Top Creative Considerations for Travel Advertising During a Crisis

Traveler Mindsets Have Changed

Large crowds, busy markets, grand buffets, festivals, concerts, sporting events.

The desire to enjoy these experiences, for many, still exists. The reality, however, is very different.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still upon us, “social distancing”—the phrase of the year—and the topic of mask wearing as headline news, travelers are more sensitive than ever to the images, videos, and messages from brands across the web, TV, and social media feeds.

A recent Travelocity study shows that nearly 90 percent of travelers consider hygiene and cleanliness the most important factors for traveling as restrictions lift. Not food, sights, or activities. Not hotel location, deals, or air transport.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

Who would have guessed?

A New Approach to Creative

As the pandemic developed in the early months of this year, our Expedia Group brands and our Media Solutions team faced a stunning realization: the world had turned upside down and there was no playbook for how to proceed.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

To help our partners navigate these challenging times and adapt, our Media Solutions team has taken many steps to increase speed, consistency, and collaboration. Here are three examples:

1. Developed new creative guidelines and review processes.
2. Built a new creative decision-making task force across UX, Legal, and Operations.
3. Instituted a a new testing and learning process with weekly evaluations.

Learning Through Partnership and Testing

The beauty of Expedia Group and our Media Solutions team is that we don’t have to rely on opinion, ego, or the loudest voice in the room dictating what we do next.

We use data to guide our direction and decisions.

We are fortunate to have amazing advertisers who are excited to test messaging, creative, and calls to action. We can run campaigns and see the results of our decisions, testing multiple creative versions and messages to find out what is resonating right now, with travelers.

Combining our testing and data with studies and research from within Expedia Group, we have been able to share best practices with our account management and partner facing teams across the globe, which we then use to inform current and future campaigns.
It has been amazing to partner with advertisers through these unprecedented times because they clearly understand that no single company, person, or agency has all the answers.

One of my favorite tests has been to look at calls to action that are a bit unorthodox. Treasure Coast in Southeast Florida were willing to work with us to test their initial idea of “Don’t Book a Deal” as the call to action vs. “Learn More.” While the campaign is still live and we are waiting for final results, the test has been promising, with strong click through rates. Of course, this approach isn’t right for everyone and more testing is required before we recommend a similar approach to other advertising partners.

Creative Travel Advertising Treasure Coast example of pandemic ad creative
Creative Travel Advertising Treasure Coast  example of pandemic ad creative

What Travelers Want Now

As we have worked with our partners to tailor messaging to traveler sentiment, several themes have been tested successfully. These include:

  • Hygiene and Cleanliness
  • Flexibility
  • Value and Deals
  • Accuracy

Hygiene and Cleanliness

As noted, this is top of mind for travelers during the pandemic. Travelers want to know the measures travel brands are taking to clean, prepare, and manage the traveler experience. While no travel brand can guarantee the health of travelers, and we encourage careful word choice in this area, travel brands can and must inform travelers of the steps they are taking and changes they have instituted.


In the same Travelocity study referenced earlier, the second most important factor for traveling as restrictions lift is flexibility (referenced by 85% of respondents). With millions of travelers canceling or changing their travel plans as the pandemic manifested itself, being able to book without worry if plans change, sickness occurs, or travel restrictions evolve, is super important to travelers right now and likely long into the future.

Value and Deals

Exceptional deals are still ranking very high with travelers. . Value for money is important and can be enough to turn that looking into a booking.

Melia Travel Advertising example of pandemic ad creative that works


Last, but not least, accuracy for your services or destination are important. If you are promoting fun and excitement in the destination, let travelers know what is open and point them to resources for research. Your media landing pages are critical in this part of the process. Check out Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau’s approach as a best practice:

Atlanta Travel Advertising example of pandemic ad creative

As we continue to learn, partner, and evolve our thinking, we are simultaneously working to simplify as much as possible. The themes and examples above are proving to be extremely valuable in connecting travelers with brands and destinations using the right message, creative, and approaches. Travelers want transparency and accuracy regarding hygiene and cleanliness, booking, and travel flexibility, and they are still looking for value. When you bring these elements together with amazing imagery and a strong integrated marketing approach, you are connect with travelers in a way that builds trust and drives confidence in the short and long term.

You can learn more about how to understand traveler attitudes and how COVID-19 will change the way they research, plan, and book travel in our upcoming webinar, How the Travel Industry is Preparing for Recovery.