A Commitment to Inclusion for the Travel Industry

As an industry, we have led initiatives to make travel for those with disabilities more accessible, we have led inclusion efforts for LGBTQ+ travelers, and we have one of the most diverse workforces when compared to almost any sector.

We all know discrimination has no place in our industry, and we should not accept it in the form of racism, sexism, and beyond. We also believe it is our responsibility as leaders in the industry to not be silent. We must provide a voice to others, and we must take action to stand up for inclusion.

From a leadership standpoint, our actions and the representation on our industry boards do not necessarily match who we are as an industry. We can do better, and we as industry partners, sponsors, corporations, and members are asking others to stand with us. Together, we must do more than state our support for inclusion. We hope to inspire the silent majority to not only serve as allies but as advocates for inclusion.

As organizations, many of us are looking inwardly at how we can be more inclusive within our own policies, hiring practices, board representation, and many other activities. We all find ourselves at various points in our own efforts and actions that we hope will lead to positive, systemic change.

Many corporations and individuals are providing charitable contributions to support underrepresented communities and equality initiatives. While these actions are one step of social responsibility, there are larger budget line items that we can use to affect change. Specifically, our sponsorship and marketing efforts.

We believe those organizations we sponsor should have views that align with not just our industry, but our values towards inclusion. Together, we are asking all organizations that receive sponsorships from our organizations to make their board composition more inclusive. Generally, we would like boards to be composed of 50% females and 20% from minority groups. We know this is not something that can be done overnight, so, we would ask those that do not meet these levels to craft objectives that will make meaningful improvements towards improving the diversity of their qualified board members.

Our industry has the ability to not just make travel more inclusive, we have the opportunity to make the work and the leadership of our industry more inclusive. We would ask corporate partners, vendors, and DMOs to join us in making this commitment.


Dan Janes, CEO, Madden Media
Ryan George, CEO, Simpleview
Santiago C. Corrada, President and CEO, Visit Tampa Bay
Brent DeRaad, President and CEO, Visit Tucson
Andrew Fischer, CEO, Choozle
Marc Garcia, President and CEO, Visit Mesa
Nelson Gumm, CEO, AJR Media Group
Patrick Kaler, President and CEO, Visit Buffalo Niagara
Gladys Kong, CEO, UberMedia
Cree Lawson, CEO, Arrivalist
Sarah Lehman, CEO, Entrada Insights
Anand Patel, President and CEO, Visit Fairfield

If you are an organizational leader that would like to add your organization, please reach out to Dan Janes, CEO, djanes@maddenmedia.com

Industry Supporters for this Initiative

Name Company

Please show your support for inclusion by adding your name here

We will not use your contact information provided here for any marketing purposes, nor will we sell or redistribute this information to any third parties.

Race, Media, and Allyship

Standing United Webinar Recording HERE and Presentation Deck HERE

How often do you publicly talk about Love? Compassion? Failure? Race? It always seems so much easier to talk about “emotions” without getting to the part where there is real emotion and feeling. When we think about the workplace, it is often thought of as a place without such emotion.

As a company, Madden has begun having difficult, vulnerable discussions to determine where we have failed, where we have succeeded, and determine how we will become a better company, partner, and ally. 

Madden is using this moment to reflect on our values as a company and as individuals, to have difficult discussions, and to evolve ourselves as allies in our community and the communities we serve. As we start this conversation, we invite our partners, friends, and allies to both join us and keep us accountable.

Read our recent blog post with Destinations International regarding the importance of growing more inclusive boards.

Continued, Sustained Progress

We can proudly say that half of Madden’s creative directors and managers are female, compared to 11% of the national average. We have been vocal and active to support inclusive travel, especially within the LGBTQ+ community. However, when it comes to being inclusive of all races and backgrounds in employment and management roles, we fall short. We must improve.

It’s not enough to verbalize support. Madden and others across our industry, communities, and beyond need to make commitments and implement actions for consistent, meaningful change. Our first commitment is to craft intentional plans and goals that we will be incorporating into company policies, culture, and marketing efforts. 

If we seek perfection, we will never get started. We can, however, make consistent, sustained action to move forward together. We want to be transparent about this to give others confidence to act and to provide a public, transparent way to be held accountable by our current and future employees and partners. Madden is taking action by:

