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Dive Brief:

  • Hilton launched a new global marketing campaign that includes TV ads, online videos as well as other digital and social content, and offers a toast “To new memories,” the company announced in a press release. Campaign creative depicts moments of reconnection consumers have been missing over the past six months, positioning Hilton as a place to make new memories.
  • The campaign reflects the results of Hilton’s recent survey of 2,000 Americans that signaled a pent-up demand for leisure travel, with 63% saying making new memories with loved ones is an important reason they travel. Ninety percent of those queried said the nation is facing a “travel memory deficit,” and two-thirds will quit putting off trips and vacations once the pandemic subsides.
  • Hilton thinks the time has arrived to start promoting vacations again, having rolled out its new campaign in other markets over the past six weeks. The company is now forging ahead with the U.S. launch, starting first on social media, followed by TV commercials and other online channels.

Dive Insight:

Seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, consumers are showing an itch to get back on the road for leisure travel, according to Hilton. Many Americans responding to Hilton’s survey said travel is their most frequently recalled happy memory, even more than special occasions or personal achievements. As a result, 90% of respondents said the current suspension of travel creates a missed opportunity to create new memories.

However, it remains unclear if consumers are really ready to travel again as high COVID-19 infection rates continue to plague many regions. A recent uptick in travel-related bookings may be more a reflection of pent-up demand and may not translate into actual revenue for companies if consumers cancel trips as departure dates approach and infection rates remain high, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article. Canceling bookings has gotten easier during the pandemic as travel companies have tried to entice travelers with more flexibility, the Journal points out.

The travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. Airlines and hotel chains have been slashing their workforces as revenues drop. Category ad spending, which generally increases through the summer, dropped precipitously, and some companies are looking to the government for assistance.

Hilton’s survey and new campaign suggest travel could be one of the first big expenditures consumers invest in once the health crisis starts to retreat. Among respondents, 63% said they will choose relaxation over adventure for their next vacation, and 80% say they would prioritize creating new memories when they do travel. In addition, 39% said they plan to travel more than they previously did, and 62% said they would journey to new destinations.

Consumers believe travel is an important element to their mental health and self-care. According to the survey, 44% said travel improved relationships with friends and family. A similar percentage said travel helped them gain gratitude for what they have in their lives.

“Travel is an unstoppable force, and we know consumers are eager to reconnect with the people and places they love,” Danny Hughes, Hilton Americas’ executive vice president and president, said in a statement.

The new Hilton creative attempts to capture some of the ways people enjoy travel, including depictions of vacationers driving with the top down in a convertible on a sunny day, emerging from a hotel room to a beautiful view and kids excitedly running down the hall to their room.

However, recognizing that traveling during a pandemic can add more stress than it may relieve, Hilton is also touting offerings that might put people’s minds at ease. In addition to contactless arrival and more flexible reservation policies, the hotel chain is highlighting its CleanStay cleanliness and disinfection program. The brand’s Hilton Honors program is also offering greater flexibility, and the company is launching a double rewards promotion through Dec. 31 for eligible members. Hilton’s campaign launch comes just four months after company CMO Kellyn Smith Kenny announced she was leaving the company amid drastic staff cuts.

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