Jun 24 2022
Basis Technologies

Six Trends and Best Practices for Travel Marketers in 2022


We might just be at the threshold of a new era of travel. With the pandemic showing signs of subsiding and people across the globe hitting the road and taking to the skies with a vengeance, travel brands are finding that the nature of consumer demand and the make-up of the consumer journey are transforming. 

The travel industry has been hit particularly hard over the last three years—it was one of the first to suffer back in 2020 and will likely be one of the last to fully recover with eMarketer estimating that digital travel-related bookings won’t return to 2019 levels before 2024. Its 2021 bounce-back was punctured by the Delta and Omicron variants, while its 2022 rejuvenation has been marred by record inflation caused by lingering supply chain issues and a surge in gasoline prices tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Yet, despite the economic disruption and the dampener it’s putting on discretionary spending, there is much optimism and hope throughout the travel industry: United Airlines recently launched its biggest branding initiative in a decade, Hotels.com has just kicked off a new global campaign (minus Captain Obvious), and Airbnb is putting serious money behind marketing its new booking by category approach. 

So, why do travel brands have such confidence in the market? 

Simply put, people are desperate to get out there and make up for lost travel time. Consider these statistics: 

Essentially, there remains so much pent-up demand that even with potential problems ahead, the outlook for travel is strong

To engage with these energized, undeterred vacationers, travel brands should be measured and adaptable to their new pandemic-induced demands and buying patterns. Indeed, the priorities of travelers are changing. The channels where they find inspiration are changing. Their travel inclinations are changing. If advertisers fail to adjust to these shifts, they risk missing out on valuable opportunities to recoup some of the losses they incurred during the height of the pandemic. 

Below, we break down six current trends in the travel industry and explore how travel marketers can respond to them accordingly and position their brands as trusted allies to consumers during these uncertain times. 

#1. COVID-19 is Still a Concern, Albeit a Dwindling One  

Even as 72% of consumers recognize that vacations have changed since the start of the pandemic, they are still turning to the act of traveling to regain a sense of normalcy. This presents a challenge for travel advertisers, since “normalcy” often conflicts directly with travelers’ concurrent desire for travel providers to maintain COVID-19 mitigation practices. Indeed, just over half (55%) of those planning a vacation this year say that they are still concerned about the spread of the virus, and the same number say they are taking into consideration what measures travel providers are taking to keep them safe. It’s important, then, that brands understand and acknowledge that travelers aren’t necessarily ready for the industry to move on from the public protection policies that enabled it to re-open.  

How travel marketers can respond: 

Elevate messaging around your safety and sanitation measures further up on the marketing funnel to give consumers peace of mind and encourage more conversions. Examples of the type of information you may want to note include: 

  • Enhanced cleaning procedures 
  • Social distancing rules 
  • Regulations around staff and guest masking 
  • Contactless payment options
  • Health certifications from reputable third parties 
  • Ease of access to the nearest testing facility 

Ultimately, people want to know that they’re in safe hands. Disruption to travel services may linger for years to come, and operators must employ effective, sustainable, and flexible solutions in order to navigate them with as little disturbance as possible. 

#2. Travelers Want More Control and Flexibility 

With stay-at-home orders and the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 variants still fresh in their minds, travelers are eager to gain greater control over their trips and more actively determine the details of their experiences. The biggest expression of this sentiment lies in the strong desire to see cancellation and change fees eliminated—a notion travel providers had no choice but to comply with throughout the pandemic as they chased what precious few consumer dollars there were. Yet, even as the pandemic subsides, travelers expect these policies to remain in place and demand that brands meet them in terms of flexibility. 

How travel marketers can respond: 

Address traveler concerns head on by highlighting offerings such as flexible booking in your ad messaging. Provide clear information about your refund policy and use simple, easy-to-understand language so travelers know they can book with you without worrying about any unexpected changes. European airline EasyJet, for example, continues to offer a Protection Promise pledge that gives fliers the opportunity to change their flight to a later date, free of charge, up to two hours before departure. 

#3. The Rise of Loyalty Programs 

Despite the pandemic bringing travel to a halt, membership in frequent travel programs (FTPs) increased from 63% in 2020 to 71% in 2022 among internet users age 18+. The largest lift came in membership through credit cards that offer travel rewards, indicating that loyalty program subscribers were content to simply accrue points they could use in the future. Comprehensive loyalty apps are being touted as one of the big future trends in the travel industry, with 55% of loyalty program members saying that belonging to more than one FTP is a hassle, and members under the age of 35 looking to a program’s app not just for information on points, but also inspiration and booking mechanisms. There is also increased appeal in having a community within the loyalty ecosystem, and upstart brands like Travala are leading the way in restructuring loyalty to meet this end

How travel marketers can respond: 

The rewards landscape is currently in a state of transition due to the slow return of business travel, its (once) main driver. With leisure travel dominating right now, program providers will have to adjust their offerings in order to appear more attractive to vacationers. This can include putting an emphasis on accruing points through spending and buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) financing, rather than travel itself, and expanding rewards to be more relevant to different kinds of leisure travelers such as families. FTP members (and consumers in general) are also becoming more conscious about their affiliation with brands—so, it’s a good idea to continually vet your partners to ensure that their actions align with your own business values.  

