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Americans–and Advertisers–Are Hopeful About Travel

3 minute read | April 2021

Travel is ticking up as the U.S. re-opens and vaccinations become more available. The CDC is still recommending that vaccinated people follow precautions, especially when traveling internationally, but a recent survey, shows that seven-in-10 Americans are eager to begin traveling via plane and booking a vacation as soon as they’re able. Overall, adults 35-49 were among the most eager to enjoy these activities as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted.

This is good news for advertisers who are looking to lead the travel industry as we exit the pandemic by riding the wave of this growing consumer optimism. With travel one of the hardest hit industries by the pandemic, marketers certainly have a high hill to climb to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Advertising spending in the travel industry dropped 77% year-over-year during COVID-19 as of February 2021.

Throughout the pandemic, keeping brand awareness high has been important but challenging for those in the travel industry who were trying to keep their businesses afloat without encouraging risky behavior. Knowing that it can take three to five years to recover from halted advertising, a recent analysis of ad spending showed that many of the pre-pandemic heavy advertising spenders in the travel industry have kept their investments up, relative to the industry. By being able to stay top-of-mind during this down time, these brands are more likely to experience a smoother rebound as travel picks up. 

Uber was one transportation company that completely changed its advertising strategy during the pandemic. Used mainly for short-distance travel, this company ramped up spending, becoming one of the top three ad spenders during the pandemic. The company highlighted its safety protocols, and as people begin returning to local cafes, restaurants, bars and hair salons, it’s likely to stay at the forefront of consumers’ minds.

It will still take time for travel to rebound to pre-pandemic levels, but people are likely to begin to expand beyond their local road trips of last summer. A look at advertising spending by category demonstrates this optimism. 

Online Travel ad spend for travel fell by 85% after the pandemic, when comparing March 2019 – February2020 to March 2020 – February 2021. While spend is still far below pre-pandemic levels, as of February 2021 the category was ticking upwards and represented the largest travel advertising category by spend at $10.5 billion. This is nearly three times more than the second largest category, Passenger Airlines, at $3.4 billion.

As advertising continues to bounce back, brands will find an increasingly cluttered marketplace. They can breakthrough to consumers who are eager to travel by better understanding their challenges, needs and where they are spending their time across platforms. 

For more information, download the Nielsen Total Audience Report: Advertising Across Today’s Media.

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