Last year, when shelter-in-place orders took effect around the world, the plight of travel influencers became immediately apparent. With no trips to document for followers, many shifted their approach to meet lockdown-induced demand for self-care, wellness, cooking and beauty content.
According to IZEA’s Travel & Tourism Influencer Marketing Brief, for which BrandGraph analyzed 241 travel and tourism brands, that trend resulted in a whopping 92 percent drop in the amount of organic, or earned, social media content posted from February 2020 to March 2021. As a result, IZEA estimates travel and tourism brands worldwide lost $5.2 billion in earned media per month, assuming an average value of $20 per post.
“The aggregate value of these organic posts is far greater than what the travel industry spends on paid media. The industry has become reliant on a massive amount of free marketing from social media users that has been abruptly and considerably reduced,” said IZEA chief executive Ted Murphy.
Despite the number of vaccinated people rising and businesses reopening, BrandGraph’s data show that the overall volume of organic content mentioning travel and tourism brands continues to decrease. As IZEA notes, this trend not only makes it easier to capture share of voice (SOV) in the category but also can lead to pricing power for brands that have the budget to offer sponsorships at this time.
Sponsored travel and tourism content, on the other hand, has recovered 77 percent since March 2020 but still remains down 61 percent from February of last year. According to BrandGraph’s findings, the majority of that uptick occurred in March 2021, when the number of relative content volume saw a 37 percent increase as compared to February 2021.
With many people reluctant to showcase their travels on social media, perhaps over fear of being judged, brand awareness and consumer demand will continue to suffer. To kickstart a return to normal, brands have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the safety precautions they’ve put in place by reinvesting in influencer partnerships. IZEA suggests working with influencers to educate consumers on safe ways to vacation, as well as the mental health benefits a vacation can afford after a year of no travel.
“Influencers can assist brands to “prime the content pump” simply by sharing their own experiences with their audience. The potential return on investment from regaining volume and momentum of organic content far outweighs the cost of launching a large-scale influencer marketing campaign,” adds Murphy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people can now travel within the US without proof of COVID-19 testing or self-quarantine, as long as they follow precautions such as wearing a mask and social distancing. With this updated guidance, IZEA believes brands that are most aggressive with their marketing near term will be the fastest to reignite earned media and ultimately, recover.