  • Leading an Industry Effort to increase Board diversity: We have drafted and asked many of our colleagues in the industry to join us in calling for greater diversity on boards whom we provide sponsorship. See the letter and provide your support here
  • Continued Education and Discussions: Madden has begun inviting guest speakers to discuss diversity and inclusion not less than once a month. Our employee engagement team (HR) and all managers will undergo bias training by the end of Q3 in addition to the work they are already doing personally and professionally.
  • Creating a Diversity Review Panel: The panel will assess major campaigns and creative investments by our partners to help review and improve the inclusion of underrepresented groups in media, visitor guides, websites, etc.
  • Increasing Diverse Talent Recruitment: We are expanding our job postings to gather a more diverse population of candidates.
  • Eliminating Our Referral Bonus Program: We will continue to ask our team to refer people to the company, but we also want to ensure we are not only looking at candidates that look and act like us. We will reallocate this budget to the creation of the internship program below.
  • Strengthening Diverse Internship Programs: For the past three years we have participated in various internship programs, including TIMESTEP, that focus on providing relevant industry experience to minority engineers. We will be adding additional internship programs focused towards underrepresented populations. 
  • Growing Through Reading: Madden’s book club will shift focus by allowing every employee in the company to select a book that can help us all grow and be more culturally responsive through study and discussion. Some books you may want to consider are on this list.
  • Continued Salary Audits for Our Team: We completed a diversity wages audit across the company and found that salaries are very much based on experience. We looked at the combinations of gender (male/female), ethnicity (white/non-white), and experience. Across all combinations of those groups, except one, experience was the predominant factor in each group with the exception of Creative where age was nominally different and salaries were higher for non-white employees. As we look at the averages globally, 40% of the departments’ women make more than men and 60% of the departments’ non-white salaries exceed those of white employees. We will continue to monitor this, but the overall view looks to align towards experience where we would expect.

How Will Your Team Take Action?

It can be difficult knowing where to get started. Here are a few quick ways DMOs can start becoming better ally organizations today:

  • Audit Content, Photo Assets, & UGC: Take an open-minded look at the content used in your marketing. Look for opportunities to showcase a wider variety of people in your imagery. Evaluate your website content, blog, and social media efforts and audit for staff bias.
  • Talk About Inclusion With Your Partners: Your teams know your destination best. Brainstorm ways you can work together to be more inclusive and hold one another accountable.
  • Review Partner Listings: Are you featuring Black-owned business in your partner listings? Are there ways to highlight diverse businesses in a way you haven’t done before? Help your partners update their Google My Business listings.

Taking actions today, this week, this month, this year, and every year after will help us evolve and elevate ourselves to be a better company and better individuals. Madden is committed to transforming the way we think and act as a company and as individuals to improve the world around us.

2020 STS Marketing College Scholarships

Take your career to the next level with #STSMC20!

Madden is now accepting applications for two scholarships to attend the Southeast Tourism Society Marketing College®. Two scholarships will be awarded to tourism industry professionals working in one of the 14 STS member regions (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, Missouri, and Washington DC).  The deadline to apply for this scholarship is June 30, 2020 at 5pm EST.  Please click HERE to apply. 

STS Marketing College® provides this unique continuing education program for travel and tourism professionals annually. Students participate in an in-depth one-week curriculum designed to teach marketing techniques from all facets of the tourism industry.

Marketing College® professors are highly experienced and industry-related professionals from across the U.S. They are viewed as experts in their field who bring a working-knowledge of current trends, data, and implementation for tourism and travel straight to the classroom. These courses will be held at Mercer University in Macon, GA.

During the week at #STSMC20, students will attend lectures, be part of discussion groups, and have one-of-a-kind networking opportunities. Courses are designed for all levels of professionals and cover a variety of industry specific topics such as research, economic impact, advocacy, branding, and more. Watch this video if you need a little more convincing!

Not only will students be immersed in learning and having a great time with other travel professionals, but those who complete all three years of Marketing College® will receive and be presented with a Travel Marketing Professional (TMP) certification at a special graduation ceremony at the STS annual meeting, STS Connections.The scholarship covers tuition, dorm room accommodations, and course materials. Applications are due by June 30, 2020, at 5pm EST, and recipients will be announced by Friday, July 3, 2020. Applications can be submitted HERE.

Meetings Recovery Plan

Road trips, drive markets, and previous visitors are all good targets for the leisure travel market, but what about business travel and meetings? We know leisure travel accounts for over 70% of the total travel spending with business travel accounting for the other 30%. For some destinations, this balance shifts significantly one way or another. (U.S. Travel)

As we look at the 30% of travel for business, specifically the meetings and events industry in a post-COVID world, destinations need to start planning now to ensure their pipelines are full in 6-12 months. We are already seeing several destinations leaning into booking for strength into 2021 and 2022. 

For those that are actively working their meetings pipeline, there is success with 1 in 3 planners sourcing and booking future business. For those that are not actively booking, about 40% are researching for the future. Note, fewer than 10% are not planning events for the future. (Pulse Report, Northstar

Meetings planners are currently scheduling new meetings starting in September with most looking into Q1/Q2 of 2021. With meetings being scheduled about 180 days into the future, destinations need to ensure they are providing the resources needed for planners, especially as many DMOs and hotels have reduced their sales staff. We have provided some recommendations on how destinations should consider moving forward with planning for future meetings.

What do planners see when they come to your website?

While citywide festivals and massive trade shows are going to occur again in the future, planners expect to see fewer of them. The first groups they expect to see return include Association, Government, SMERF (Social, Military, Education, Religious, Fraternal), and Sports. Our first recommendation: ensure you have a landing page that speaks to each of these audiences you want to recruit to your destination. 

