August 6, 2023
|
3 mins

Travel brands that made a splash this July—and why you should care

See how brands like Marriott, Vrbo, and Booking.com stack up during a busy travel season

Welcome to the Stagwell Marketing Cloud x Harris Brand Platform monthly brand report. 

We’re doing things a little bit differently this month. 

Typically, we choose 3 brands that made headlines in the previous month and see how their brand equity has been affected by the splash. Think the PGA Tour following the launch of LIV Golf (which, in a shocking turn of events, are now joining forces) or Netflix after the announcement that they will be cracking down on password sharing.  

But nearing the end of what may end up being the busiest travel season of all time, we wanted to dig into the travel industry in this month’s brand report. 

COVID-19 and the rise of the digital nomad 

COVID-19 presented an unprecedented challenge for most industries—but how were hotels supposed to manage through worldwide shutdowns and stay at home orders? 

A McKinsey report from June 2020 estimated that hotels probably wouldn’t recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, concluding that “in the long term, travel will return because of an important shift in consumption—an accelerated pivot from buying things to buying experiences.”

Well, here we are! 

It’s Summer 2023, and seemingly every person on my Instagram feed has prioritized buying “an experience” to Lake Como to drink Aperol Spritzes.

And while higher-than-normal savings and a desperate itch to get back on the road and in the air have fueled a busy summer of travel for many, the rise of the digital nomad has also contributed to shifting habits around travel. 

The Harris Poll data found that 22% of people want to work remotely at least part time said that having the ability to travel while working remotely influenced their decision—and perceptions around being called onsite to work every day have changed. 52% of the same group that wants to work remotely for the freedom to travel think that “requiring onsite work indicates that an employer doesn’t trust its employees.” 

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Brands like Hyatt—and even countries like Aruba—have worked to capture the attention of this audience by offering perks, discounts, and short-term visas to entice travelers to come visit…and stay awhile.

So while travelling for that big business meeting has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, a new type of business traveler has been born. 

Booking.com hops on the ChatGPT bandwagon 

Graph showing the top five travel brands by brand equity growth using data from Harris Brand Platform.

On the brand front, Booking.com is just one business that has enjoyed a boom following the COVID-19 bust. 

Harris Brand Platform data found that Booking.com—and its sister company Kayak—both “ranked as top growth travel brands from Q1 to Q2 2023, based on quarter-over-quarter equity growth.” 

“Brand equity measures the value consumers see in a brand at a particular moment in time. It is an average of four components: consumer brand familiarity, perceived quality, purchase consideration, and perceived momentum.” 

Perhaps to credit for their increase in equity growth, Booking.com launched a new AI tool powered by ChatGPT to help travelers choose a destination and create travel itineraries this past June. With inputs around what the traveler is looking for, the Travel Planner will offer a variety of options and their prices where users can book with just a click.   

Travel brands to watch  

A look into the top 5 brands by growth equity from Q1 to Q2 2023.

As far as other brands to watch who have shown an increase quarter-over-quarter are Marriott, Vrbo, and Intercontinental, whose perceived brand equity have increase 3.5%, 3.1%, and 2.9% respectively. 

In Q2, Marriott International reported a 13.5% increase in RevPAR (that’s hotel language for revenue generated per room) and added 33,097 rooms to their ranks thanks in part to the acquisition of Latin American hotel chain City Express. 

And while Vrbo reportedly brought their parent company Expedia’s numbers down in Q2, they launched a series of beautiful ads that featured real families on vacation. “We’ve always prioritized our guests, but now we’re putting them front and center in our advertising,” said Hector Muelas, senior vice president, Global Creative at Expedia Group. “As a pioneer in the industry, we’ve been taking care of families for a long time, and we think this long-standing commitment lends itself to this type of creative storytelling.” 

Whether it’s from smart marketing, smart business, or smart adoption of technology, keep an eye on these five brands as travel continues to skyrocket.

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