Reflecting on 20 Years in Travel PR and Looking Ahead
2020 is a significant year for The Brandman Agency as it marks 20 years since our launch in a small New York City office space in what is now called NoMad. Two decades and four international offices later (one still in NoMad), we are grateful to be able to continue to build a prestigious network of clients and a global PR team of dedicated and passionate professionals. Recognizing that one of the reasons for our continued success in travel PR is our ability to keep a finger on the pulse in this ever-changing industry, we are taking this significant year as an opportunity to see what a new decade could bring for the hospitality PR, digital and travel industries. While it’s fun to reflect on years past and remember the days of faxing press releases and thumbing through hard-copy media directories (I know it’s hard to imagine), it’s important to always look ahead and remain agile. This brings us to some of our key industry forecasts for the decade ahead.
Integrated Travel PR Strategies
In today’s changing media landscape, the nature of travel PR will continue to evolve as we move into the next decade. Gone are the days of straightforward press release distribution and cookie-cutter pitching. The ever-expanding digital world we find ourselves in makes it crucial for top travel PR agencies to implement fully integrated communications campaigns that build multiple layers of engagement and creativity for their clients.
Taking a page from our approach to our luxury hospitality clientele, looking at the big picture and developing a 360-degree campaign is extremely valuable in ensuring all components of a well-oiled PR campaign—from story development to influencer and media relations to creative brand partnerships and more—work in tandem with each other to maximize potential exposure for a brand.
Incorporating a comprehensive digital strategy adds valuable layers to a communications campaign, ensuring that any creative initiative undertaken by a brand has opportunities to be amplified on social media and other digital platforms (i.e. podcasts, blogs and microsites, e-newsletters, mobile apps, etc.) through both owned and earned channels. Lining up a brand partnership is great, but the key to a successful collaboration these days is making sure the partnership is leveraged through all available digital channels on both sides—and working in tandem with PR and media relations efforts—to ensure maximum potential awareness and exposure for the brands.
Slow and Undiscovered Tourism
While the travel demand for major US cities like New York, LA and Miami may never cease, 2020 is expected to bring a rise and popularity in travel to “second cities”.
Recently identified as a major travel trend for 2020 by Skift and Booking.com, second-city travel is the exploration of lesser known destinations in a bid to reduce over-tourism and protect the environment. Second-City travel is growing in popularity so much so, that a recent report from Booking.com claims that 45% of travelers would swap their original destination for a lesser-known, but similar alternative, if they knew it would leave less of an environmental impact. Earlier this year, Skift also identified within their annual trend report that contrary to the buzzy concept of ‘overtourism’, is the concept of ‘undertourism’. This plays out in some emerging destinations that are framing themselves as more peaceful or undiscovered alternatives to the packed streets of other cities.
Not only are second cities on the rise, but how travelers are willing to get there is also evolving. Instead of experiencing the constant fear of missing out (FOMO), travel in 2020 will be all about taking it slow and focusing on the journey. 47% of travelers plan to take slower modes of transport to reduce their environmental impact, and 65% would prefer to take a longer route to experience more of the journey itself.
As we look to expand our luxury and lifestyle hospitality portfolio, it’s important that we not overlook the expansion and needs within key second tier cities.
We have compiled a few of our favorite second city travel destinations for 2020.
Where: Louisville, Kentucky
Stay: The Galt House
Where: Alexandria, Virginia
Stay: Morrison House and The Alexandrian
Where: Charleston, South Carolina
Stay: Planters Inn
Where: Detroit, Michigan
Stay: Detroit Foundation Hotel
Where: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Stay: Fairmont Pittsburgh
Valuing Engagement with the disappearance of ‘likes’ on Instagram
Instagram has been testing what its platform would look like without likes appearing on posts in some countries. The effort to remove likes is designed to improve the lives of consumers, but influencers and brands are starting to feel the impact of the change on their accounts. Although it hasn’t been received with much negative feedback yet, influencers are definitely feeling the heat. With the removal of social media “success measurement,” how will the shift in value affect the weight of engagement, and how will we provide tangible numbers to reflect a brand’s ROI? Our thought is this: Instagram was originally a “creators market” – where content was king and likes were just a bonus. Luckily, creators don’t have to worry about the disappearance of likes too much. There are several metrics used to evaluate an Instagram post’s performance. Likes are surface-level, while metrics like engagement and click-throughs to booking sites or other URLs in posts show more about the relationship an influencer has with their audience. As more and more of our clients show an interest in digital, we find ourselves placing more of an emphasis on fantastic, high-quality content and strategic distribution rather than giving into a popularity contest. With the removal of likes, success will be measured through the takeaways, recall, and experience a consumer has while interacting on Instagram.
We must join in on the pledge to travel mindfully
The Republic of Palau provides a passport stamp in the form of a pledge to visitors to “tread lightly, act kindly and explore mindfully.” These types of tourism pledges are on the rise in various forms, from Iceland’s ‘Icelandic Pledge’ launched in 2017 to Hawaii’s Pono Pledge. Destinations that are suffering from overtourism and the overt effects of climate change are seeing ways to train travelers on sustainable practices and cultural awareness. We particularly love The New York Times recent guide to being a more sustainable traveler, which includes tips such as, selecting places closer to home (see our undiscovered tourism trend), visiting popular destinations outside peek periods, or selecting a place that needs support like Puerto Rico.