Flying High or Lost Luggage? Top Trends in Travel Advertising

Turbulence is nothing new for the travel industry, but with rapid changes in travelers’ needs and priorities due to COVID-19, advertisers have never had to ‘check in’ so many different preferences.

Turbulence is nothing new for the travel industry, but with rapid changes in travelers’ needs and priorities due to COVID-19, advertisers have never had to ‘check in’ so many different preferences.

As pandemic restrictions ease and vaccines continue to be rolled out, the sector is ready for take-off once more. Encouragingly, 77% of tourists plan to travel in the next year, so advertisers can capitalize on this increased post-quarantine appetite for adventure.

However, the current social climate is a complex one. On one hand, growing awareness of the climate crisis is driving sustainability, with the concept of flygskam (a Swedish term for flight shaming) putting pressure on tourists to reduce carbon footprints. On the other hand, the industry is still pushing the boundaries of possibility, with demand for space tourism surging.

Consumers are more reliant on tech than ever before, with 97% of tourists saying that technology will increase their confidence to travel, but at the same time, the popularity of digital detox or tech-free tourism is also rising.

It is expected the travel industry won’t fully rebound until 2023, so how are advertisers responding to this challenge to ensure their ads are safeguarding their share of vacation spend?

Sun, sand, and social media

Social media is still an integral part of travel booking, with 38% of all adults saying they’ll use social media to help them plan their vacations this year. Furthermore, 49% of Gen Z adults and 50% of millennials follow at least one travel influencer on social media. So, it’s no surprise that travel companies are using the same platforms for advertising, leveraging their massive global scale combined with the ability to target niche audiences. 

In August, Delta Air Lines launched its first TikTok campaign, asking users to share videos of their favorite travel destinations with the hashtag #FavouriteTripChallenge. Travel brands such as Hipcamp and Away have also been growing their followings following the pandemic by teaming up with influencers to create sponsored posts on Instagram.

But a word of caution: while social media ad spend will grow over the coming years, with an expected annual growth rate of 10.93%, this won’t always translate to increased value. Facebook’s revenue growth is slowing, which could result in higher advertising costs.

Video vacations

Video ads bring travel to life and enable immersive storytelling. The sight, sound, and motion of video help to grab the user’s attention and tap into their emotions, helping them envision themselves skiing through fresh powder, strolling along that white sand beach, or sipping cocktails in front of a spectacular sunset. 

Airbnb’s ad campaign earlier this year tapped into this year’s marketing trend for nostalgia, portraying the joyful reunion of families and friends. Never has this emotive marketing strategy been more important than in this post-quarantine world, when people are hungrier than ever for escapism, with many citing their mental wellbeing as a reason for traveling.

The use of video ads is increasing as live streaming and connected TV use enable travel advertisers to target specific audiences programmatically. What’s more, 5G connectivity will enhance video opportunities on mobile, and open the door to other immersive experiences such as virtual or augmented reality, enabling even more powerful storytelling.

Destination data

With the needs and priorities of today’s travelers increasingly complex and varied, advertisers must put data insight at the heart of strategies, to increase efficiency by reaching the right audience, at the right time, via the right channel, with the right message. Travel advertisers will need more than simple demographics to determine whether a potential customer is a vegan climate activist looking for a carbon-neutral getaway or an adrenaline-seeking technophile yearning for their next adventure.

Data will be used both to understand the immediate needs of consumers and to predict upcoming trends in the market. One way that advertisers can achieve this is through Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) technology, which uses data and a brand’s creative assets to ensure that ads are personalized and tailored to their environments.

Instead of thinking of advertising as a volume game, advertisers must use data insight to identify the most receptive audiences for their unique offering and deliver personalized messaging adapted to the consumer’s preferences and real-time context. Rather than looking for quick wins and short-term conversions, travel advertisers must shift their focus to lifetime value, building strong relationships based on in-depth insight.

As the world emerges from lockdown, hungry for new adventures, successful advertisers are using immersive formats to reach potential customers on their platform of choice, and underpinning their strategies with in-depth data insights, to ensure ad messages arrive safely at their intended destination.