COVID-19: Where are hospitality brands heading with digital marketing?
With over 2.9 million COVID-19 cases globally as of 27 April and most countries now in some stage of lockdown, the pandemic is undoubtedly having a significant impact across all industries around the world – particularly the travel and hospitality sector.
Thanks to our access to traveller audiences and visibility of both UK and international travel demand, we’re able to keep an eye on the current trends that are shaping travel and hospitality brands’ strategies.
For most hotels, adapting during COVID-19 has meant closing their doors to guests and cutting marketing spend. As investment in marketing is decreased, it’s vital for brands to:
- remain visible during the lockdown; and
- increase marketing spend at the right time to ensure bounce-back.
To achieve this, the hospitality sector is focusing on microplanning - observing small indicators that will signal the moments the industry moves towards recovery.
When will consumer interest return?
Looking at the data, domestic travel is expected to rebound first, followed by regional and then international travel. Flight searches and bookings to key European destinations including Italy, Spain and the UK begin to increase in November 2020.
European flight bookings to key European destinations1
Looking at travel behaviour in countries that are ahead of the UK in terms of COVID-19 progress shows that domestic travel will recover sooner than overseas travel. While travel searches to Italy are very low at the moment, we are starting to see signs of inbound travel intent returning as early as July 2020. A similar pattern can therefore be expected for the UK, which would see domestic travel interest begin to bounce between late July and early August.
Close-to-home leisure and business travel
Comparing travel patterns in China between the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the COVID-19 outbreak indicates domestic travel confidence will resume much earlier than international travel intent for both leisure and business travel.
For the SARS epidemic, travel began to recover three to four months after the start of the crisis - which, applied to the current situation, would equate to June and July for 2020.
Domestic travel will be strongest, in particular travel by car, rail, as well as shorter flights, will see the first indication of renewed demand. Rural destinations will be the most popular as travellers will associate “rural and outdoors” with good health, and “crowds and public spaces” with increased risk.
Check back in with us in a few of days, when we’ll share with you our tips for ensuring a strong brand bounce back through maintaining morale and encouraging enriched sales.
 Sojern: COVID-19 Insights on travel impact, Europe #6. Available online at: https://www.sojern.com/blog/covid-19-insights-on-travel-impact-europe-6/ Accessed on: April 2020
 Statista: When the coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency will be over, where would you like to travel? Available online at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1108675/travel-intentions-after-coronavirus-outbreak-italy/ Accessed on: April 2020
 “CDC SARS Response Timeline” reviewed 03 April 2020 at the CDC.gov website