Since the very earliest weeks of the pandemic, tourism marketing has been in an almost impossible position.
The industry’s survival depends on some form of a recovery — in other words, people traveling. However, encouraging travelers to behave as normal during a pandemic is irresponsible and could lead to a backlash if the right amount of caution and safety measures are not made clear.
A new campaign launched Tuesday by the U.S. Travel Association in coalition with 75 travel-related businesses and trade organizations perfectly captures that tension. The “Let’s Go There” campaign will continue into 2021, and encourages Americans to start planning their next trip. It will air across national broadcast networks, as well as on radio, streaming platforms, and online digital ads.
It came as a result of the coalition partners grappling with a key question: “What is the right message to potential travelers while the nation navigates the realities of a pandemic? The answer: Take advantage of the demonstrated personal benefits of travel planning, even by just thinking about a future trip—and whenever travelers are ready to actually take it, the industry will be ready to safely welcome them back.”
The campaign is alluding to research which shows that there are mental health benefits to planning a future trip. A poll conducted by happiness researcher Michelle Gielan found that 97 percent of respondents say that having a trip planned makes them happier, while 71 percent reported feeling higher energy if they had an upcoming trip planned in the next six months.
“There is pleasure in planning travel, and when the moment is right, the industry is committed to being well-prepared for the safe return of travelers,” said U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow. “Our industry recognizes the need to pull together in this moment—as colleagues, not competitors—in a united message of welcome, preparedness, and desire to serve travelers’ needs.”
Dow’s sentiment of “when the moment is right” is slightly confusing because the U.S. Travel Association has been encouraging Americans to travel within public health guidelines for many weeks now. And indeed it’s important to note what the Let’s Go campaign is not saying. It’s not saying people should hold off and travel for now and wait to travel until it’s safe. Instead, it’s emphasizing the mental health benefits of booking a trip in general — perhaps as a bid to try and reach people who have yet to venture out of their immediate community in 2020.
Coalition members include American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Expedia, Hyatt, Disney Parks, Marriott, Sabre, many destination marketing organizations, as well as many others.
Overall, the messaging seems carefully calibrated to meet the trickiness of the moment. As evidenced by plenty of re-openings over the summer, the travel industry has wanted travelers to resume taking trips all summer long. But if they’re not ready to do that, they want people to book a trip for when they decide they are.