Skift Take

The first quarter is a popular time for travelers to start planning spring break and summer travel. Based on TV spending estimates for the first quarter, it's clear that the top spending brands such as Southwest Airlines, and Royal Caribbean are bent on getting Americans enamored with the thought of summer vacations.

Spending for the top 10 travel brands on U.S. national TV advertising increased about 33 percent year-over-year for January to March, with the top 10 spenders in 2016 spending a total $238.7 million compared to the $178.6 million the top 10 spenders shelled out last year, according to estimated spending data from, for example, spent 85 percent more on national TV advertising in the U.S. so far this year than it did during the same period in 2015. Royal Caribbean also spent about 48 percent more than last year, as the cruise line’s president recently told Skift that the brand is “America’s cruise line,” and is trying to prove it.

But it was Southwest Airlines that outspent all other travel brands in U.S. national TV advertising during the first three months of 2016 ($51.4 million) when considering all online travel agencies, airlines, hotels, cruise lines and destination marketing organizations in the U.S.

Southwest was also the top spender during Q1 2015 and spent about 67 percent more on TV advertising during Q1 2016 than it did during the same period last year. Much of the airline’s advertising focuses on its low fares compared to its competitors. The runner-up, Germany-based, spent an estimated $28 million between January and March [see chart below].

Within the top 10 brands for ad spending, Southwest was the only airline. There were four online travel agencies —,, and (Trivago, and are all Expedia Inc. brands.)

Royal Caribbean was the only cruise line ($23.8 million) and Enterprise ($23.5 million), Universal Orlando Resort ($22.4 million), Disney Parks and Resorts ($21.3 million) and Texas Tourism ($14.8 million) were also in the top 10.

No hotel brands were in the top 10 but Hilton Worldwide, the top hotel advertiser according to, spent an estimated $10.7 million on TV ads during the first quarter.

Top 10 Travel Brand Advertisers on U.S. TV, Q1 2016 vs. Q1 2015 (January 1-March 31)

Rank Q1 2016 Brand National Airings Estimated TV Spend Rank Q1 2015 Brand National Airings Estimated TV Spend
1 Southwest Airlines 592 $51.4M 1 Southwest Airlines 342 $30.8M
2 11,908 $28.0M 2 Enterprise 1,558 $25.3M
3 10,274 $25.6M 3 4,729 $23.1M
4 Royal Caribbean 3,686 $23.8M 4 Universal Orlando Resort 6,954 $19.1M
5 Enterprise 3,942 $23.5M 5 Disney Parks and Resorts 8,062 $17.1M
6 Universal Orlando Resort 8,361 $22.4M 6 Royal Caribbean 1,267 $16.0M
7 Disney Parks and Resorts 8,020 $21.3M 7 10,897 $13.8M
8 Texas Tourism 3,598 $14.8M 8 5,859 $13.1M
9 2,564 $14.5M 9 Carnival 342 $10.2M
10 7,528 $13.4M 10 4,598 $10.1M

Source: iSpot.TV

Below are examples of ads that ran between January 1 and March 31. Many of the ads stressed the need for and affordability of taking vacations —a problem for Americans.

Trivago spent $2.1 million for 994 national airings on its “Jim’s Hotel Rabbit Breeders Convention” ad. It emphasizes Trivago’s advantage of checking hundreds of online travel agencies for the best hotel rate instead of traveler’s relying on just one site to get them the best deal.

Royal Caribbean’s TV ads have focused on the experiential and non-touristy aspects of cruising so far this year. For its “This is Not a Cruise, Come Seek” ad, for which it spent $7.5 million for 551 national airings, messaging indicates that “This is not the Caribbean, this is the Royal Caribbean” and shows viewers how Royal Caribbean cruisers “are not tourists.”

Universal Orlando Resort spent an estimated $10.6 million for 4,041 national airings for its “A Vacation That’s Truly Epic!” ad. The brand says that its resort is “a place for vacationers who seek more than just a little time off” where travelers can “vacation like they mean it.”


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Tags: advertising, disney, expedia,, priceline, royal caribbean, southwest airlines, trivago, tv, universal orlando

Photo credit: Southwest Airlines was the top travel brand advertiser during the first quarter of 2016. Pictured is a still from one of its U.S. TV commercials, "Nothing Up Our Sleeves." Southwest Airlines

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