We know segmentation works across all spectrums of marketing—people need to be able to envision themselves in a destination. For these smaller groups, they often do not have a professional meeting planner assisting them and need additional help to envision their event in a specific venue. With DMO sales staff and hotel sales teams also being reduced, providing these pages with a variety of imagery of events and not just empty rooms will be fundamental to a good user experience. While you cannot show all venues in your destination, we recommend prioritizing resorts, boutique hotels, flat-field sports, and your major brands ahead of conference and convention centers, gaming facilities, and large sports facilities.

What action do you want planners to take?

As your planners engage with your content, we must think about what happens next—do you want them to pick up the phone to call your team, submit a RFP, reserve space immediately? While any option is available, we recommend a strong CTA to have them submit a RFP or provide a guided request for information about their event. This allows you to capture key information and share it with your respective hotel partners. 

Just requesting information is not always enough. Destinations need to lead consumers to make a decision, and in a time of uncertainty they will be looking to the DMO for answers. This provides an opportunity for you to work with your partners to create a “safe” planning experience offering cancellation or postponement windows for 2020, technology solutions for added value, packages for attendees, or other creative solutions. 

While six months ago planners wanted to see all of the fun activities they could do outside of the event, today they will be incredibly focused on the attendees’ experience at a post-pandemic event. They will want to mitigate risk and ensure their attendees have a healthy experience as well. Consider having your partners make commitments like Connect has provided in their Safe Space 2020 plan

How are you nurturing your existing relationships?

Keep in mind that many more planners will be working independently, have fewer resources, and will be seeking more assistance from DMOs and partners. With fewer staff members, DMOs need to make CRMs and MarTech solutions work for them. Those long-hated CRMs that “got in the way of relationships” are going to be gold for DMOs who have maintained them and understand how they can help, especially with those third-party planners who have a consistent pipeline. Here is where we recommend you activate MarTech solutions to bring your existing relationships back for in-person and virtual fam tours.

We know in the near future, fam tours may be difficult to do. In the meantime, work with your partners to capture photos, video, 360-degree experiences. If you do not have those, schedule virtual meetings, grab a phone or iPad and FaceTime them or have yet another Zoom meeting walking around your properties. It is that kind of commitment to planners that is going to land a single contract for an extra 100, 200, 500 room nights.

If you are looking for a more tangible touch-point for planners, we recommend looking into IP-mapping technologies that allow for sending direct mail pieces, hand written notes, or custom “planner kits” to planners who you know have been engaged with your content or your destination in the past.

What’s next?

So, you’ve built your landing pages, optimized a great user experience and connected it to your MarTech solutions—so now you’re done, right? Maybe. 

Those organic tools are the bread and butter of DMOs and are built on years of personal relationships and experience of planners with your destination. If your pipeline looks a bit light then it’s time to work through putting together marketing assets to improve prospecting and growing that audience of meetings planners. With your newly optimized website experience, you can measure the cost of each RFP or RFI submission through conversion tracking and innovative marketing solutions. 

As you look at your marketing plans, recent research shows that smaller local and regional events will thrive before national and international groups gather. Much like your leisure marketing, look at industries and potential targets in your region ahead of looking towards the larger and more national or international events. (PCMA) You know how to attract visitors to your destination—make sure you share those best practices with your meetings planners who need to monetize attendees. Also, look at best practices from others that improve the user experience. You have built tremendous relationships with your partners, now is a great time to translate those relationships into Attendee Passports that can be a value-add for attendees and also brings revenue into your local partners.

In summary, our recommendations include:

  • Ensure you have a landing page that speaks to each of the meeting planner audiences you want to recruit to your destination. 
  • Create strong CTAs to have planners submit a RFP or provide a guided request for information about their event
  • Activate your MarTech solutions to bring your existing relationships with planners back for in-person and virtual fam tours
  • Create marketing assets to improve prospecting and grow that audience of meetings planners for your destination

At Madden, we are committed to the recovery and growth of the travel industry. For nearly 40 years, we have created and delivered innovative solutions for our partners in the best of times and the most challenging of times. Our team stands with the tourism industry to help lead the recovery alongside our amazing partners. 

Destination Marketing & Small Business

Locally-owned businesses have long been the lifeblood of travel and tourism. Recently, travel restrictions due to COVID-19 have brought hard times for industries that rely on tourism dollars, causing local businesses to suffer inequitably. The crisis has served as a reminder of how vital small businesses are to our communities’ economic health and well-being. Locally-owned mom and pop shops enrich our beloved neighborhoods in both wealth and culture—attracting residents and travelers alike. As destination marketers, in conjunction with our DMO partners, we can ensure that local businesses reap the benefits of tourism while providing visitors an unforgettably authentic experience.

How Destination Marketing Can Support Local Economies

As marketers in the travel vertical, we can nourish the small business economies of towns across the US through thoughtful advertising. In collaboration with our partners, we start by identifying what makes your destination unique. Is it the quaint and colorful downtown shopping area or perhaps the mouth-watering “down-home country” Cajun restaurants that make your city stand out? By providing local treasures a platform, we can illuminate and uplift these small businesses.

