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Since no one else has gone there yet, let me go there: I don’t get this “Let’s Go There” campaign that U.S. travel companies & destinations have put their weight behind, and I share the skepticism inherent in our Skift story as well.

Check the hashtag #letsplan on the social platforms, lots of CEOs & travel orgs sharing the video and talking points, all with the same basic message: sorta, kinda start planning travel now, coz you know you’re missing it.

  1. The intent is to get Americans to start planning their next trip (presumably international/big U.S. trips, like normal times prior to Covid), for whenever travel can happen. My opinion: this is too much of a cognitive burden/ask of people already worried & uncertain when this phase ends, for a virus that may never go away from amidst us (listen to pandemic authority Laurie Garrett anytime she speaks on this, or better still, hear her speak in about 10 days from now, at Skift Global Forum opening event on Sep 21st!).
  2. So if this campaign wants people to book now when they don’t know when they can really travel like normal times, should they book for next summer? If they do, and substantial travel still isn’t possible, then what? Yes, change fees for many travel companies are going away but seems irresponsible to push people into booking just to sustain travel industry’s cash flow now, which is the unsaid intent of this campaign.
  3. We don’t need a vague, sepia-tinted-baritone-overloaded reminder to know we are missing travel/normality, we have that on our minds every day, every minute we are in various forms of lockdown, at least those who can afford to dream about travel right now.
  4. The biggest point: Why focus on the vague, larger travel planning/booking now, when you CAN actually encourage and educate on how to safely do local/domestic travel NOW, the get-in-your-car and drive a couple of hours type, that will help out small businesses a lot more than these large travel orgs behind this campaign? See the New York state “I Love NY” campaign (the photo above), which has been going for decades now and would be very effective now and worth putting larger weight behind than just the state tourism board.
  5. People *are* traveling, they are staying in Airbnbs & their ilk, there is a reason why there is a boom in outdoors, there is a reason why VFR travel (visiting friends and relatives) is holding up well etc. It seems more reasonable & actionable to focus on traveling now, the responsible, safe, local variety, much to the betterment of the local ecosystem, much of which has historically been ignored by the companies and orgs behind this campaign.

Sign Up to Watch Skift Founder Rafat Ali Interview Award-Winning Author and Pandemic Authority Laurie Garrett Online for Skift Global Forum – September 21-23

Here is the reality, as our global tourism reporter Rosie Spinks has been saying — and reporting — for months now: There is no good way to market travel right now, the type of cross border travel that sustains this giant industry. The travel industry’s role in how the virus spread and the cause of the pandemic worldwide hasn’t been fully accounted for and will be studied by researchers for decades to come.

I get that the travel industry needs to be seen to be doing something but they know it is ethically fraught and liable to much criticism. So they are trying to do this wishy washy thing where they can claim “But we didn’t say you should go right now! not during a raging pandemic! We said just plan a trip in general.”

Getting people to do smaller and more locally impactful travel now will also instill more confidence to travel more when it is safe, and keep reminding them of booking those bigger trips when the time is actually right, I would add.

I don’t get it. I have a feeling the intended audience won’t either.

Photo Credit: Campaigns to promote local travel, like this one on the New York City subways, show a more responsible way to market possible travel. Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Flickr