4 minute read

Travel & Hospitality + COVID-19: How Top Brands Are Staying Top of Mind

It could be argued that no industry has been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as the travel and hospitality industry. With travel strongly discouraged and in many cases even banned, airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and tourism have had to adjust their operations, staff, and even their marketing and messaging strategy.

Overall, messaging frequency sent from travel and tourism has declined over the past few months. From an average of 10 emails a month in January down to only around two emails per month from each brand, the industry has halted planned promotional activities. Marketers have had to completely pivot their strategies and get creative in their messaging and related content to remain sensitive to what consumers are experiencing as they balance staying and working from home while also taking care of their children. While email volume from travel and hospitality may be down overall, the quality of these few emails may be some of the best we've seen from this industry. We are encouraged to see that many brands are using this as an opportunity to spread positivity and inspiration to their customers.

Source: MailCharts

Here's a sampling of messaging strategies that some of the top brands in travel and hospitality are using to stay top of mind for travelers during a difficult time:

Coronavirus related messaging

I thought we’d start with the obvious one: it’s no surprise that most brands are including messages related to coronavirus. The majority of COVID-19 related messages are around ways brands are complying to help travelers feel safe in the case they are required to hop on a plane or stay in a hotel. These precautions include extra sanitation measures, removing middle seat options on planes for extra space between passengers, travel cancelations, extending reservations, and more. Others, such as Omni Hotels’ #OmniAtHome campaign, are sharing ways they are helping support relief efforts for COVID-19, ranging from the money they’ve raised to support research to ways they are shipping extra supplies to support medical staff.

  • Delta Subject Line = Delta blocking middle seats, pausing automatic advance upgrades and more to enable social distancing
  • Omni Hotels Subject Line = Inside: New ideas for caring for kids and yourself

Boosting work from home life

A few brands are working to brighten travelers’ new work-from-home life. Jetsetter provided a long list of items to buy for your home while being quarantined to make staying home easier and brighter. Alaska Airlines provided Zoom backgrounds from destinations the airline takes you to.

  • Jetsetter Subject Line = April Letter from the Editor
  • Alaska Airlines Subject Line = Elite status updates & frequently asked questions related to COVID-19

Omni Hotels did the same with images from their resorts. One of our team members, Brooke Eversole, manages the client account for Omni Hotels and sported one of their Zoom backgrounds in a recent team meeting, appearing as though she was on location at a spa resort. We were all wishing we could be there, too!

Bringing vacations and activities to the home

Just about everyone could use a vacation right about now. From being stuck inside to managing stir-crazy kids while trying to maintain working from home, we all deserve a spa or beach weekend. Some brands are bringing the vibes of vacation right to your doorstep. Celebrity Cruises brought featured content from each division of their crew—their celebrity chefs brought tutorials, Sea Crew Camp brought fun activities to keep children occupied, and their spa team provided at-home meditation, spa treatments, and yoga. Hyatt Hotels partnered with Headspace to provide complimentary meditation and sleep exercises so customers can feel as though they are resting their head on a Hyatt pillow in one of their suites.

  • Celebrity Cruises Subject line = Your Captain’s Club Newsletter is Here
  • Hyatt Hotels Subject line = Take Time to Take Care of Yourself

2021 vacation planning

Speaking of which, who isn’t dreaming of their next vacation? It isn’t until something is out of your grasp that you suddenly realize it’s all you want. Some brands are playing to these urges by sending visual inspiration to start planning your 2021 vacation or encouraging customers to book in advance and save.

  • Carnival Cruises Subject Line = Savings exclusively for Walter
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Subject Line = Travel Through History On Your 2021 Europe Cruise With Norwegian.

Promotions and frequent traveler points

I appreciate how some brands are sending messages about extending statuses and points so that frequent travelers aren’t penalized for global travel restrictions. Brands are also getting creative in sharing new ways to earn points without having to leave your home. On the other hand, there are a few brands sending tone-deaf emails highlighting promotions and encouraging travel in the near term without any mention of the virus. I chose not to highlight those messages out of respect for those brands—just be sure you’re reviewing your current promos and messaging so you don’t end up being one of them.

  • Delta Subject Line = Delta extends Medallion Status, Club Memberships and more to support SkyMiles Members’ future travel
  • Hilton Subject Line = Richard, earn 130K Points toward free nights!

Overall, the creativity that has come from the travel and hospitality industry has been an excellent example of pivoting during troubled times to encourage, inspire, and engage their customers. That way, when the time is right, not only will their brand be top of mind for booking, but just maybe they’ve inspired their customers enough to have already picked out their next destination. As for me? My next destination will be a babymoon somewhere along the Northeast coast!