Through authentic content and a thoughtful digital media strategy, we are able to amplify your destination’s eccentricities, creating a healthier and more robust local economy.

Authentic Content 

A high-performing marketing campaign always starts with exceptional content. At Madden, our Content Team embodies an authoritative “insider’s perspective” view, unique to your destination. Through first-person narrative storytelling and the activation of in-market writers and influencers, we guarantee genuine and bona fide content. Information about local attractions imbued with relevant keywords on your website provides our Digital Team with excellent landing pages to drive visitors to while boosting your SEO value.

Awe-Inspiring Video

Leveraging our professional production team, we can create on-site video content featuring small businesses. These videos serve as a visual representation of your destination’s local community. Our So-Fi Videos utilize User Generated Content to give visitors an authentic view of the destination, from travelers who have actually experienced it. In today’s visual world, videos are absolutely key to your online advertising strategy. They give travelers a sneak peek into your destination and can be housed on your DMO website or utilized as advertisements on Facebook, YouTube, or elsewhere.

Thoughtful Digital Marketing

Our Digital Media Team develops an all-encompassing online advertising strategy for your destination that includes keyword bidding and targeting. By focusing on search queries and custom audience segments for local businesses, we can reach travelers lower in the marketing funnel who are searching for the things that make your destination unique. Conversely, we can reach visitors at the awareness stage of the funnel by bidding for keywords that include “local,” “family-owned,” etc., and tying them to your location through geo-modifiers and targeting. Our Digital Media Team is equipped to share your city’s local attractions with the world by meeting travelers online with information about your destination.

Travelers are inspired not by homogeneity and chains, but by the family-owned bakeries and unique vintage boutiques that light up a town.

The vast digital landscape is enhancing and expanding the ways in which we can influence travelers from near and far to experience the unique zest of your destination. By directing visitors to local attractions and businesses, Madden can help foster a thriving economy that gives cities financial autonomy while producing meaningful jobs for locals. Providing a platform to the small, local, and irreplaceable businesses in your community has never been more critical. It is just one of the ways in which Madden is focused on growing communities through tourism and economic development.

2020 Hermes Award Winners!

Madden is proud to announce five wins for our clients’ campaigns in the 2020 Hermes Creative Awards! Congratulations to Galena Country Tourism on their Platinum Hermes Award for their Integrated Marketing Campaign and to Lubbock Economic Development Alliance for their Digital Marketing Campaign. Gold Hermes Award winners for the electronic media category are Lake Havasu City’s “Find Your Element” Campaign and in the print publications category Missouri Official Travel Guide and DISCOVER South Carolina. Read on to learn more about these successful programs:

Galena Country Tourism

Platinum Hermes Award:
Integrated Marketing Campaign

Galena Country and Madden Media built an entire print and digital campaign around the Marketing Initiatives that were put in place for 2019. The Official Visitors Guide and complementary digital campaigns showcased the following themes through creative and paid media:

  • History (Historically Amazing) 
  • Events in Galena Country 
  • Adventure Awaits 
  • Get to Galena Country 

The omni-channel approach tied print and digital efforts together to form a tourism marketing campaign that used research to define the messaging shared across all media. The success of each tactic and element came together to support prospective travelers (and ultimately visitors) at each stage of their consumer journey—awareness, inspiration, consideration/conversion, in-market, and advocacy.

The success of Galena Country’s Tourism Marketing Campaign was measured at granular levels to create a full picture. At the top level, Galena Country and Madden were able to implement the guide into more channels and incorporate guide requests and downloads into year-round ads. Data informed all decisions about the campaign, including research, analysis of components, and continuous optimization.

Learn more about Galena Country Tourism’s campaign here.

Lubbock Economic Development Alliance

Platinum Hermes Award:
Digital Campaign – Interactive & Social Media

In 2019, LEDA wanted to spur economic growth by targeting professionals to return to Lubbock to fill needed professional vacancies, encourage college and high school graduates to remain in Lubbock and build community awareness and pride. There were several campaigns as part of this effort, including Return2LBK, StayNLBK, and Here By Choice. Return2LBK’s focus was targeting individuals who had previously attended a west Texas college or university and encouraging them to relocate to Lubbock. StayNLBK’s focus was reaching recent high school graduates and college students who were nearing their final year to encourage them to get a job in Lubbock after graduation. The strategy for this campaign was to focus on tying efforts to Lubbock culture and nightlife. The Here By Choice campaign focused on telling the stories of entrepreneurs who work in Lubbock as a way of using advocacy to encourage others to relocate to the area. Lubbock Economic Development Alliance worked with
Madden Media to create and execute these campaigns.

Learn more about Lubbock Economic Development Alliance’s campaign here.

Go Lake Havasu “Find Your Element” Campaign

Gold Hermes Award:
Electronic Media – Audio & Video

Go Lake Havasu’s branded campaign, “Say Yes to Adventure,” had run its course, and it was time for a little refresh. The aspirational “Find Your Element” campaign was developed in collaboration with Madden Media. The goal was to inspire visitors to “be in their element” and find “greater happiness” while visiting Lake Havasu City. We took a fun twist on the universe’s elements with “water, earth, air, and fun” to represent what makes up an epic Lake Havasu experience. Strategically, these campaign elements showcase the unique pillars and things to do, while the integrated brand campaign targets high-intent consumers and invites them to find their element in Lake Havasu City.

