Quantcast Fireside Chat Series Travel Industry Discussing Travel Trends and Advertising Strategies
After two years of enduring the global pandemic, people value travel and personal time more than ever. As restrictions around the world start letting up, travel is about to experience a year unlike any before as people plan purpose-driven trips, prioritize vacation time, and up their investment in unique experiences.
We’ll discuss what trends we can expect to stay, how ongoing current events are impacting the travel industry, and how their advertising has been adapting to the new normal.
Attendees are starting to trickle in pretty good here. So I think we might as well go ahead and get started. So for all of you guys who are on the live chat here, welcome to the Quantcast Fireside Chat Series, Travel Industry: we’re going to be discussing the travel trends and advertising strategy, particularly how they’ve been affected over the last couple years, the current state of affairs, and the future state moving forward. A couple of housekeeping items today: this session is going to be recorded today and sent out afterwards; we are going to save 15 minutes if there is time for a Q&A here at the end. So as questions arise, as they come up, please feel free to use that Q&A feature within Zoom to ask them; we’ll try to get those questions addressed at the end. So for today’s agenda, we’re going to introduce myself as well as our panelists here, dive into a number of questions related to the travel industry, the pandemic advertising strategies, and then again, leave that Q&A for the end. So I did want to give a brief introduction of Quantcast and myself. First, Quantcast, we are a programmatic advertising company as well as an audience measurement, audience insights, and audience planning software company. So we help our clients–both publishers and marketers–best understand their audience and how to reach them at scale on the open internet across a variety of media formats. I myself have been working for the company for two and a half years now, in the sales department. I’ve had the pleasure to work with a number of travel clients, including Alex; we’ve known each other for about two out of those two and a half years. And so, without further ado, I did want to pass the baton and allow these participants to introduce themselves. So Alex, why don’t you kick us off?
Absolutely. Thanks, Zach, for the handoff. My name is Alex Velasquez. I’m the National Director of Marketing at Westgate Resorts, been with them for a little over four and a half years. Very proud to be with this group. I’ve spent about 17, 18 years in the hotel marketing side of the industry supporting the direct channel for hotels, which in hotel speak means your website, right? And you know, Westgate’s a 40-year-old brand, fantastic brand to be aligned with, mainly the domestic US with 24 locations, including seven of those mega resorts located just on Walt Disney World Resort areas. We tend to specialize in sunny Orlando, so really stoked to be excited to talk about what all the possibilities are and brands alike.
Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Jordy Luft. I’m the Associate Media Director at PETER MAYER in New Orleans, Louisiana. We are a full-service advertising agency that has clients in a number of categories…
And Justin, from AAA.
Good morning, everybody. My name is Justin Hutchinson. I’m a digital marketing program manager for AAA; we’re located here in Southern California, in Costa Mesa. And for the past five years, I’ve been working with AAA leading innovative digital marketing initiatives for their automotive discounts and rewards and travel product lines. So yes, if you’re wondering, AAA does offer travel products; we’re not just a roadside and insurance company.
Very good. And I know, there was sort of a bit of a technical glitch there. Jordy, if you want to go ahead and finish what you were saying as well.
Yeah, here’s take two: PETER MAYER is a full service advertising agency located in New Orleans. We represent a number of different clients across the different categories that we tend to specialize in the travel category, destination and travel accounts. I’m happy to be here, and I’m looking forward to a very productive conversation today.
Great, and we’re lucky to have you. All you guys have a wealth of knowledge in the travel space, so I know you guys are going to be able to take these softballs I’m going to give you guys and really hit them out of the park. And so, without further ado, we would love to open up the floor to some discussions around advertising in the travel space. And we can kick it off with Justin from AAA. With COVID cases dropping, hopefully fingers crossed, what can we expect from the travel industry this year and moving forward?
