Tourism Marketing During a Dramatic Shift in Data, Privacy and Tracking

December 3, 2021

While the entire travel industry has been consumed with a worldwide pandemic that has affected every corner of tourism, dramatic shifts in how digital marketing is performed — changes that will last far longer than the pandemic currently consuming our attention — have taken hold.

COVID-19 adaptation and recovery is rightfully top of mind, but travel properties and destinations that don’t pay close attention today to these sweeping digital changes will put themselves at risk of having to play catch up while rivals move ahead.

Probably the biggest single challenge faced by travel-related advertisers these days comes from rising concerns about Internet privacy and data collection. Across the globe, nations and states such as California are putting in place laws that protect consumers’ privacy and limit advertisers’ ability to gather information about them. Meanwhile, major browsers — Safari, Firebox and now Google Chrome — are moving to bar the third-party cookies that track consumer behavior.

I could dive really deep into the weeds here — trust me, you really don’t want to go there — but the upshot is that travel marketers increasingly will need to collect their own information about potential visitors. That means that effective advertising will need to address individualized people, rather than nameless personas, and it will need to be as personalized as possible.

That’s going to put more importance on loyalty programs in which travelers voluntarily share information about themselves. 

The rising walls of privacy protection also are going to bring renewed attention to the creation of useful Web content — maybe on the travel property’s own site, maybe through collaboration with bloggers — to reach consumers in the new environment.

Destination marketing organizations appear to be particularly well positioned in this new environment.

Cooperative marketing efforts found renewed life through the pandemic as travel-related companies looked to leverage their very tight advertising budgets. In the process, they learned that destination-wide marketing generates a lot of terrific data that helps set the stage for short-term recovery and long-term growth. We’re seeing, too, that a number of destination marketing organizations are undertaking the highly creative approach to content creation that’s going to be so important in the new Web-privacy environment.

Among the creative approaches gaining traction is the use of connected TV as a cornerstone advertising medium. With the pandemic, consumers turned to their Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire as their primary entertainment option. Advertisers, of course, follow the crowds. Now marketers are getting very smart about using the data generated by connected TV to shape personalized video advertising. Essentially, they’re getting the reach and emotional power of broadcast TV without sacrificing their ability to deliver messages to carefully targeted segments of the audience.

One final, non-digital thought about the effect of the COVID-19 era on travel advertising: At the same time that we’ve been battling the pandemic, our world also has been shaped by concern over major issues including racial and gender equity as well as climate change and sustainability. Consumers increasingly expect brands — including travel brands — to demonstrate their ethical commitment to sustainability and social justice. 

Authentic, non-cringeworthy messaging on these subjects will require a deft touch. They are too important to ignore, and nobody wants to do them badly.

Big challenges face travel marketers as the industry feels its way out of the dark of the pandemic era. Knowledgeable counsel, fresh approaches to creative content and expert guidance about advertising channels never have been more important.

We’re here to help. Give us a call or drop us a line. We’re excited to travel into this new world with you.