Learn more about Go Lake Havasu’s campaign here.

DISCOVER South Carolina Vacation Guide

Gold Hermes Award:
Print Publication; Magazine

In a world where video and digital storytelling become more popular year after year, DMOs are challenged to innovate with their print products—Madden and South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism (SCPRT) have done just that. For the latest rendition of DISCOVER, big inspiration was the number one goal; informative content can be found online. SCPRT and Madden focused on creating a printed guide that moved away from the traditional in-market usage and encouraged consumers to cherish the guide as a keepsake. Our strategy to take the Vacation Guide to a whole new level of inspiration included four key tactics:

  • Featuring a local celebrity on the cover 
  • Crafting a horizontal guide with quality paper stock 
  • Investing in stunning imagery and design 
  • Sections separated by story topic

Learn more about the campaign here, check out the digital edition here, or immerse yourself in the Content Hub here.

Missouri Official Travel Guide

Gold Hermes Award:
Print Publication; Magazine

The 2020 Missouri Official Travel Guide draws prospective travelers in from the moment they see the intriguing Bridal Caves on the wrap-around cover. The artistry of illustrations used throughout the guide—particularly in the “Kidding Around” feature that showcases family fun activities across the state—make readers pause to take a closer look. The design provides a multitude of visual entry points that keep the reader engaged. The Show-Me State’s guide lives up to its nickname.

The guide includes stories that appeal to a variety of interests. One of our favorites is “Made by Hand in Missouri.” The designer was given freedom by the client to express their personal style, and threw in some hand-drawn elements throughout the feature. Texture, grain, and intentionally imperfect illustrations round out the photos and create an interesting reading experience. The great photography— combined with the other elements—really showcased Missouri’s maker movement in a way that feels authentic

Read more about the guide here, or check out the digital edition here.

Keeping Your Audience Engaged

While folks can’t travel, give them something they can use: information, inspiration, and humor.

The past month has been devastating to many. The effect the COVID-19 crisis has had—on people, families, businesses, industries, and the world economy—has been far and wide. The travel and tourism industry has physically screeched to a halt during this time. But virtually, it is alive and well. Many of our tourism industry partners have continued their messaging but tailored their message to respond to the situation. During times of crisis, the key is not to go silent, but approach your audience with empathy, and deliver sincere, genuine, compassionate communication. 

Think of others and help out where you can

While the shutdown has impacted DMOs and their partners, the compound effect of the loss of travel and forced closure of restaurants and bars has caused the loss of millions of jobs worldwide. DMOs can help by getting involved in their communities. In Michigan, Travel Marquette established a food pantry in that community, with food and gift cards to help out workers in the hospitality industry. 

Be a source of information

While folks are stuck at home, they are getting plenty of screentime. Make your website a place they can turn to for information. For example, Visit Tampa Bay established a Dining at a Distance page where residents can easily see—in both map view and list view—which restaurants are offering take out with pick up or delivery. Restaurant owners and individuals can also easily submit changes as the hospitality landscape rapidly shifts. Travel Marquette has also done something similar. They created a page with a list of restaurants, their hours, and whether they are offering take out, delivery, or both. 

Make it fun

To encourage residents to support their local restaurants, Tampa Bay created Takeout Bingo where residents can select from a variety of bingo cards pre-filled out with various restaurants, and fill it up by ordering from those establishments. Once they submit their completed card, they’ll be entered to win a host of restaurant gift certificates. So not only can locals feel good about supporting your local community by ordering takeout, they may even be rewarded for their efforts. 

Offer inspiration through virtual experiences and livestreams

Life can get pretty boring being stuck inside looking at the same four walls. Take people outdoors—or indoors—to entertain and engage them with virtual experiences. It didn’t take long for this video of rockhopper penguins exploring the other animal exhibits at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium to go viral. 

Using this viral video as a use-case example, we recommend creating similar opportunities for your destination. Some of the ways our partners are doing this include:

  • Visit Tampa Bay created a Virtual Experiences page with links to livestreams at several of their local attractions, such as the Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa, Busch Gardens, as well as museums, theaters, and symphonies. 
  • Visit Idaho and Visit Tampa Bay also designed online jigsaw puzzles, word searches, and coloring books featuring their local attractions. 
  • Visit Tampa Bay also created this Discover Tampa from a Distance page, with user-generated content showing ways residents are finding their zen at home, and remembering time spent in their favorite local places. 

Use humor

The Director of Security at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City is the latest media sensation. 

After taking over the museum’s social media from “Seth from Marketing” while the museum is closed, the museum has seen its social media following explode from thousands to hundreds of thousands. This is all thanks to Tim’s down-to-earth style, which has resonated with users. 