Yeah, so I mean, navigating the pandemic was tough for AAA, and I think just a lot of uncertainty across the board in the industry, with so many travel restrictions and unpredictable surges and COVID cases. I mean, in the beginning for us, and I’m sure for many marketers in the industry, it was hard to say when and how much we would actually be investing in our marketing campaigns, because there was so much uncertainty and the demand was fluctuating. We had to work smarter; we had to rely on data to get in front of our members who were willing to travel. And now that things are more predictable and with fewer travel restrictions, we’re seeing that our members are looking forward to traveling and maybe actually willing to spend more on their trip, which is a good thing. So it’s starting to feel normal again because our partners are reaching out to us and wanting to get more exposure to members to capture the increase in demand. I think it’s just all things great for the industry. So for people joining us today, I don’t know about you; I don’t know about where you live, but here in the greater Los Angeles area, the highways are like parking lots again, the airport is a zoo, all things indicating that people are willing to travel again. So it appears that the world is slowly returning to some normalcy and the industry is rebounding. Now if we can only get some affordable gas and a cheap Happy Meal on the menu, that’d be great.
That’s a great take. And do you have anything to add to that, Jordy?
You know, I would agree with everything Justin says. We are seeing a tremendous pent-up demand for travel. Like he said, a lot of our travel accounts are a constriction of people willing to travel, willing to travel far over the past several years. But what we do with the agency is we monitor research; we have a very strong brand strategy department as well as a research department that compiles a lot of research to show travel intent, how people travel, willingness. We use this a lot to help craft our strategies, when we were experiencing the early stages of the pandemic to identify who would be the most likely people to travel and willing to travel. But now that we’re just coming out of it and the restrictions are lifting, we’re seeing a lot of positive energy toward travel. The latest stats that we saw, and we’ve been seeing here and sharing with our clients, is that right now almost 90% of people have current trip plans, and 72% of Americans are reporting that they are dreaming about or planning a trip in the past week. So we feel that the summer especially, which is a natural time for travel anyway, with schools closed and families willing to travel in groups and that, we see a lot of demand and pent-up demand, and people are going to be getting out there, hitting the roads, maybe using AAA products to plan those trips to hit the roads and get out there and see America, see the country again.
Awesome. And Alex, what have you seen on the hotel side?
Yeah, listen, on the hotel side, I can’t do anything but agree with Justin and Jordy. I would say that, from the campaigning and marketing side, we have our classic six barriers to travel that you always have to overcome when you’re campaigning, right? And the number one barrier without getting to all six of them is time. It’s always time, you know, “I gotta get the time off; I gotta find the right time.” What’s interesting about the pandemic, to Jordy’s point, is what we saw was that all of a sudden people decided in their head, “I’m going to make time. I’m going to make time for this because time is precious. And I’m not going to put off my travel dreams anymore.” So while we see some volatility happening, and the prices of travel definitely are going up–we’re seeing some airline costs; we’re definitely seeing gas costs and things like that be very volatile from state to state–what we’re also seeing is that the families–and Westgate, one of our big why’s is that first resort for family fun, that first resort for a lot of in-staters to come and enjoy their time at our mega resorts that are very, very close to all the local attractions in Orlando or Branson or Gatlinburg–what we see is those families are no longer putting off those travel dreams. They’re saying, “Hey, we put this off long enough; let’s do what we’ve always dreamed of doing. Let’s not put it off, because life is too short.” The pandemic taught people that you got to savor those connections, those personal moments with your family. And you know, if it’s something that you really, really want to do, you’re gonna go ahead and commit to it and do it, whether you’re paying for it in cash or credit or whatever. So I think that’s the biggest takeaway of the pandemic. And the rest of it, like Justin said, is just know your market. Is it going to be local? Is it going to be a statewide or an in-state; is it going to be kind of a hybrid international thing, if you’re in a very specialized market, but that’s, I think, the big takeaway here.
I couldn’t agree more. And I mean, I’m certainly itching to travel myself for the last couple of years and have definitely been getting to scratch that itch just in the last couple months. So it’s glad to see that we are returning to some sense of normalcy in that travel space. And so, Jordy, question for you, as being on the agency side, you sort of have visibility into multiple clients in the travel space, maybe some focus on CBP. What do you guys, or what have you seen with those clients, or what are you as an agency really focusing on promoting, based on those changes in the travel behavior?
