Survey: Destination groups plan advertising return

MMGY Travel Intelligence, in partnership with the Destinations International Foundation, has released the findings from the third wave of a series of biweekly tracking surveys of North American destination professionals. The surveys assess how this sector has been affected by COVID-19 and what shifts organizations are making during a period of very fluid change. The latest findings reveal that while almost the entire sector (95 percent) has moved to reduce or postpone paid promotional advertising, and 80 percent have shifted sales, marketing or messaging, half of destination organizations expect to return to several forms of paid promotional advertising within the next 60 days.

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“COVID-19 has had a substantial financial impact on the tourism industry, and destination organizations have responded quickly by deferring marketing funds in a responsible manner,” said Craig Compagnone, chief operating officer, MMGY Global. “However, search data is telling us that there is still a strong desire to travel, and we believe this pent-up demand will result in a high volume of shorter booking window trips when bans are lifted and consumers believe it is safe to get out and explore again.”

More than half of respondents indicated that they expect to conduct paid promotional email campaigns, paid search and paid social media campaigns in the next 60 days, while half said they expect paid advertising to also resume in that timeframe. The data also showed that destination organizations have continued to use owned social media channels and informational email campaigns consistently throughout the pandemic.

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Additional results highlighting expectations for future marketing efforts revealed that industry sponsorships and brand activations may be impacted the most, at least in the next two months, as about 20 percent of responding organizations anticipate investing in this area in the next 60 days, compared to more than 80 percent who were investing in these channels pre-coronavirus.

“This survey validates some of what we have seen anecdotally on the ground–that we need to see what the status of the pandemic is over April and early May and, if we have gotten behind the worst of it, start touching base with key segments of the visitor base in June,” said Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer with Destinations International and executive director of the Destinations International Foundation. “The cautious approach being reflected in the data is a smart approach as more and more markets join in during July and August.”

This survey was conducted among employees of destination organizations representing U.S. cities, regions and states. Wave II of the survey was conducted March 16-22, 2020, and Wave III was conducted March 30 – April 6, 2020.