By Faith Ricciardi
Sales Development Associate
It is no secret that the current COVID-19 pandemic has caused a sharp downturn in the travel industry throughout the United States. With the tight social distancing measures in place, people have been urged to stay at home and limit travel. In the midst of this downfall, travel marketing now has to pivot to maintaining relationships with vendors and customers in order to welcome them back once the CDC travel restrictions are lifted. Companies are implementing digital strategies to demonstrate how they’re providing for both employees and customers during this time.
Finding the Right Balance
It makes sense for travel brands to leverage corporate social responsibility (CSR) that creates goodwill among its vendors, employees, partners, and customers. CSR allows for businesses to deepen engagement with their consumer base by communicating empathy, understanding and support, both moral and financial, for those who need it most. Companies with a proactive CSR approach can strengthen their relationship with both employees and customers. Utilizing this strategy creates a strong brand identity and communicates the core values of your company.
The travel industry has been one of the hardest hit industries in this pandemic. With strict travel limits in place, airlines and hotels are experiencing little to no customers. This has resulted in thousands of people left without work and a source of income. Many travel brands are taking the necessary measures to help their employees in need.
Leading By Example
Hyatt Hotels has created a fund for their employees. C-suite executives are forgoing 100 percent of their salaries, and the leadership team is taking a 50 percent pay cut through the end of May. In similar regards, MGM Resorts created a $1 million emergency relief fund for full-time, on-call, laid-off, or furloughed employees. Hilton Hotels has also found a way to help their employees who are left without a job by partnering with CVS and Amazon to expedite access to about 350,000 short-term jobs.
These two world renowned hotels are showcasing that the comfort, safety, and health of employees is their top priority during this time. The travel industry is proving itself to be a compassionate and helpful leader during COVID-19.
The Travel Brand, The Business, and The Digital Marketing Strategy
To maintain brand reputation, travel marketing must also be strategic in communication with consumers. Brands that give back during times of crisis always resonate well within the public eye. Contributions of any kind, including money, goods, materials, and volunteer time, helps to elevate a brand's corporate social responsibility.
It’s comforting to know that travel marketing is being used for the greater good of society, as many brands are giving back during this time. Hilton has partnered with American Express to donate 1 million hotel rooms to medical professionals who are on the frontline fighting COVID-19. Hotel rooms are at no cost and are available for medical staff who need a place to sleep, rest, or self-isolate. As a result of altering its onboard offerings, Delta Airlines was left with a great amount of food and meals. The airline is donating more than 200,000 pounds of food to hospitals and food banks. Travel companies are giving their support to society as we see the widespread effects of COVID-19.
On a local level, hotels in Las Vegas including Caesars, MGM, and Wynn have donated more than 400,000 pounds of food to local charities. Companies that give back to their local communities further create a favorable brand identity and presence within their community.
Leveraging Online Efforts
Travel brands are staying engaged with their consumers by promoting online content to keep people occupied and entertained while they’re practicing social distancing. With many canceled vacations and disappointed travelers, companies like TripAdvisor and Airbnb are creating virtual experiencers for consumers. Viator, TripAdvisor’s tour company, recently launched their #RoamFromHome campaign, which includes over 100 virtual experiences, including cooking classes and sight-seeing tours.
Airbnb released a similar offering of online experiences. A piece of marketing material sent out reads, “thanks to the dedication and passion of hosts, you can keep traveling even when you’re staying home.” Understanding the needs of travelers during this time is key in leveraging travel marketing strategies.
What The Future Holds For Digital Marketing Beyond Coronavirus
It is clear that marketing today extends beyond promoting a product or service, as consumers now rely on brands to be a good corporate citizen. As travel limitations have been put in place, brands have had to pivot their marketing strategies to show their dedication and support to their employees, vendors, and customers.
Once the CDC travel restrictions have been lifted, the companies that have put forth efforts to help people will benefit from a positive brand identity and a strong presence in the marketplace.