So as I said earlier, we really try to keep a pulse on what’s going on in consumers’ mindsets: what’s motivating them to travel? Where are they coming from? Why are they traveling? How has COVID or rising gas prices maybe impacted their decisions? So through our strategy department, through our research department, we’re constantly monitoring what is going on there: how is that impacting what we’re doing? Well, our messaging continues to be a messaging that showcases a diversity of attractions and attributes that each of our destination clients has to offer. We know that certain people still are feeling more comfortable, even though the restrictions are lifting, being in outdoor activities. So one of the clients that we represent–we have two clients that are beach destinations that have beaches and offerings or have a lot of outdoor activities that people can go and participate in–and so we continue to tout that to those people who don’t feel as comfortable being indoors yet, even though we’re seeing more and more people be comfortable there. We are also, to Alex’s point, recently, we continue to adjust our media plan to see where people are coming from. Certainly, after the pandemic, we were much more drive-market-focused, focusing on staycation or people who would want to maybe get out and experience something outdoors, but get back to their own bed that night. Now, we’re slowly expanding out our geographies for people who are more willing to get on a flight, now that flights, you don’t have to wear the mask on the flight anymore, and travel a little bit more than that. So it’s a combination of the markets that we’re targeting, the type of people now that are willing to travel before that was certain profiles of people, depending on the different destinations that we handle, that were willing to travel. Now, the profile is much bigger, so we can market to whole, a lot of different marketing segments and target audience segments.
So it’s a lot to keep in mind. And you certainly have your hands full, working on the agency side. But it’s great that you have so many perspectives and get to see so many views from so many different clients. But sounds like they are all facing sort of similar challenges and opportunities as well. And Alex or Justin, did you have anything to add about what specifically you’re focusing on promoting, based on the changes we’ve seen in the travel space last year or so?
So yeah, I can definitely relate to what Jordy is saying, just kind of having visibility across the board and many different types of products. You know, AAA Travel is in a unique position where we have relationships with various travel partners, which allows us to offer something for everyone. I mean, we have car rental, which has been really big in the last 10 to 12 months; we’ve seen a big rebound since kind of breaking outward of the pandemic, probably one of our most sought after products at this point in time. Of course, we offer hotel; we offer theme parks, which is also making a huge rebound at this point in time. I mean, people may not be able to hop on a plane and take that destination vacation, but chances are, you’re close to a theme park and you can still enjoy the outdoors. We do offer cruise, slowly coming back with still some uncertainty in that place. But one of the biggest things that we’re actually offering at this point in time is travel insurance. And in times of uncertainty, our members are looking for coverage. They want to travel, but they want to have that extra security and peace of mind. So kind of relating to what Jordy said already, we allow the data to tell us which products and services are in demand. And we’re constantly optimizing our campaigns and pushing budgets forward, based upon the demand in the marketplace. And of course, as always, we’re working with our agency partner, and Quantcast identifies areas where we can find members that are in market to book a trip, or go to a theme park, or just want to get out.
Yeah, I mean, I couldn’t agree more with both sentiments, because, again, the volatility is there in certain markets. But you know, some of the ways we adapted to things during the pandemic–of course, there was a during the pandemic time, there was immediately after the pandemic pent-up time, and now there’s this kind of normalization that’s happening–but there’s still a lot of pent up, you know, a kind of like oscillating in there. And so even with prices getting a little bit higher, and things like that, I think that the smarter business entities took advantage of the pandemic to invest in themselves, whether it was renovating the resorts–we renovated; you know, we’re private; so, Mr. Siegel was able to renovate to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars and take that downtime to renovate, make your product better. Not everybody is able to do that kind of thing. But you can always renovate your marketing. You know, one of the things Zak, you and I talk about, is: what are you doing to plan, when your marketing kind of goes down for a little while and you go into planning mode? Are you taking advantage of that time to renovate your marketing to get ready for what’s going to come? We took time to do that at Westgate, even for the time that we had in the pandemic, and then coming out of the pandemic, we were kind of ready in a lot of ways to launch marketing that took advantage of new pent-up demand. But even if you’re late to that game a little bit, you got to think about things a little bit more in the context of: what are the things that people now care about? Let’s put cost off to the side for a second. Let’s just say if all things are equal, if all the money’s equal, what are the things that people are looking for? You know, Jordy mentioned beach resorts: we have three of those as well. It’s incredible: people are looking for less crowds; they’re looking for kind of a ‘life is short’ mentality and experiential type thing–so really illustrating to them what the experiences are around your destination; they’re concerned about their PTO. Let’s talk about PTO for a second. How are you appealing to people that are concerned about losing PTO, because you have a lot of people that worked through the pandemic, and some of them are experiencing, like, “I gotta use my PTO or lose it.” And companies are kind of pushing people: “Hey, use your PTO.” So how are you appealing to people that have the time and they are almost sitting there saying: “I want to go use this; I need to take these micro-breaks; I need to take these micro-getaways. So what is your marketing going to do to appeal to them? And then children and families being cooped up, I mean, that’s a given, that has been part of the pent-up demand for over a year and a half now. And that part of the demand psychologically is still as strong as ever, I can assure you: we see it in the comments; we see it in the feedback; we see it in the surveys; it is as strong as ever. And so if you’re not addressing that with some of your messaging, you’re really missing out on a little bit of that, if part of your business is skewed towards families. So I think all the above–Justin and Jordy hit it on the head better than I can. But you know, that’s all got to be part of the mix now.
