The hospitality and travel industries have taken perhaps the largest hits of any one major industry during the pandemic. We’ve written about this before and noted some trends as the travel industry has begun to bounce back from its self-imposed and mandated lockdown. Since then, over 50% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated and the CDC has said it’s safe for vaccinated individuals to be unmasked indoors. Because of this, life is increasingly returning to normal and we decided that it’s time to revisit this topic as travel advertising is booming.
Thus far this year, we’ve seen 520,00 airings from travel advertisers including travel booking, tourism, airline, hotel, state, city, and cruise advertisers. The travel subcategory with the highest number of airings is far and away travel bookings. As was reported in Skift, among booking sites, the highest advertisers have been Expedia (61,637 airings), Airbnb (34,328 airings), and Hotels.com (29,328 airings). Since we wrote about them in March, Airbnb and Vrbo have really stepped off the gas Vrbo advertising having peaked in January and Airbnb in February. As summer approaches, it looks as if both advertisers are slowly increasing the amount of advertising, but not nearly to the levels we saw in January and February. Expedia and Hotels.com have taken the opposite approach, starting the year slow and only recently ramping up advertising, peaking in late April/early May.
The other travel categories we track have mostly followed the same trend as Expedia and Hotels.com with advertising ramping up as Covid numbers drop and we get closer to the summer travel season. The exceptions to that are cruise lines and airlines. Cruises have just not been advertising at very high levels, the week of January 10th was the week with the highest level of cruise line ad airings with just over 1,000 nationwide. This probably has to do with the continued uncertainty cruise lines face as national and local authorities work out Covid restrictions and requirements. Airline advertising has remained very stable throughout the year – with one exception. Southwest has had two major advertising pushes from end of January to end of February and then again from mid-April to mid-May. Whereas the entire airline industry averages about 2,000 airings a week, during their pushes, Southwest has averaged more than 4,000 airings a week.
The top five markets for travel ad airings have been New York, DC, San Francisco, Houston, and Chicago. New York has seen more airings as the next four DMAs combined, having seen over 32,000 airings from travel advertisers since the beginning of the year. This has been driven in large part by LowCostAirlines and Sandals. We all know about Sandals from The Office, but LowCostAirlines airs low budget ads telling people to call for cheap airline tickets. Both of these advertisers have aired ads in the New York DMA over 5,000 times since the start of the year.
As far as creatives, advertisers are mostly messaging on safety, flexibility, and, (most importantly) how we haven’t been able to travel for a year. The most aired ad this year is this one from Hotels.com (25,357 airings), followed by this one from Expedia (15,655 airings), and this one from Southwest (15,277 airings). Sandals has aired the most individual creatives this year at 36. The next advertiser, In Utah, has aired 17. We’ll continue to track how these trends continue throughout the year, especially cruise lines who have been the hardest hit by the pandemic of any of these categories.