Be sincere

Viewers can tell when you’re not, and no one benefits when you put profits over people. Ease up on urgency. Now is not the time for early-bird promotions. Take the opposite approach. Visit Idaho, Visit Independence, Missouri, and Grand Canyon West have all encouraged visitors to stay home—for now—with videos and digital ads (Idaho See You Soon, Keep Dreaming Idaho and Idaho Stay Home, Stay Healthy animated).

While the impact of this crisis is expected to be long-lasting—and we will likely all be changed in some way—we know people will begin to travel again. Because travel is in our DNA. It’s part of human nature. We are curious, social creatures. Travel exposes us to other cultures, food, surroundings. It builds compassion and expands our worldview. It brings us closer together as we come to realize we are all more alike than different. And that alone can help make the world a better place. For all of us. 

Be well. And start planning your next adventure.

Looking Ahead: How to Help U.S. Travel Planning

Perhaps now more than ever, Americans are dreaming of their next travel adventure. With tactful sensitivity and an emphasis on flexibility, your destination can help travelers start thinking ahead, and give them something to look forward to while sheltering in place. 

What organizations do now will make a lasting impact on their future in terms of loyalty and growth. Have confidence in the fact that travel will bounce back, and keep your destination on minds and in hearts. While it’s understandable that paid marketing efforts may need to be kept to a minimum right now, a few relevant, thoughtful updates on your part can go a long way. With this in mind, below are some ideas you may want to implement now.  

Promote a Fall/Winter Getaway

Those popular fall festivals, holiday celebrations, winter sports, and ski lodge stays in your area could be worth promoting much earlier this year. Think about your best fall and winter attractions, events, and seasonal lodging offers, and bring those to the forefront now. If you usually put out a fall and/or winter travel guide for your destination, consider providing it now for planning ahead efforts. There may also be rescheduled events, like weddings, that are being considered for a later date in the year (for gatherings, please refer to the latest guidelines provided by the CDC).

Offer Deals

Travelers enjoy deals not just in terms of low cost but for overall value. Put together assorted package deals to help potential visitors choose your destination. Discounts on accommodations, dining, and attractions for both new and returning visitors can be promoted now for future travel.  You may also want to highlight any free things to do in your area.

Be Flexible

Try taking the measures to offer more flexibility with plan-ahead options. Travelers already appreciate minimal risk and low stress when booking trips, but at this time, it may be a key decision-making factor for whether or not to consider your destination. Allowing for special (temporary) considerations, such as changes to your policies regarding refunds, cancellations, and deposits, is both considerate and forward-thinking.

Provide Answers 

Try to ease worries that potential or returning visitors may have before they plan their trip. One way to do this is to have a current FAQ section on your site that lists questions and answers to some of the most relevant topics of today. Make it easy for visitors to find out what’s open, where to stay, and address any safety concerns. Include the date when the FAQs were last updated. It’s important to remain vigilant in providing accurate information. Also, be sure to have a contact email available as well, which is checked regularly.   

Target Regional Visitors

With many travel restrictions in place, people may be looking closer to home for their next getaway. It’s reasonable to assume many travelers will forego flights in favor of driving to destinations this year. Consider efforts to target surrounding states within driving distance. A fairly low-cost example would be to run Facebook ads that target by interest and only show within your state and surrounding states. This way, targeted users are more likely to see your organic message in their feeds. Click here for more information on how to use this function on Facebook. You may also want to consider using only top-drive markets for your location.

Map it Out

It’s likely many of the first travelers to start planning a getaway will be interested in doing a road trip. Throughout the United States, there are a number of fantastic routes to explore – from scenic loops to river roads to historic interstates. Take a look at opportunities near your destination to include a stay along the way for visitors. You may even want to consider partnering up with nearby locations to help map out some road trip ideas. An actual online map within your site is also ideal for getting visitors to plan time in your destination.

Be a Bucket List Destination

Now is a time when people may be getting creative in where they go and what they do. If you’ve never quite seen your destination as a “bucket list” place, maybe it’s time to ask yourself why not! The United States is a melting pot of cultures from around the world. That European trip may be off the agenda for a while, so what does your location offer that can provide cultural experiences unique to your location? Many destinations show off villages and areas of town with strong heritage and communities – where visitors can try unique traditions, foods, art, and more from other countries.

Suggest Itineraries

A time like this may require you to think a little more like a travel agent might, in that efforts to put together the legwork could help get you more interest and bookings. Design some trip ideas for visitors to check out before they book their getaway.  Get creative and try grouping itineraries by activity level – relaxing, adventurous, solo, family, kids, empty nesters, etc. Not only do itineraries make planning easier for a visitor, but they can be great in highlighting some of the best things your destination has to offer.

Show Off Videos and Virtual Tours 

A highly inspiring way to motivate future travel to your destination is with video. Get travelers excited by giving them a way to visualize an experience in your location. This doesn’t have to mean shooting a video from scratch – you can also take existing video assets and create a new edit, with current messaging. For great video examples, check out Visit Idaho’s goodwill video, and their wonderful page of virtual tours

Boost Your SEO

Make sure your Search Engine Optimization is up-to-date. Are your meta descriptions and keywords relevant for current web searches? Review our blog post on SEO for more tips on protecting your current SEO status, which is especially vital if you’ve had to cut marketing efforts down significantly. 