Awesome. And so that really gives us a good segue into the next question here, particularly just looking at trends we’ve seen over the last couple years. And so some of the ones that Alex just addressed, you know, the PTO issue, people who are more focused on local and regional travel, people more focused on outdoor adventures, camping, more hospitable environment or safer environments, more family-oriented travel, I guess. Justin, Jordy, if you guys want to take this one: what trends are you guys really seeing that you’re aligning your advertising to? I’ll let Justin take the first crack.
I can jump in here. I mean, there’s two things I definitely wanted to talk about in here. And it’s more about the type of person that we’re going after. And during the pandemic, you know, we spent a lot of time in the house, we spent a lot of time social distancing. I think one of the biggest things that we noticed is that people became, you know, we want to target the mobile-first user, right? So with social distancing, and just touch lists in a society and things like that, people started to use their phones more frequently. So at a restaurant, you might place an order online or scan a QR code, looking for a menu. Or use your phone to check in somewhere, or you’re using social media to connect with family and friends, or you’re on a zoom call like we are right now to connect with family and friends, whether it be on your phone or on your computer. So for various reasons, people were using their phones more, because everything was touchless. And we want it to be in front of them in those moments. So we beefed up our social media span. And we took advantage of display campaigns, so that we connect with people in all these places and connect with our members. It gives us an opportunity to showcase beautiful destinations, inspire people to travel, even though there’s no uncertain times. A second thing I wanted to touch on was a Netflix-and-chill type person. So we all spent a lot of time in the house; we were searching a lot of the streaming platforms for new content, or maybe it’s old content that you’re revisiting from maybe 10, 15 years ago, something nostalgic. Either way, I think there was a lot of screen time going on. So we aligned a new strategy. And AAA is very conservative in terms of marketing, because we’re very direct response; we’re looking for return on investment as soon as possible. But we actually did invest in a travel campaign for CTV so we can reach members that are obviously spending a lot more time in front of their TV and picking up on streaming television.
I mean, yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And, just to minorly double down on what Justin said, we noticed–and I’ll just give you a little glimpse at our first party analytics–we noticed in our analytics that there was a jump to mobile of about 6-7% that shifted over during the pandemic, and that has not gone back. So I think people, like [it] nudged over the ones that weren’t nudged over to mobile already, because we are a mobile-first digital economy, got nudged over, and then they haven’t really gone back. So if you haven’t really gotten your mobile game going for digital, both in the advertising side and also on your website, in your web experience, you really got to get that nailed down because nothing could be more important than that right now.
I’m just going to piggyback and say ditto with what these two other guys said; all of us are pretty much aligned and what the trends that we’re seeing here. At the media team at PETER MAYER, we were very focused on: how would the pandemic change media consumption habits during the actual pandemic, and also to see if those trends would stick. We, as a result, like both Alex and Justin, have moved more money into digital and moved more money into connected TV, OTT, because we saw the trends going in that direction during the pandemic, and they have pretty much continued to stick there.
And again, queued me up for a perfect segue, Jordy, so thank you for that. As we’ve seen news around Netflix, adding an ad-supported aspect to their CTV business, Justin speaking about the importance of mobile, the shift to CTV, the Netflix-and-chill audience, there’s more ways and places to reach people than ever in this day and age. And so, are there specific channels or creative types that you guys are specifically using to convince people to start traveling again, to make them feel safe, bring them back into that market?
