A new marketing campaign, launched by the U.S. Travel Association in coalition with major travel industry companies and brands, asks Americans to start planning trips again.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A steady increase in domestic flights is encouraging, and as more Americans travel, word-of-mouth testimonials will further drive consumer confidence and demand, travel experts say.
A marketing campaign, launched this week by the U.S. Travel Association with a coalition of 75 major travel industry companies and brands, looks to help inspire travel within the country, or at least dreams of and plans for travel.
Hotel companies listed among the initial coalition members include: Accor, BWH Hotel Group, Choice Hotels, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Loews Hotels, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.
On a webinar to launch the campaign, coalition representatives discussed the challenges of promoting travel amid a health crisis and travel restrictions.
“Travel creates experiences that simply cannot be replaced. The goal of this campaign is to inspire Americans and give them permission to make future plans,” said Jill Estorino, president and managing director of Disney Parks International. “Not everybody is comfortable with the idea of travel right now. We’re encouraging people to look ahead to their next journey, whenever that may be.”
The marketing campaign currently is on two tracks: “Let’s Go There” and “Let’s Go There Soon.”
“In addition to talking about the benefits travel, or just the very thought of planning for travel, can generate emotionally, it’s so important that we reinforce the message that when the customer is ready to travel, we are ready to serve them,” said Brian King, global officer of distribution and revenue strategy, engagement centers, sales and services at Marriott International.
King said the campaign balances the desire to travel with following safety measures.
“The goal of the campaign is obviously to generate interest and get consumers in the mindset to begin planning travel, but only when they’re ready to do so. The messaging strategy carefully balances the need to emotionally inspire wanderlust, but the rational need to make sure it’s safe to travel when they are ready to do so,” he said. “We really miss our guests, (but) I do have immense optimism that there will be a strong return to our industry, and people are willing when the time is right to open that front door and see the world again.”
Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, said travel plans are also essential to getting people back to work across the U.S.
“Every hotel room booked or restaurant table reserved means people in these communities are getting back to work,” she said. “Nationwide, about one-third of travel-supported jobs have been lost. In California alone, more than 600,000 hospitality workers are out of jobs right now. Getting people to think about travel will help prepare all of us when travel is able to broadly restart in the future.”
Quarantine policies in destinations such as New York City are a particular challenge, according to Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.
“We’re not in favor of quarantine policies,” he said. “I’m thinking of travel season coming on in the fall with fall foliage, and states that have quarantine policies, New York, Connecticut and New England. What an opportunity they may be missing of people who want to travel safely, in their cars … to see the beautiful fall foliage. I think it has to open up, and open up responsibly, of course.”
Tori Barnes, EVP of public affairs and policy at USTA, said, “This campaign really takes the long view of travel.”
“I’m sure that elected officials across this country and especially where there are quarantines want jobs to come back, want the economy in their states to grow, and hopefully they’ll understand that just giving folks the happiness that comes with planning a trip, and ultimately being able to go out and travel, is important,” she said. “We’re thinking about this in the context of different regions and states reopening in different ways. If you can’t travel from New York to California, consider traveling throughout your own state. That’s really important.”
Dow said the campaign has been months in the works, and a lot of consideration was given to timing of the launch.
“We first thought we might launch it a little earlier, in July or August, but we didn’t want to be tone-deaf,” he said. “So we’re listening and now we’re watching these (travel) sentiments improve, and we think now is the right time to launch this campaign to begin thinking about travel.”
He said future additions to the campaign will focus on business and group travelers, with “Let’s Meet There” messaging in the fall; and another parallel effort is considering how to promote the U.S. again as a destination for international travelers, as restrictions lift.
“International travel is extremely important. It’s $250 billion (in revenue). We love the international traveler; they stay 14 to 16 days, spend $4,500 per person. We think we’re going to begin seeing that open up in the coming months,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk going on with what they call ‘bubble flights,’ between perhaps London and New York … and getting that to open up. It’s going to be important to have that open up because international travel is so important not just to our industry but to the global economy.”
Barnes said as those inter-agency conversations develop, she expects more involvement from Brand USA, the international arm of marketing the country as a destination.
“That’s absolutely a priority, but we need to get the folks domestically contemplating travel and planning, and that’s what this campaign seeks to do: Remind folks of the anticipation and joy that comes with planning travel, and starting here in the United States,” she said.