Part IV: Shifts In The U.S. Media Landscape Amidst COVID-19

June 1, 2020

On the heels of Memorial Day weekend and the summer season’s kick-off, we are starting to see more glimmers of hope for reopening and recovery. With this shift, new trends are emerging, and we’ve been keeping a close eye on how these are being covered by the media.

Many hotels are resuming operations in June in-line with government and CDC guidelines. Brands that had new property launches in the pipeline pre-COVID-19 are moving forward with adapted plans, opening in phases as the situation continues to evolve. The good news is they will be opening.

This past week, we saw the reopening of several U.S. destinations and beaches under strict social distancing protocols, while many international destinations have begun announcing opening dates to U.S. tourists for later this summer. Although controversial, Las Vegas announced the reopening of its casinos, and Orlando’s Disney World reported plans for opening in July — both destinations were listed among Expedia’s recent report of top searches for flights and hotels. Across the board, destinations and other travel brands are navigating how to safely promote tourism’s return.

Below is MMGY NJF’s latest summary of media feedback, rising travel trends and hot topics, as covered in the press.

  • Media have switched gears and coverage is now focused on insights on the future of travel and its rebound as envisioned by industry leaders. From The Financial Times anticipating travel to rebuild more responsibly to CNBC listing road trips as the “new travel normal, ” nearly every major outlet has published predictions. The New York Times even ran their story encompassing all sectors of the industry in their “Business” section as a three-page spread.

  • With states and countries reopening, more publications such as Good Morning America and CNBC are beginning to publish “go here now” stories, so long as visitors follow the protective measures in place.

  • During a recent TravMedia webinar, an AFAR editor went as far as to say, “Trust is the new luxury.” This demand for reliability has led hotels — who have largely standardized hygiene and social distancing policies — to potentially “disrupt the disruptor” that is Airbnb.

  • Along the same lines, Condé Nast Traveler conducted a study of “first-to-return travelers” and found that safety protocol is key for helping travelers feel comfortable. Iceland has proven to be a trailblazer in this space and saw major success with its promise of testing anyone who enters the country; the destination’s new policy landed glowing features in BloombergNew York PostTravel + Leisure and more.

  • Social distancing measures that offer Instagrammable moments, such as Domino Park’s painted circles and an Amsterdam restaurant’s quarantine greenhouses, are going viral and leading to more new ideas on how to navigate this “new normal” outside the home.

  • With most theaters closed across the nation, The Wall Street JournalVultureThe Economist are all citing the drive-in industry’s reinvigoration as a safe activity for minimal contact.

  • Bold new amenities and operational design changes to assist with social distancing are receiving a lot of buzz. Architecture and design firm Workshop/APD have been noting that “design will embrace ritual,” where safety measures, such as the washing of hands, will become a staple of the luxury experience.

  • In order to avoid social contact enroute, travelers are turning to different methods of transportation as alternatives to commercial flights. BloombergTIME and Robb Report cited newfound demand for private jets, while The Boston GlobeThe Wall Street Journal and Chicago Tribune all noted a spike in RV and camper sales.

  • Finally, the media continues to cover the pandemic’s casualties impacting the hospitality industry. For weeks we have witnessed the devastating impact on the F&B space with a staggering number of permanent closures. We’re starting to see hospitality giants like Times Square Edition bear the brunt of the current climate, with news of the property’s shocking closure in mid-May.

Taking all of these emerging trends into consideration, MMGY NJF continues to adapt our strategies for clients in order to generate media coverage on their behalf. During this work-from-home period, we have seen great success with virtual media tours for brands with big news to share and to remain top-of-mind for media. Some brands are now looking to take this one step further with virtual press trips as an immersion experience for media who are not yet comfortable or able to travel. More to come on our new ways of working in future editions.