We’re always big advocates of a multimedia full-funnel approach to reach travelers all throughout the travel funnel. So we have certain media mixes that we’re employing to inspire and engage potential travelers to come to our destinations, come to our attractions. Those would be more likely to be television, video, whether it be on linear television, or more and more is going toward OTT. But we find that those videos are a good way to showcase many attributes over time, romanticize the clients, if you will, make that emotional connection with the potential guests who would be traveling. We’ve also put some more money into native advertising to tell a much more rich story about all of the diversity of attractions and things to do with the various destinations and attractions that we represent. Of course, this upper funnel type of engagement and motivational type of media is always supplemented by lower funnel, primarily digital tactics to connect with people while they’re doing their research and planning, before making the decision of where to go or if they’ve already made that decision, particularly for our attraction clients. We want to make sure that we start marketing to them before they arrive at the cities where our attractions are located to to make sure that we’re on the consideration set and make sure that people buy their online tickets in advance, before other competitors gobble them up to get their dollars. And of course, we do have some really lowest hanging fruit tactics targeting tourists, once they reach that market. And if we have a museum or we have an attraction, we like to talk to them while they’re in the market and message them with special price point offers or be more urgent and create more of a sense of immediacy in the way we communicate to them with our copy and with our messaging.
Awesome, full funnel approach. It sounds like on Jordy’s side, a very lower funnel approach; very direct response return on ad spend focused approach for Justin. But, Justin, do you have anything to add as far as channels or creative types that are working for you guys?
Yeah, just to add on to what Jordy said, I think inspiration is a big thing at this point in time. So right now, AAA Travel is about inspiring choices. And traveling with confidence. We’re trying to reach members through upper funnel tactics such as display, social and CTV, again using beautiful destination images to inspire members to take that trip. And I don’t know about you guys, but usually when I’m on social media, travel marketing has become a huge thing. You know, obviously being inspired to go places, which I never knew existed, or even properties that I’ve never seen before–social media inspires all of that. And I think a lot of people are spending a lot of time on social media and researching places that they can go and finding new places that they never knew existed. So it’s a great place to get in front of those people who are in market for a trip. Another thing that we’re actually, in terms of messaging, that we’re using to inspire people to get out there and take a chance and go for that dream trip that they’ve always wanted to do and not wait, similar to what Alex has been saying, is travel insurance. So we have a travel insurance partner, and we’ve been using a tagline–I believe it’s a ‘travel with confidence’–essentially just identify members that would book a trip or a car rental or hotel, provide them with options to secure that trip in these times of uncertainty. So just providing solutions to our members and providing peace of mind to people in unpredictable times.
Yeah, I mean, it’s tough when you deal with 24 individualized properties to articulate it all in a very small soundbite. But let me just say this–I’ll spend five minutes–and this is always the question in hotel land. We have this debate internally, Zach: it’s always the question between distribution and marketing, distribution and marketing. Look, if anything happened during the pandemic, here’s what happened. A whole bunch of revenue managers and a whole bunch of hotels realized that distribution is kind of like a one-stop shop. So when the OTAs, when Expedia, when Priceline, when all those guys go to zero, and then they have to kind of come back from zero–and listen, they do do a bunch of marketing for hotels, and they’ve come back very aggressively with their marketing, so I don’t want to say bad things about Expedia, because they do do a good job of what they do. But here’s the thing. If you put all your eggs in that basket, and you’re not doing something that’s beyond sort-by-price type marketing, then you’re not going to have any type of aspirational marketing; you’re not going to have any type of experience, and really, what it translates to is: you’re not really building any kind of brand. And that leaves you vulnerable, right? It really leaves you vulnerable to other chains, other brands that have a brand, they have a story to tell; they have some kind of narrative. And now, just to mention something really cool–which is again, not focusing on price but focusing on benefit: what is the value; what’s the benefit–we did that across the board at Westgate (without getting into the specific why of each resort that we have), something that we did do across the board was we rolled out a simplified loyalty program. We knew that there was a space out there for a simple loyalty program. There’s so many points-based programs, where it’s complicated enough to figure out how many points you have for this and how many points for that, and then they inflate the points and you don’t even know if your points are good for a coffee. So we rolled out a loyalty program that was more about earning privileges instead of points. It was just instant gratification; you instantly get this