people still want to enjoy their hard-earned holidays. This poses a great opportunity for national operators, especially when teamed with the rise of the ‘conscious traveler’.

“When working with travel companies that offer greener options for travel, such as train or coach journeys, we advise them to publish informative content for travelers on how to make the most out of their budget, as well as helping and inspiring customers to make more conscious decisions when deciding how to travel.”

Greg Holland, paid media lead, Impression: “While we’re seeing more concerns over travel to Europe due to record high temperatures, the main focus for the travel and tourism industries is going to be a shift away from reliance on Summer sales. Potential dips in sales in this peak period can be offset by promoting classic routes and destinations to later in the year, where we’re likely to see consumer trends for holidays to rise in August/September, as well as users looking more for Winter sun than we’ve seen previously.

“In the short term, we’ve also seen drops in paid search costs for European travel terms, likely due to pullbacks on bidding on always-on marketing. This can give marketers a chance to focus more spend in concentrated bursts of time-limited promotions to stoke the interest that still remains and maintain sales this summer, as well as shifting offerings and messaging to be more eco-friendly, through either carbon-offsetting for travel itself, or through more sustainable accommodation and tourism. “

Julianne Manoogian, senior principal of consulting and strategy, PMG: “More than ever, travelers seek creative ways to save big and offset rising travel and hospitality costs. While price hikes are impacting some travelers’ plans—our research found that nearly 43 percent of travelers have cut their travel budgets due to the economy—people are still eager to travel.

“One personal finance trend gaining momentum among travelers is using credit card points and rewards programs to offset travel costs. We see brands finding the greatest success by leaning into the power of their existing relationships via CRM and loyalty programs to strengthen brand consideration and loyalty by supporting determined and persuadable travelers in navigating the impact of rising prices.”

Lee Wilson, service operations director, Vertical Leap: “Uncertainty increases the necessity for audience-aware, data-led, factually accurate information and insights. People’s legitimate questions and concerns can be fulfilled via travel experts and brands sharing content that resonates on the platforms and formats users seek the most. When industries are unsettled, expert voices need amplifying through meaningful messaging and considered, comprehensive content. Nothing moves faster than the search marketing space. Every new data set provides an opportunity to engage and empower people to make the right choices within a difficult set of circumstances.

“People have limited time and finances, plus other constraints which can breed poor decision making. Travel brands need to place themselves at the forefront in solving these ongoing dilemmas. Prioritizing topic and trending focus, as well as expediting the content creation process can be challenging, but when managed correctly, the longer-term gains through a value-based approach are warranted.”

Libby Windle, group head of PR, Connective3: “From a Digital PR perspective, it’s important to identify target commercial pages on your website that you can drive authority to. It could be for a new product offering or perhaps a specific destination landing page. Then, you want to create a story around this that’s relevant to your brand, audience, and the current news agenda. With quick-fire content being a must across many travel media outlets right now, the smartest tactic is thought-leadership pieces in the form of helpful tips and advice – content that is useful and accurately answers questions that audiences are asking. Use your brand’s spokesperson using internal data, search interest, etc to back this up and make it personable to your brand. You need a story that’s relevant to raise awareness that will naturally lead to purchases/bookings over pushy sales methods.”

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We create market leaders. We do this through the application of digital marketing strategy, adopting SEO, Content Strategy, Digital PR, PPC, Display, Social Media and CRO to drive growth focussed performance.

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