Travel - Social Advertising Insights from an Industry in Turmoil

Riikka Söderlund Apr 08 2020 1 PM | 4 min read

The travel sector continues to be one of the hardest-hit industries by the COVID-19 pandemic, with severe restrictions on travel and public gatherings set to continue for the foreseeable future. We can see the turmoil in the steep drop in advertising - most campaigns are either now paused or significantly scaled back.

But while ad spend has mainly paused, the conversation is highly active on social channels. With so much uncertainty, brands need to talk to their customers in the short term while crafting new strategies. We’ve studied brand interactions from across the travel sector, and here’s what we discovered.

Social Interactions Should Be Informative and Address Customer Concerns

As holiday disruption is a highly-emotive subject, most airlines and travel companies are sharing social content that focuses on new flexible booking policies, safety announcements, and local guidelines. As many customers are unsure whether they will be able to recoup their expenses, creative tends to be simple, direct, honest, and sympathetic, providing actionable instructions on what to do right now to address concerns.

Some brands have also provided clarity by informing customers when they can expect their case to be handled, as caseloads are at an all-time high. With more people online than ever before, many brands have ramped up their social teams and are engaging with customers' comments. These conversations are a chance to learn how consumer behavior will change in the short and long-term.

At the same time, brands are now re-engineering their ad setups and funnels to be more efficient and preparing for the future when it is time to turn on advertising again. By understanding the content and messages that work, travel operators can get a head start on building the campaigns, products, and services the world will want post-COVID-19.

Philanthropy and Interactive Creative Has Its Place

In general, being transparent and willing to adapt to the situation constantly is proving to be the best course of action. Not abandoning your customers during this time of uncertainty is key but rather trying to find ways to cope together.

Some brands have received negative reactions to posts inviting customers to reminisce on holiday experiences, while others have done so and received positive feedback. If consumers have already paid for a trip that has been canceled, this type of content may be considered tone-deaf. 

However, some cruise operators have taken advantage of high social engagement rates by inviting people to try cooking their favorite onboard recipes with excellent results. The addition of a fun task that brings back good memories - and gives people something to do - can work.

Elsewhere, we have seen digital disruptors, like rideshare companies and property rentals, provide financial support to hosts and drivers so they can volunteer and help out. Some are offering free meal deliveries to front-line workers, while others have committed to helping house COVID-19 responders. Another common theme is highlighting the stories of individual users who are helping out where they can, as well as stories of brands working to repatriate people stuck overseas.

The Future for Travel

It's clear travel can't function when people can't travel. Even so, one of the worst actions to take right now is to go completely dark. Take the opportunity to engage with consumers, truly listen to what they have to say, and learn everything that you can for the future. Brands must understand how consumer sentiment has been changing and developing during this time so that they can ramp up communication after the crisis. Tracking consumer sentiment will ensure brands have the tools and data to craft messaging that resonates with customers when it is time to ramp up again.

Actionable creatives that still inspire fun and give people something tangible to do will help maintain your connection and inspire loyalty, as will up to date, honest communications, and corporate responsibility as the situation develops. Many consumers are planning future holidays once the pandemic eases, so brands that foster good feelings among consumers will be in a strong position when restrictions start to ease. 

We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely and share everything relevant and useful we learn with you. You can visit our COVID-19 Insights Hub and Travel Guide for more information. If you have any questions, contact your Customer Success Manager or send us a message at and we'll be in touch!

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