for free; you instantly get that for free; you instantly take 50% off your resort fees; you instantly get free access to our mega water parks that are built into our resorts. Because we realized that it was about not necessarily price–let’s put price out of the picture here–and just talk about benefit and value. So I think the conversation has shifted to value. People are willing to pay for an experience; they’re willing to pay to be part of a narrative that’s inspirational and aspirational to them. But you do have to message benefit behind it. So as you know, Zack, we did something with Quantcast where we were pushing enrollment for the loyalty program on display and via a whole number of advertising vehicles with you guys as well as as part of our bigger advertising mix. But I would say, the two big takeaways for hoteliers, if there’s any hoteliers on the call, is: one, understand, after the pandemic, there’s a big difference between distribution and marketing. And make sure you have some eggs in the marketing basket. Because, you know, I think Seth Godin had a famous YouTube video where he said, you know, the problem with a lot of hotel brand is I book a Hyatt; I book a Marriott; I book somebody out there: I go to the hotel; I have no idea where I’m at, because it was all sorted by price. And that’ll get you in the end, if you’re not developing a story or brand around who you are, like Jordy said, that will emotionally connect with somebody, and they’re going to want to come back for your direct channel. And they’re going to want to stay with you because of who you were and your brand.
That makes a whole lot of sense. You know, again, there are so many places to reach people; they also have so many different options available to them, where they want to travel, who they want to travel with. So it’s important to build that brand, build that loyalty, and have those customers continue to feel comfortable working with you and come back time and time again. And I did want to address the international travel market as well. And so this summer was anticipated to be a big resurgence in international travel with paid people making up for lost time, having not been able to go to other countries or have not felt comfortable going to other countries. But have you guys seen, with the war in Ukraine and the rising gas prices, have you noticed anything, at least with your experience, having impacted international travel as a result of those recent events?
I guess I’ll start off on this one. Yeah, the simplified answer is yes, I think we’ve all in the travel space seen some kind of impact. And, you know, the impact is fraught with volatility. I think it’s mixed in with some pre-existing, tail-end volatility from COVID, where there were still some nations that weren’t on certain lists and there were still some considerations about traveling here to the US from different countries. On the Westgate side of things, I can only give you our perspective: what we did, because we were not necessarily focused on international for a number of years, was we took the time to say, “Okay, hang on a second, we’re seeing a lot of volatility here; it’s a little bit of a lull in this period; let’s take the time to actually solidify our strategy around international while there is this volatility.” So we actually launched our multilingual site in Spanish for SEO purposes during this time that there was some volatility, when you can kind of get away with doing those behind-the-scenes things with your technology stack, and took advantage of that. And again, I encourage people that are in the hotel space, when you encounter periods of time that you can use to your benefit as a ‘we get to take a step back, while things are kind of volatile over here.’ Let’s take the time to strategize around it, roll it out the way that we want to roll it out, because there’s not as much at stake during this particular time period. Do that.
Now, what are we seeing? We’re seeing that the same sort of pent-up demand that existed here is starting to come into the US. I like to use the example: we have a ranch product, which is Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo, which was recently featured in Travel and Leisure–I want to thank the editor-in-chief over at Travel and Leisure for that great piece you did on the Today Show. But the reality is, it’ll come in sometimes where you least expect it. So we publish the Spanish version of the site, and we’re still kind of in development, and lo and behold, we’re seeing visitors come in from the UK and from Spain, booking that ranch product. And so one of the things you got to learn is: don’t take for granted the international market; plan around it, plan around what you think is going to be the best value for your cost of you’re investing into it during the times of their lulls and volatility, but do have a game plan for it. Because just because it isn’t booming like it was in the late 80s or something like that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be booming in another couple of months. Nobody can fully predict what happens with foreign governments and things of that nature. I will say that I am always surprised. I really think the war in the Ukraine, personally, I thought it would have had a bigger impact on international travel. And I think people are just at a state where they are concerned about that; they are definitely sympathetic towards it, as we all are, but they also kind of have the mindset that, well, I still want to make sure that, again, I take advantage of this time because time is short; I learned that during the pandemic, and we want to kind of pursue our travel dreams at this point. So I think it affects international travel, but maybe the suppressive effect isn’t quite as much as we thought.
Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense. I mean, we can see how, even with price volatility, people have been so pent-up the last couple of years, sometimes you’ve got to pay the premium just to make sure you’re continuing to live the life you want, to do it because we know life can be short, as we’ve seen with the events of the past couple years, including that conflict that we have. And so I was curious if, Jordy or Justin, do you guys touch anything in the international space and have anything to add there?
Right now, our client base really doesn’t do that much international travel. They have, here and there in the past. I would say to just keep listening to the research, gathering as much research as you can on the international market, to be aware of travel restrictions, if there are outbreaks that are happening, that I think we also have to watch out how the gas hikes and what’s going on there is going to impact airfares and international travelers’ willingness to take a long extended trip abroad. So that would be my only addition to what Alex so eloquently said.
Yep, and similar thoughts as Alex, and in terms of having a game plan to kind of navigate the situation in Ukraine. I mean, we’re definitely not shying away from advertising international travel or inspiring people to take longer trips. I think it’s definitely a weird position to go from so many travel restrictions and trying to navigate that space where people were hesitant to make those long trips. And then also throwing a war into that does make things challenging. But then there is the piece of that where when you’ve been restricted in terms of movement for a year and a half, two years, you kind of have a YOLO mentality where people are willing to take more chances to have that dream trip. But here at AAA, I think we’re a little bit more focused on destinations that are closer to the US, such as Mexico, Caribbean, Hawaii, places like that, I think those are just the bread and butter kind of destination trips that we would advertise, just makes it easier for us to continue to work with partners that are able to facilitate those types of trips.
And Zach, let me just say one more thing. This is important to note: I mean, we all are deeply moved by what’s happening in Ukraine, and at the risk of not being transactional and business-oriented with this next bit. Listen, if your business is as moved by what’s happening in Ukraine, as we have been at Westgate, then my encouragement to folks, and this goes all the way up to the ownership level and the senior leadership of your business, is to do something about it. At Westgate, we were deeply moved by what was happening there, and we rolled out a PR campaign and a charity campaign to help the Ukraine through, we called it our Westgate lemon-aid fund, where we devised a cocktail that we were serving on our resorts. And we started putting a certain amount of money in the cocktail sales directly to aid the people of Ukraine. Because we were passionate about what was going on there. It’s a really awful situation that’s going on there. But you know, as a hotel, or as a brand, if you feel deeply about something, there’s always an opportunity to both get involved and do something that runs parallel with it. I go and talk at different conferences, at DBS, or whatever, and hoteliers will always tell me, “It’s so tough to create action beats around your PR and your public relations.” And I say, “Well, what are you doing? What do you stand for? What’s your why? What’s something that you do to help people?” And then if you don’t have an answer to that, well, I’m like, well, there you go. You know, that’s where you’re missing action beats. So, you know, just on a personal note, I would just say, if your brand needs more PR exposure, really understand what you stand for. In an opportunity to to help people, like the people in Ukraine, take advantage of that, evangelize that, stand up for something like that, if you’re a senior leader and say, “This is an opportunity for us,” and pitch that internally, but it’s also an opportunity to do something good, right? And so that’s something that we did more tangibly at the ground level, and the PR benefits are kind of just a side benefit. Obviously, we didn’t do it for that; we did it because we care about the cause. But that’s just something to keep in mind. Don’t discard–a lot of hoteliers will see crises and say, “Well, there’s nothing we can do.” They just throw their hands up. Well, don’t don’t do that. Rise to action, do something about it, and then slipstream that into your marketing mix as something that can also run parallel to what you’re doing.
Yeah, that’s amazing, you know, any opportunity for corporate social responsibility and making an impact that’s always going to be helpful to the brand self, obviously, you know, great work and helping the people who need it as well. And we do have about five more minutes budgeted here. We did have a question come in from the audience that I think might be the last question we have time to address here. And so I will let whichever one of the panelists feels most comfortable feel like they have some I’m gonna answer this question. But what channels or products have been most impactful to your success. This doesn’t need to be, you know, necessarily specific to the last couple years, but just to the travel space in general.
