We may all be in this together, but we don’t have to sound like it.


Author: Stewart Colovin, EVP, Global Brand Strategy

“We’re all in this together.” I don’t know about you, but the first time I heard it, it was exactly what I needed. It was reassuring. It made me feel a part of something bigger, and I felt stronger because of it. But as days of quarantining have turned into months, it now seems like I can’t escape it. It’s the first and last words spoken by every news anchor; it’s in every ad I see and it’s used in every email from every brand with which I have contact. So, when I hear it now, I don’t feel reassured. I don’t feel stronger. Unfortunately, I don’t feel anything.

It’s so overused that it’s become noise. The real power and opportunity of “we’re all in this together” is what brands choose to say and do next. Make it a promise – “We’re all in this together, AND “We’re committed to helping support…”; “We’re making your life easier”; “We’re doing our part,” etc.” I believe the brands that are focused on providing value will have the opportunity to create stronger and unbreakable bonds with their audiences moving forward. And travel brands have the unique ability to provide that value by giving people something we can all use more of right now: hope and inspiration.

But it’s going to require more humanity and empathy than marketers have had to demonstrate before. We’re all going to have to understand that while we may have real needs and important messages to share, if our audience isn’t ready to hear them, they’ll just be noise. Our industry has been one of the hardest hit by this virus. Your partners and constituents are hurting and looking to you for answers and results now. And while a call to action like “book now and travel later” may sound like a good option, if not offered with the proper sensitivity and in the right tone, it could actually do more harm than good. 

However, we do know that travelers are already showing signs of demand. MMGY Travel Intelligence data shows a 57% increase in people talking about or dreaming of a vacation on social media over the last thirty days. And, we see a 130% increase in online conversations about needing or wanting a vacation. So, what should travel brands do with this knowledge?

First, do what you can now to support others. Virtual tours and repurposing content while people are at home was the right initial reaction, but we as an industry can go much further. Destination organizations have done an amazing job turning inward to support local restaurants and businesses; hotel brands and cruise lines have opened room inventory for front-line health care staff and volunteers; and we just partnered with HSMAI to launch a Buy One Give One program where partner hotels will donate future room nights to health care workers for every room booked . 

Also, empathy is important – not just in our words, but in how we operate our organizations. We have seen travel brands begin to create flexibility in some of their cancellation and rebooking policies, but I would encourage the industry to go further. At MMGY Global, our recent insights and data on travel sentiment suggests that people will have a pent-up demand for travel as restrictions are lifted. Let’s make it easier for them to book their travel. Brands that create greater long-term flexibility now will most likely be rewarded in the long-run.

I would also encourage you to be bold and inspiring. It’s time to go past the somber tones and show how inspiring and fun travel can be. Long before we were all confined to our homes, we would look out our windows and dream we were somewhere else. Because travel changes us. We see new things. We meet new people. We discover new ideas. It’s when we are the best version of ourselves. We bring back stories and memories that hold us over until we can travel again. 

Travel brands have permission to talk and act differently than other categories because of the emotional connection travelers have with us. Visit Myrtle Beach has been running commercials with the simple message of “Sending Some Sunshine Your Way” and has received an overwhelmingly positive response. A new video from VisitNorfolk speaks to the city’s passion and unity as residents tell what they’re going to do “When This is Over.” And the “Share Aloha” video from the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau quickly connects you to the spirit and people of Hawaii. All are great examples of powerful messages rooted in their brand’s values. 

Remaining true to your organization’s brand messaging is more important than ever. At MMGY Global, we see recovery messaging taking place in four phases: Wait, Ready, Set and Go. Many brands are already operating in the Ready phase, and our research with the Destinations International Foundation suggests that some in the industry will be prepared to begin promotional advertising and marketing within the next 30 days, moving into the Set phase. As this happens, we’re all going to want to hit everyone at once with OUR message: “We’re open for business”; “We’ve been waiting for you”; “We’re clean and safe,” etc. But, if you don’t stay true to what your brand stands for, we again could all be saying the same things and just creating more noise.

And that’s exactly what we don’t need. We need dreams. Now more than ever, more than any other category, destinations and travel brands have the ability to supply (and sell) those dreams.