#4. The Social Media Circle is Growing 

Social media may be having a moment of crisis amid stock selloffs, stagnant user growth, and tortuous takeovers, but it remains a powerful tool in influencing people’s travel decisions and prompting travel bookings. Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram command the greatest appeal, though both TikTok and Snapchat are increasingly growing in popularity—their trend-centric, video-based nature particularly appealing to the younger generations who prefer authentic, light-hearted content over anything too polished. With US adult TikTokers and Snapchatters spending an average of 45.8 minutes and 30.4 minutes on their respective platforms per day this year (both ahead of Facebook and Instagram, incidentally), travel advertisers should look to build a presence on these channels if they’re not doing so already. 

How travel marketers can respond: 

On TikTok: 

Experiment with #TravelTok in your campaigns to ensure you’re getting in front of your target audiences and, if you can do it in a way that feels genuine and true to your brand, try testing content based on the latest memes or run branded hashtag challenges that actively encourage audience participation. The TikTok environment is fast-paced and creative—whatever your content strategy, ensure you’re conveying information in bite-sized pieces. 

On Snapchat: 

Utilize the platform’s new dynamic travel ads designed to maximize relevance by automatically retargeting users who have been to your site or app before with hotel properties, destinations, or flight routes that are most interesting to them.  

#5. Sustainability Credentials Are Top of Consumers’ Minds 

Sustainable travel was already a burgeoning trend back in 2019, but coming out of the pandemic, consumers around the world are seeking even more ways to have conscientious travel experiences. A recent report by Expedia frames this outlook in numerical terms: 

  • Nearly 70% of consumers are willing to sacrifice convenience in order to be a more sustainable traveler. 
  • Seven in 10 consumers have avoided a travel destination or transportation option due to skepticism that the commitment to sustainable practices was real. 
  • 74% of consumers would choose a destination, lodging, or transportation option that is committed to supporting the local community and culture, even if it was more expensive. 

As these habits develop, travel providers will need to take bold action around the subjects of sustainability and environmentally friendly practices—and these actions must be truly genuine. Consumers (especially the younger generations), campaigners, and advertising authorities are quick to call out brands today if they see any false promises or false claims in their campaigns. Case in point? Just recently, Dutch airline KLM wound up in court over accusations its "misleading" advertising amounts to greenwashing in a case believed to be the world's first for the aviation sector. Translation: if you’re going green, you better mean it and have the evidence to prove it.

How travel marketers can respond: 

Seven in 10 consumers feel overwhelmed by starting the process of being a more sustainable traveler so if you do have sustainable credentials and outcomes to share, do so in a way that’s easy to understand. Consumers want to see strong commitments to green themes, so you may also want to consider supporting your messaging with data and other evidence of positive impact. Iberostar Group is one of the pioneers in this area—its Wave of Change initiative that works to understand and combat climate change while preserving ocean ecosystems is a great example of how travel brands can respond to consumers’ expectations. 

#6. Growing Adoption of Metaverse Technologies 

Mainstream use of the metaverse—and the technologies upon which it is founded—is still some time away for the travel industry (indeed, for all industries!), yet that isn’t stopping brands from experimenting with what is currently available. The rise of consumer tech like the Oculus Quest has empowered travel marketers to get creative with their campaigns and differentiate from their competition. Here are some manifestations of this trend: 

  • Marriott Bonvoy teamed up with digital artists to create a collection of travel-inspired non-fungible tokens (NFTs) designed to drive excitement for the brand’s loyalty program. 
  • Tourist boards in countries such as Austria and Switzerland have overhauled their websites to offer interactive alpine panoramas and 360° video tours of various destinations.
  • The Vienna Tourist Board partnered with the Sigmund Freud Museum to put the famous psychoanalyst into avatar form in Decentraland to promote trips to the city where he lived and worked. 

These activations highlight how digital innovation can enrich travel marketing and provide advertisers with unique opportunities to engage and inspire people. There are already numerous ways hotel chains, cruise lines, tourist boards, and museums can utilize VR and AR to their advantage, and more are sure to come. 

How travel marketers can respond: 

Of course, not everything these nascent technologies have to offer is relevant for every brand, but for those who are looking to explore their possibilities, there are some actions you can take. The first steps should be centered around assessing and strategizing—map out your various customer journeys and key touchpoints and then conceptualize how a virtual ecosystem could enhance those interactions. If you’re looking to make your move into the metaverse sooner rather than later, be sure to deploy small with low-budget initiatives—there are no tried-and-true best practices for metaverse marketing, so err on the side of caution. 

Travel Trends and Best Practices—Wrapping Up 

Times are changing in the travel industry, but one thing is clear: people want to travel. Even against a backdrop of geopolitical instabilities and economic uncertainties, travel executives remain cautiously optimistic about the months ahead—there is a feeling that pent-up demand will outweigh anything the market can throw at it.

By focusing on the core areas outlined here—maintaining safety-related messaging, offering flexible booking policies, tweaking loyalty programs, staying current on social media, touting sustainability credentials, and investing in digital innovation—travel marketers can provide value as they meet and exceed the needs and demands of their target audiences.

Looking for more travel advertising tips and tricks? Check out Basis Technologies’ dedicated travel resource center.

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