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Helping the Travel Industry Prepare to Soar Again

COVID-19 hit the American travel industry hard. Since the start of the pandemic, one question has been on everyone’s mind: Will Americans ever return to their old travel habits?

For the U.S. Travel Association, the trade organization dedicated to promoting the travel industry, that was a question of existential importance. With airlines, cruise lines and hotels all suffering steep declines, the USTA needed to start laying the groundwork for recovery, so their members could respond effectively as soon as travel began to bounce back.

First, they needed to understand how Americans were feeling about travel during the pandemic. What types of travelers were willing to travel in the near future, and what types were still reticent? Based on that data, they then sought to identify a messaging and marketing strategy that would entice Americans to start booking travel again, while striking an appropriate balance between sensitivity and persuasive optimism.

The USTA turned to 360 Market Reach to evaluate current consumer attitudes toward travel during the pandemic, and then test four different promotional campaign concepts designed to encourage renewed travel bookings. The goal was to find a campaign theme that resonated strongly with all travelers—those who were already too eager to travel again, as well as those who remained cautious. The winning campaign would form the foundation of a complete marketing kit that the USTA would make available to its members, so they could move forward with recovery at the earliest opportunity.

To achieve a nationally representative blend of both infrequent and frequent travelers, we tapped into our 360 Travel Community along with a broader base of more casual travelers. We assessed their current attitudes about travel, identifying those who were ready and willing to travel, and those who were reticent and waiting. We evaluated four different ad campaign concepts that the USTA provided, using copy and imagery created by their ad agency. We worked closely with both the USTA and their agency.

We assessed each segment’s perceptions of the different campaign concepts, looking for one that hit the sweet spot across multiple segments, and we ranked each according to a variety of metrics, including whether it inspired plans for travel in the future. Through our research, a clear winner emerged.

Applying the results of our research, the USTA developed a suite of creative assets that members can use to build an off-the-shelf marketing campaign, featuring a theme that has already been proven to connect with a wide cross-section of their target market. So, as soon as the industry finally gets clearance to take off, they’ll be fueled up and ready to fly again.

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