We’re at the threshold of a new age of travel. With travel restrictions and COVID-19 testing requirements continuing to ease, we’re at a pivotal moment in time where travelers can more freely satisfy their pent-up wanderlust to traverse the globe and seek out new experiences.
This provides travel and tourism brands—as well as the public relations professionals who represent them—a timely opportunity to capitalize on the renewed interest in travel, which is being driven by greater peace of mind and ease of access to destinations.
According to recent research from Global Data, the global travel industry is expected to make a full recovery by 2025. The study found that by 2025, global travel is expected to reach 101 percent of 2019 levels, with a projected 1.5 billion international departures. However, the industry may never return to “normal” as we know it. Therefore, we must adapt to changing consumer expectations.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, travelers’ preferences and demands have shifted significantly, bringing on several short-term and long-term trends that are important to keep top of mind. Here are a few key ways that PR can help travel companies stand out amid the shifting landscape and position themselves for success.
|This article is featured in O'Dwyer's Jul. '22 Travel & Tourism PR Magazine
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Tell stories the media want to hear
Before approaching a journalist with any pitch, it’s critical to take a step back and remember their bottom line. Journalists aren’t just responsible for delivering news but are also tasked with driving engagement to attract a larger audience.
In an effort to make their jobs easier, and build more beneficial relationships, it’s in our best interest as public relations professionals to ensure that we’re providing targeted, relevant stories that will stand out in the never-ending news cycle.
Travelers look to their favorite news sources as a resource to help them plan dream trips where they can cross off long-awaited experiences from their bucket lists. At the height of the pandemic, our core campaigns sought to provide inspiration to travelers for their future trips, and now we are seeing journalists covering the best destinations to visit post-pandemic. In addition, to appeal to travelers’ rising desire for authentic and unique travel experiences, journalists are keen to dive deep into their travel subjects by discovering under-the-radar spots, hidden gem destinations, unique—beyond the run-of-the-mill—programming and more. Every travel company has a compelling story waiting to be told, and finding the best media hook is a public relations professional’s area of specialty.
Another progressively popular topic as of late has been affordable travel, especially amidst the current economy. With travelers eager to make up for lost time yet wary of rising costs, they’ll be taking an even closer look during their trip planning process to drill down on how best to stretch their vacation budget. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever for travel companies to provide a clear and compelling value proposition that communicates the differentiating benefits of their offering and why it’s not-to-miss.
Leverage key leaders as trusted travel experts
In today’s uncertain times, travelers are relying on advice and tips from trusted resources to help them make their important travel decisions. This is where a travel company’s leadership team—who are already experts in their respective areas of ownership—can naturally insert themselves to build trust and showcase how their company’s offerings are a perfect fit for what travelers are looking for.
These experts can be in virtually any department whether it’s the director of operations discussing the guest experience, the chief marketing officer showcasing a first-of-its-kind promotion or the executive chef providing tips on sustainable food choices. The media are hungry to interview valuable resources for their stories who can provide fresh perspectives on today’s hot topics.
For example, one of Hemsworth’s clients, vacation rental marketplace HomeToGo, taps into its extensive internal database of the search behavior of its users to analyze travel trends. To further strengthen the brand’s position at the forefront of the industry, we’ll often connect our media contacts with their leadership team to provide interesting, insightful content on trending destinations, booking behaviors, annual search trends and more, which gives us countless compelling stories to tell.
Tap into industry trends in a thoughtful and creative manner
When it comes to leveraging trends, it’s important to focus on quality over quantity. You know the age-old saying, you can’t be “everything to everyone.” Travel companies should be laser-focused on what resonates most with their target audience and carve out something unique that will make the biggest, long-lasting impact on their business. As public relations professionals, we consistently work with our clients to develop creative, out-of-the-box ideas that will capture the media’s attention in the competitive landscape and provide our clients the opportunity to shine.
There’s an array of significant travel trends that we believe are here to stay and are key to embrace to remain relevant in the future. Notably, one such example is an increased emphasis on local experiences. This is providing travelers the stay-like-a-local angle in which they can immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of the destination.
Hotels, resorts, vacation rentals and other accommodation types can meet this demand by incorporating local products and experiences into their offerings—such as spotlighting locally sourced food on the restaurant’s menu, crafting a tour that takes guests through underrated spots around town or bringing in a local expert to host a unique class.
With the pandemic changing the travel industry as we once knew it, an innovative and thoughtful public relations strategy is vital to capture the attention—and business—of today’s savvy travelers. Now’s the time to seize the opportunity before us and help travelers as they seek to catch up on the trips they have missed over the past couple of years. A potential full recovery by 2025 gives the travel and tourism industry good reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead.
Kayla Atwater is Director of the Travel & Tourism division at Hemsworth Communications.