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions or need assistance implementing any of these ideas.  

Recovery Marketing Led by Travel Intent

As the COVID-19 curve flattens and destinations look toward resuming or restarting their marketing campaigns, Madden has made it a priority to help our partners make better decisions about their marketing efforts and planning based on reliable data and insights.

Utilizing our DOMO powered reporting dashboard, Madden Voyage, we’ve identified and compiled key industry trends and research from a variety of sources including media platforms, DMO websites, and Google. Taking this broad mix of ever-evolving data, we’re able to analyze multiple streams of information at once to better predict when travelers will be ready to start traveling again. We’re working behind-the-scenes to help DMOs:

  • Capture the consumer as they resume travel planning and seek inspiration by providing insight into when to begin campaigns to start engaging the consumer on their own terms.
  • Compare travel intent against historical trends to see how behavior is changing in order to optimize marketing tactics based on travel intent in real-time.
  • Identify messages resonating with consumers that are increasing their intent to travel.

Identifying Intent Indicators

When it comes to determining intent measurements, we’re focusing on a few key pieces of data:

  • Aggregated Organic Intent (AOI): We believe this is one of the key indicators of travel intent because it shows dedicated engagement on DMO websites. Beyond just site visits, we are looking at page types and DMO search terms to validate that the consumer is on DMO websites with the intent to be inspired or plan for travel. We weigh this type of metric highly for consumer travel intent.
  • Aggregated Marketing Engagement (AME): The goal of this metric is to show how the consumer is interacting with paid marketing efforts compared to historical trends, so we can ensure marketing is being provided at the right time.
  • Travel Search Trends (TST): Based on Google searches by week and keyword, we believe this will be a leading indicator showing when consumers will start regaining their interest in travel. We know the circuitous path that is the traveler’s journey, and this information enriches what we are not able to see on DMO websites and from media providers.

Intent by Numbers

When it comes to AOI and TST, our partners saw a sharp decline to almost no engagement starting in March. However, these numbers have since plateaued and we have even seen marginal increases over the last couple of weeks. Additionally, travelers are revisiting travel websites and research after booking to stay on top of developing information. This offers even more opportunity to engage and interact with prospective travelers as their intent to travel increases. In the case of AME, engagement has stayed relatively steady with dips occurring only when efforts were paused momentarily. As of this week, each of the partners we’ve monitored has seen a return to “normal” levels of Aggregated Marketing Engagement.

What does this mean?

With week over week gains with a plateau in six-month travel plan cancellations, these numbers indicate that engagement has already reached its lowest point and our partners can begin moving from protecting their brand to planning for future marketing initiatives as outlined in our Protect. Plan. Recover. Framework. 

Marketing to Travel Intent

Don’t wait for stay-at-home orders to end before restarting your marketing efforts, encourage your audience to plan for recovery but recognize that your messaging must be tailored to be specific to the situation. Prospective travelers still perceive fall travel as safe but, among those planning travel, there is a clear increase in drive market intent to travel while consumers are still avoiding air and international travel. Additionally, these hopeful travelers are particularly interested in outdoor activities and local support and collaboration beyond hotel partners. Inspirational messaging that showcases outdoor options and creates emotional connections to the destination will be well-received. It’s not just the messages that need to be tailored, the method of delivery is also evolving as digital platforms and TV receive more attention and audio formats receive less.

As traveler intent increases, the following tactics will help our partners reach consumers where they are in their planning process—knowing that booking windows will shorten while planning windows expand amid uncertainty.

Engage and Encourage

Lower-funnel marketing efforts continue to serve consumers looking for more information and those who have previously expressed interest in your destination. Target your existing engaged audiences and continue to build audience development momentum among leisure travelers through SEM, YouTube, lead generation, remarketing, CTV, organic social, SEO, and print and digital visitor guides. Minimize events content while identifying and promoting virtual tourism opportunities.

Continue meeting planning marketing with long-term orientation and adapted messaging for future meetings booking in 2021 and beyond. Shift focus to audiences already in the conversion funnel to continue to build momentum and maintain the lead through SEM, remarketing, and LinkedIn remarketing. Now’s the time to transition to online sales and planning tools as much as possible; consider virtual planning and visualization opportunities like maps, 360-video, and digitally-built itineraries. 

Incentive Activation

Update your site with engaging content that welcomes visitors back to your destination and promotes local dining and hotel partner packages/deals while remaining reflective of current and future social distancing expectations. Be sure to resume any lapsed SEO efforts to bridge gaps in content. Continue to focus on lower-funnel efforts with an increase in paid media to further fuel inspiration and awareness as well as recover site traffic losses. Geo-target residents, in-state and drive markets, and key meetings markets to reach them with SEM, remarketing, paid social, native advertising, and other brand awareness tactics.

