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Vaccines ahoy! Prepping your brand for the post-COVID-19 travel rebound

Here at Phrasee, travel brands have always held a very special place in our hearts. Two of the first three brands we ever worked with, in fact, were travel brands. We’ve met some amazing people in the travel space from brands like Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Holidays, and Hilton over the years, and they’ve been some of our favorite customers.

That’s why the Phrasee squad was so sad to watch the travel industry struggle so much this past year. The awesome brands and marketers of the travel industry have shown enormous resilience and creativity as they’ve navigated the stormy seas of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there remains much work to be done.

According to BBC, the UK’s largest tour operator, TUI, has reported that bookings for the summer of 2021 are up by a “very promising” 145%. According to a survey of nearly 3,000 frequent travelers from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), an overwhelming majority of US and Canadian travelers (99%) are eager to travel again, with 70% stating that they plan to take a holiday in 2021.

All indications, it seems, point to travel brands breaking out of the marketing holding pattern that they’ve been in, in the coming weeks and months. The rush to implement a robust marketing strategy to re-engage customers (and win new ones!), in fact, has already begun.

Sadly, there’s no magic pill that will solve all of the issues travel marketers face as 2021 takes shape. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have a few suggestions to help you. We’ve spent some serious time thinking about what our friends in the travel industry can do right now to prepare for the post-COVID-19 rebound to come.

Here are a few of our tips:

#1: Give your audience “permission to dream”

Invite travel consumers to start planning for the better travel days ahead. While folks might not be ready to make a purchase today, they will be soon, and now is the time to prime the pump for future success. Plans may have been put on hold, but they still exist, even if only in the minds of the customers your brand would like to engage. Maybe it’s a family reunion, maybe it’s piña coladas on a tropical island, but the time to stoke your audience’s imagination and remind them what’s out there waiting for them is now!

Remaining sensitive in both visuals and language to the evolving understanding of the virus and social expectations is a fine line to walk, but as we can see in the TUI video above, striking the right balance is indeed possible.

#2: Squeeze more value from your marketing content

We’ve said it a thousand times: testing works! Start experimenting with ways to make every part of every marketing message convert better, from media to time of day to the language you use and everything in between. The competition for consumer attention will be fierce in the months ahead. The experimentation and testing you do today could translate to a big boost in marketing performance tomorrow.

Travel consumers need COVID-19 -relevant information right now as they lay their travel plans for the future. What if your marketing was where they could find it? If your brand offers answers, people will listen.

"Subject line performance quickly educated us how certain brand language could be adapted to include specific terms that were previously believed not to be a good fit.”

Philip Wright, formerly of Hilton

#3: Stay sensitive

The mental and physical health implications of the COVID-19 crisis will extend well beyond the lifetime of the crisis itself. This has been a traumatic time for everybody – your customers included. The way you talk to your audience has never been more critical. Remember: 38% of consumers have reported that marketing has the power to make them feel sad – and that was well before COVID-19 was even a blip on our collective radars. Emotions matter, now more than ever. While you’re expressing hope for the future, don’t forget to reassure consumers by focusing on your safety protocols as well.

“We have a moral responsibility to make sure that we put the emotional needs of the public at large first, in every ad, every email, and every marketing campaign we have a hand in from this day forward.”

Parry Malm, CEO, Phrasee

#4: Focus your efforts (and budget!)

Every marketer (and their boss) likes “quick wins”. We always have and we always will. In the heady days of the travel rebound, however, focusing your time, effort, and marketing budget firmly on tools and strategies that deliver immediate marketing performance improvement will be more important than ever. Save that 6-month ESP switch for later and find tools that don’t take a major IT integration to launch.

History has shown time and time again that those brands which invest in marketing during times of crisis outperform those that don’t by a wide margin. Don’t be afraid to invest in your brand’s marketing during this difficult time – just make sure you’re smart about how you do so.


Yes, better days appear to be on the horizon for the travel sector, and we’re glad they are. There are many opportunities and challenges ahead, and we firmly believe that the awesome people working in the travel space will prove equal to the task.

We at Phrasee would like to extend an open invitation to all in the travel space. Feel free to get in touch any time if you need support, ideas, case studies, or insights as the travel rebound takes flight. We’d be more than happy to help in any way we can.