I mean, I’ll jump in on the–oh, Jordy and I both jump in at the same time. I’ll just take 20 seconds. I will say that you’ve got to really assess all the marketing weapons at your disposal, and you got to pick the right mix for the right particular product; it’s going to be different for everybody. But I will double down on what Jordy said about the full-funnel approach. Hotels are very direct response, and we always will be, but if you’re not building towards a more full-funnel assessment of what your marketing does, listen, you’re missing out. And listen, if you haven’t at least tried to assess your total costs on your direct channel, you need to start doing that. One of the things we found out, Zach, with Facebook–but I’ll just use Facebook as an example. They had a privacy issue, obviously, a year and a half ago with iOS 14, and now you can’t even get that 30-day attribution on it anymore. But are you going to abandon social media advertising because of that? The reality is at Westgate, we get millions of dollars in revenue for people that are on iOS devices, so you can’t just throw that out. You can’t just be like, “Oh well, we can’t track everything perfectly. We’re going to throw that out.” But where does that leave you? Like Jordy said, it leads you into needing to be more full funnel in your approach in a lot of things to be able to adjudicate what types of display advertising, what types of experiential video advertising, and things like that, fed your entire funnel. So this is speaking directly to hoteliers that have been solely direct response for so many years: you got to start pushing that envelope a little bit; you got to nudge that down the line, because if that’s your one-stop shop, the next pandemic that comes along, or the next thing that affects volatility with the OTAs, or God forbid, the OTAs put you into a bad sort order, and all of a sudden, your business starts declining… you can’t just have all your eggs in that basket. Like I said before, you gotta have more to your mix of that. Go ahead, Jordy.
Okay, so frequency is important in media. So I’m gonna add to what I said about follow the full-funnel approach before, I kind of answered that before. I’m going to address a little bit about digital marketing right now. I would encourage everybody out there on two things. You should be testing; you should be experimenting; you should be really working with your analytics teams and your analytics departments who identify what is working. One of the things that I believe that we’ve had success here at Peter Mayer is the fact that we just don’t let things stand. We’re constantly exploring new ways to target people and not resting on past laurels on that. There’s always a new technology out there; there’s always new partnerships that digital companies bring to the table in order to identify past travelers or current travelers or people who have booked a trip in the future. So I would always, of course, emphasize what has worked historically, but also carve a little bit out of your budget to test a new partner, to test a new strategy. Second thing with digital, hope everybody’s doing this already, you should be preparing for a cookieless world, whenever that happens; it keeps getting pushed back in that. So I would encourage everybody who’s in media or who are clients, to start testing cookieless solutions, see what’s out there. Most of the programmatic companies, Quantcast included, all have solutions that they have been engineering behind the scenes for several years. And now is the time to start doing that, to start cleaning up and building your CRM list, to start looking to see what it will look like in mid-2023, or whenever it actually happens. So full funnel, and don’t be afraid to try new things out with your digital campaigns.
I think Jordy and Alex said it all there, I mean, in diversifying channels, using data to identify market buyers,and preparing for cookieless societies, definitely preparing yourself to be ahead of the game. So not much to add there on that front.
Great, yeah, and thanks for the shout out. Quantcast certainly does have products to help you know and grow your audience as well as we are a leader in this cookieless space, as Chrome potentially is depreciating cookies in 2023. We’re gonna be ahead of the game. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me and we can talk about our cookieless solutions as well as our audience planning and measurement solutions to help you know and grow your audience. And so with that, we’re gonna thank the audience all for joining today. I really want to– huge thanks to all of our panelists who joined: Jordy, Justin, Alex–you guys are great. I certainly feel more educated about the travel space. Your wealth of knowledge has been a boon to us all. And so without further ado, that’ll be the end of it. I’m going to leave up this ‘thank you’ screen here. If you do want to get in contact with me, then we can also follow up with Q and A’s, if you have any burning questions that you weren’t able to ask in the chat today, we can follow up via email to get those all answered. Again, thank you again, panelists and audience for joining. Hope you really enjoyed the session today.