2021 Destination Marketing Trends

As you create and execute your 2021 campaigns, these are the marketing trends to keep in mind. Madden is always happy to talk strategy, provide insight, and share recommendations with our tourism partners. Above all, these are the seven trends we’re keeping an eye on this year.

Marketing Trend #1: Vaccination Availability = Spike in Travel

This marketing trend is pretty straightforward—as more COVID-19 vaccines become available, more people will travel. Google recently reported that keywords such as “hotel booking app” and “travel to” have increased 100% YOY. Similarly, in January 2021, Destination Analysts reported that “just under half of American travelers expect to travel for leisure in the next three months.” Many destinations have been waiting for travelers to pack their bags, but are they prepared for a sudden increase in visitors? 

What you can do right now

  • First, invest in marketing for 2021 leisure travel considerations amongst existing audiences.
  • Second, grow new audiences with high-intent and pent-up demand using awareness and inspiration tactics.
  • Third, make sure your partners continue to promote safety measures and keep travelers informed.

Marketing Trend #2: Inspiration Tactics Continue to Climb

Travelers are starting to think about trips they want to take in a post-COVID world. Conversion is important, but shouldn’t be your only focus. Travelers continue to be open to vacation inspiration, providing DMOs the opportunity to target new audiences. In addition, inspiring content establishes awareness and replenishes brand audiences for future marketing efforts. Above all, Madden partners who are providing vacation inspiration are seeing stronger results than those investing primarily in conversion tactics.

What you can do right now

Invest in highly visual channels such as:

  • CTV
  • YouTube/TrueView
  • TV
  • Social Ads 
  • Google Discovery Ads
  • OOH

Marketing Trend #3: Foundational Recovery Tactics Reach Key Targets

Your 2021 foundational marketing tactics need to reach prospective travelers through the channels they’re responding to the most. For example, we’re seeing:

  • More Screen Time: Since shelter at home orders began in 2020, Nielsen reports that consumers are spending 60% more time streaming videos, reading digital content, and scrolling through social media. Provide the distraction and inspiration they’re looking for by advertising on key platforms and creating storytelling content.
  • More Print Consumption: Working from home on top of increased screen time means more consumers are looking for a break from blue light. However, printed magazines offer an entertaining escape, giving destinations the opportunity to connect with travelers via direct mail or national/regional publications.
  • More Email Engagement: Consumers have had 20% stronger open rates following the pandemic. Reach leads directly in their inboxes and show them what you have to offer. Grow and nurture owned leads as your destination recovers.

What you can do right now

Consider these tactics for your media mix:

  • Search & Social: SEM, SEO, Facebook, & Instagram
  • Online Content: Owned, Paid, Earned
  • Streaming: CTV, Samsung
  • Email: Owned, Paid
  • Print: National and Regional Travel and Lifestyle Magazines 

Marketing Trend #4: Outdoor-Focused Keywords in Website Content

Now’s the time to build fresh content to be there for continued trending searches and discovery of anything related to outdoors, road-trippin’, or supporting local businesses. Similarly, travel searches such as “weekend getaways,” “day trips from,” “weekend trips,” “lake trip,” and “vacations near me” are starting to rebound after an unprecedented drop in March 2020. In addition, consider these trending keywords:

  • outdoors
  • camping
  • rv rentals
  • ski condos/cabins
  • boat charter
  • regional parks and gardens
  • fishing boats
  • kayaks
  • road trips
  • staycations
  • local businesses

What you can do right now

  • Start by adding new content to your site that heavily focuses on trending keywords related to your destination.
  • Next, read our COVID-19 Website Strategies blog post for additional strategies.

Marketing Trend #5: The Buzz Surrounding Sequence Targeting

This destination marketing trend is near and dear to our hearts. Sequence targeting allows you to tell a progressive story with your ads. Typically this is done through adding some variety to your video marketing. For example, you can tell your destination’s story across multiple video ads to nurture curiosity and for stronger brand recall.

Sequence targeting reduces ad fatigue. Using different visuals to tell your story across CTV, YouTube, and social ads keeps audiences interested in your message. Another benefit of this strategy is that you can promote a consistent brand message across multiple channels. With new audiences established in awareness and inspiration, you can continue the conversation to promote consideration in remarketing.

What you can do right now

  • Create a miniseries of ads for rotation so consumers don’t see the same ad creative at each touchpoint.
  • Meanwhile, avoid reusing the same singular ads across all channels—add a variety of image and messaging combinations.
  • Brainstorm ideas for a video shoot that will tell a progressive story. Think about how to make a greater impact using shorter ad spots that encourage action.

Marketing Trend #6: Consumers are Looking for Amazing Digital Experiences

To better capture the attention of key audiences, you need to deliver great UX across all of your marketing efforts. In other words, the brand digital experience has become more important than ever.

What you can do right now

  • Make incremental website improvements to better engage with consumers. For example, this could mean virtual tours, quiz-style content, new animations, or interactive elements. Check out our case study on Next Generation Destination Websites for more ideas.
  • Brainstorm creative ways to approach standard marketing tactics. How can you better showcase your brand’s personality on social media? Can you think of a new way to utilize HTML5 ads?
  • However, don’t forget about event planners! Use this time to create videos, share photos, and provide visual resources.

Marketing Trend #7: Meetings Marketing = Slower Recovery

While leisure travel is slowly gaining momentum, meetings travel will take longer to recover from the pandemic. Consequently, we’re seeing small group in-person meetings planned for Q3/Q4 of 2021 in addition to larger virtual meetings.

Major hotel brands project mid to late 2022 as the return of bigger group settings. According to a survey completed by iMeet, “at the start of the year, more than half of planners (56%) have RFPs in progress.” As a result, “85% of planners have at least one future face-to-face meeting booked or contracted.”

What you can do right now

  • First, don’t stop your meetings marketing despite this slow recovery—2022 will be here before we know it. Given how far in advance large meetings are booked, your team should be preparing and selling now.
  • Second, build up your meetings content to showcase your commitment to providing safe environments for meeting planners and attendees.
  • Third, review your RFP process and documentation and find opportunities to make contacting your team easier.

What Should You Do First?

We’ve discussed a bunch of strategies and action items to help you capitalize on 2021’s destination marketing trends. However, we’ve provided our recommended priority list:

  1. Update your site content
  2. Refine visitor’s website experience
  3. Increase inspiration across all channels
  4. Promote small group meetings
  5. Focus conversion tactics on road trip audiences

Madden’s destination strategy experts are ready to chat about any of these marketing trends. Please reach out to our team with any questions.

Share This