Digital Advertising in Travel 2021

by Haixia Wang + Skift Team - Jun 2021

Skift Research Take

Travel companies slashed marketing budgets last year as travel in the majority of the world became an unknown future. Now that the recovery has begun, they need to double down on marketing investment to drive recovery and growth.

Report Overview

When the pandemic started and travel was immediately put on pause last year, marketing budget was among the first to undergo drastic reduction in travel companies around the world. We conducted a survey in late April last year to gauge the damage to the marketing team. Out of the 756 companies participating in the survey, 90% had already cut marketing spending. 

As the year went by, there were patches of recovery across different sectors and regions, determined by virus case numbers, and levels of government lockdowns and restrictions. Marketers were scrambling to find new data sources to capture the fleeting and fluid demand, sending the appropriate messages, all with much tighter budgets and a lack of a playbook to fall back on. 

The good news is 2021 is a year of recovery. The vaccine rollout has already made the U.S. travel rate in May higher than any time period during the pandemic, even surpassing the number of travelers in February 2020, before the pandemic started. As the rest of the world is now speeding up inoculating people,  the promise of ending the pandemic finally looks very real. This is a crucial time for travel chief marketing officers (CMOs) and their teams to reinstate themselves as the growth engine of their companies, to capture consumer behavior and needs and drive revenue as well as sustainable growth. 

With the unprecedented disruption behind us, what marketing leaders have in front of them are tough jobs of recalibrating still-limited resources and helping steer their companies in the right direction through their knowledge of consumers and actions to reach consumers. Where do marketing teams stand now in terms of budget allocation and marketing priorities? What has changed in the media mix and what should be the new balance and media objectives? To help address these questions, Skift Research conducted a survey of marketing professionals across major travel sectors and interviewed four senior executives, representing hospitality, metasearch and destinations. This report presents key findings from the survey and insights from these executives, and discusses focal areas in using media and marketing to drive recovery and long-term growth. 

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • Travel company marketing budget allocation and changes in focus on paid media, marketing technology, third-party services, and in-house staffing in 2019-2021
  • Travel company advertising budget allocation and changes in major media channels and formats in 2019-2021
  • Travel marketers’ digital maturity level as measured by adoption rates of advanced measurement and campaign management tools
  • Top media priorities and challenges for 2022
  • Skift’s recommendations on strategic and tactical focuses to optimize ad performance and drive growth

Executives Interviewed

  • Axel Hefer – CEO at Trivago
  • Nicolette Harper – Vice President of Global Marketing, Media at Marriott International
  • Staci Mellman – Chief Marketing Officer at Visit Florida
  • Sylvain Lierre – VP Marketing & Consumer PR EMEA at Radisson Hotel Group