Suitcase with mask, wipes, hand sanitizer with title overlay Tourism Media Planning in the Age of COVID-19

Tourism Media Planning in the Age of COVID-19

By: Emily Dold

These past months have reminded us that sometimes we need to drop our analytical pencils and start fresh. The sources that led our clients’ visitor performance this prior year may not be who, how and where they derive their greatest strength in the coming seasons.

For our tourism clients that are on a 12-month fiscal calendar that runs from July of the current year through June of the following year, this is normally the time we would be reviewing the results of the last fiscal FY20, drawing insights and making decisions on FY21 based on those insights. We would review historical performance by geographic areas, target audiences, media tactics and competitive activity and use these cumulative trends to tell a story about what was working and what was not working in our fiscal plan. Building upon the successes of our previous optimizations would normally guide our decisions into the coming year. 

Today is different. COVID-19 has significantly affected the world, our nation and traveler mindsets. Therefore, our planning process must now be different. Tending to recent data will sharpen our analytical pencils far more than a whole year of historical data would have done previously. Here’s what you should consider as it relates to targeting future travelers:  


Feeder Markets May Change

While public transportation may have once influenced your top feeder markets, travelers who preferred flying will now be driving. In addition, many who preferred to go international will now be traveling domestically. Is the consumer shift to road trips affecting your source markets? Site analytics tools such as Google Analytics are a helpful resource to watch where your organic search traffic is coming from on your website. Organic search traffic is more likely to signal where interest exists naturally compared to other traffic sources that paid media ads are more likely to control.


Seasons are Now Blurred

Several travelers who would have normally taken a trip in March-July and now considering venturing out this July-September. Despite the pent up itch to travel, refilling the vacation funds jar takes time as does refilling the trust jar. This means that, while summer and fall were once separate seasons usually with different visitor profiles, travel expectations for summer and fall are now blurred. Resist the urge to use your typical audience sets for the fall season. Observations of summer behavior may signal opportunities for fall.


Interests, Not Demographics, Will Dictate Future Travelers

The virus impacted all ages and incomes. Rather than target middle and higher-income adults in an effort to attract those with the ability to spend disposable income on travel, assume your demographic data is now irrelevant and outdated.  First, start with advertising to your most loyal audiences including your social followers, social engagers and site visitors. Second, in digital media, use online and offline targeting data that leads you to individuals with interests that align with your destination offerings and with behaviors signaling they are looking for travel inspiration. Interest-based data transcends age, income, employment and ethnicity and leads us to the most relevant prospects who are showing interest in our destination’s offerings. Lastly, if funds allow, open up to media that allows you to reach all adults in a tight proximity of neighboring drive market(s).


As you look to the months ahead, it is important that destination marketers plan for the unplanned. Accepting that your historical data may have just been flipped upside down and opening up your analytics to a new story will set your marketing efforts up for success.

Need help navigating the paid media space during and post-pandemic? Hoffman York is a full-service advertising and marketing communications agency with experience helping clients succeed. HY provides award-winning creative solutions, paid media, content creation and public relations, as well as research and analytics.  To learn more about how HY can help your brand succeed, contact us at [email protected]. Or, click here to see a gallery of our work. 


Emily Dold, Executive Media Director at Hoffman YorkAbout the Author:

Emily Dold is the Executive Media Director at Hoffman York, a full-service advertising agency offering award-winning creative, paid media, content and public relations, as well as research and analytics. Emily leads the media planning and investment team at Hoffman York where she develops communication plans that are both strategically insightful and efficient for B2B and B2C brands. Prior to joining the HY team, Emily spent several years in Chicago where she contributed to the success of leading brands such as Dell Computers, Harris Bank and Wrigley.


News Article

4 Things Every Destination Marketer Must Do to Plan Ahead

Whether it’s Coronavirus or an unforeseen climate event, we advise all our tourism clients to build flexibility into their planning and execution process to be able to change on a dime. It’s what the industry should have been doing all along. This global pandemic only validates this.

Read More
News Article

4 Ways Remote Working is Making Our Company Stronger

Here are four things we have learned during work from home that we will pack up (along with our dual monitors) and bring with us when we return to the office.

Read More
News Article

How to keep your business open digitally when stores are closed

As consumers look for ways to feel somewhat “normal” again through shopping routines, here are some ways to reduce friction and enhance the digital experiences for all shoppers during COVID-19.

Read More

Say hello.