Collaborate with meetings venues and local business partners to create incentive opportunities that can be used in promotion in order to quick-start bookings and re-establish the sales pipeline. Re-establish awareness tactics and promote these new incentives with SEM, prospecting and remarketing, LinkedIn prospecting and remarketing, LinkedIn InMail, dedicated meetings incentive content, and native content advertising.

Recovery Marketing

Diligently review marketing performance and pivot messaging as travel is reintroduced across the board and the industry heads toward recovery. Expand targeting to include regional and key fly markets. Transition messaging to include content pillars and discovery-oriented calls-to-action for new consumers and booking calls-to-action for remarketed consumers. Test, optimize, and measure media and creative carefully during this recovery period to ensure relevancy. Results and responses during this time will influence future planning. Continue incentive promotions, especially around lodging and dining for leisure marketing and incentives to book for meeting planners/group travel. 

Expand Brand Marketing 

As the travel and hospitality industry continues to recover and adjust, gauge reintroducing events, gatherings, etc. into marketing messaging and creative. Assess and activate broad and niche brand marketing activities across channels. Re-evaluate international marketing initiatives to possibly resume in 2021. Consumer needs and values around what matters most have likely been altered and will have a lasting impact. An appreciation for life, experiences together, and joy-seeking will emerge as emotional values to highlight in brand marketing. 

Market Reorientation

As consumers continue to ramp up travel, this is the time to revisit research in order to get an understanding of the new consumer landscape. Understanding your current audience is the most important step in developing future strategies. Messaging and prioritization can now shift to once again focus on occupancy. Assist in navigating consumers through the Traveler’s Journey with a comprehensive marketing campaign including SEM, prospecting and brand awareness, and remarketing and conversion. 

Looking Forward

Travel has already shown beginning signs of resuming and Madden is keeping a pulse on industry data to provide our partners with actionable insights. These insights will help us identify when to enact new strategies in order to reach consumers where they are in their planning process. As the industry rebounds to a new normal, we’ll continue to provide cutting-edge solutions in real-time and prioritize the growth of our partners—your success is our success.

The Messages of Compassion, Unity, and Hope in Trying Times

In times of uncertainty, it can be difficult to navigate appropriate communication and messaging to clients and consumers. A sense of compassion, unity, and hope can go a long way in hard times. In the travel industry, we know how vital it is to convey these messages in ways that are understanding and supportive. As we navigate turbulent times, several destinations and companies are finding great ways to do just that.  

If you’re in need of inspiration, we’ve highlighted some key themes and phrases of such messaging.

Compassion and Unity 

Messages with a great deal of understanding and patience are currently being used by several large organizations, such as General Motors (Cadillac commercial).  The phrase “we’re all in this together” is an appealing personal message you can provide while business as usual is on pause. 

Hope and Looking Ahead

“We’re here for you when you’re ready” is an excellent way to inspire planning ahead. It’s likely a lot of people are daydreaming of their next vacation right now, and being a beacon of light could help lift their spirits.  The destination of Las Vegas has recently aired a spot with this messaging.  Grand Canyon West created an inspiring video with this type of messaging as well.

Presentness and Flexibility

The message of “we’re here for you, now” is also very prevalent with the current state of tourism and other businesses. Staying vigilant to do what you can, day-to-day, can not only build stronger ties with your clients and customers—but keep you first-in-mind when the storm has passed.  

For destinations, promoting the safest options available can be of great use to those looking for a simple getaway, if even just online. Some ideas are:

  • Solo Getaways: An interesting option that may be more applicable at this time are trips for one. Opportunities for taking a solo getaway could include bed and breakfast specials and outdoor activities like camping or fishing. 
  • Outdoor Recreation: Encouragement to enjoy wide, open spaces at this time is a positive message that can safely fulfill the need for a getaway. Focusing on areas with a lot of room to roam could be a welcome retreat to people within your surrounding community. If you have campgrounds, hiking trails, lakes, and open parks—providing people with locations, maps, hours, tips, and resources can go a long way in easing minds. 
  • Virtual Tours, Photo Galleries, Live Cams: There may already be assets you have that can be brought to the forefront presently. Some attractions are currently promoting their virtual tours. This is ideal for attractions like museums and historic homes/buildings.
  • Deals and Offers: Several destinations and companies are offering specials with discounts, deals, and giveaways. Keeping safety and health in mind, these might be opportunities that can be used/redeemed at a later date. 
  • Video Messages: A personal message from someone within your organization can be a great way to provide information and supportive words.  

Being Helpful with Relevant Information and Awareness 

Ways to provide relevant information can help inform people of current conditions in your area.  Several destinations and companies have created dedicated landing pages, and crafted special emails, for this purpose. The message here is general and can cover updates, announcements, maps, press releases, or links from reliable sources such as the CDC and the U.S. Travel COVID-19 page.

With creative thinking and an emphasis on kindness and flexibility, a pause in business doesn’t have to mean “closed.” We hope you’ll find some of these ideas useful.  For more insight and information on getting through this time in our history, please see our helpful guide to Protect. Plan. Recover. 

If you have any more tips or ideas that you’re currently implementing and finding successful, feel free to drop us a line, and we might feature you on our Instagram page!