During Covid-19 lockdowns, Americans were confined to their homes and were not exploring their own cities, let alone different national or international locations. Advertising schedules reflected this reality, with travel ads plummeting from February 20202 – April 2020. They fell from a high of 208,000 market-level ad airings in February to just 16,300 in April.

Travel ads spiked back in July 2020 as lockdown orders eased during the summer months, but as colder weather set in and Covid levels reached new heights, ad loads dipped again through the end of the year.

Travel Advertising Restart

But 2021 started with the approval and distribution of multiple vaccines, and as national cases dropped, travel advertising rebounded. It has been on the rise since the beginning of the year, and July has seen the highest level of travel advertising since early 2020 with 128,400 market-level ad occurrences.

Of all the travel-related ads, travel booking advertisers have dominated the space. AdImpact tracks seven subcategories of travel advertisers, air lines, cruise lines, hotels, tourism, and travel booking, and transportation. In July, travel booking ads accounted for 42% of all travel-related advertising with 53,800 total airings.

Within the travel booking subcategory, there is a fair amount of movement among the top advertisers. Expedia dominated the early summer months, but its number of market-level occurrences dipped in July. AirBnB was one of the top advertisers in March, but has since fallen below other advertisers. Two advertisers on the rise during July are Hotels.com and Trivago, both hitting 14,000 ad occurrences with creatives taking the top five slots of all travel-booking advertisers.

Travel Advertising Volatility

Travel booking messaging has seemed to focus on options and flexibility. The top ads from Hotels.com promotes its free cancellation policy. Chad Michael Murray makes a cameo in this spot: Hotels.com was also the official partner of the NBA, which likely accounts for some of the advertising bump over the course of the last month while the NBA Finals were airing.

Trivago’s ads focus on saving through the platform, something important to all travelers, but perhaps now more than ever as consumers look for new destinations to explore post-Covid. Trivago is also making a big bet on Spanish networks with the majority of their occurrences since May coming from Spanish channels.

We know that when we mention travel after Covid, what probably comes to mind are cruises. They were basically giant Covid breeding grounds at the start of the pandemic and have been in the news a lot since. With their fates in limbo for a long time, cruises have remained all but absent from the airwaves since March of 2020. However, in recent weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in the number of occurrences from cruise lines from 252 in early June to 2,200 the week of July 11th. This rise coincides with the first cruise ship since March of 2020 leaving port from Florida on June 26th of this year. As there will likely be capacity limits and some legal battles to work through, we don’t expect that cruise advertising will reach its pre-covid levels for quite a while, but we are excited to report that there is some activity after a year and a half of basically nothing.