Despite the news media landscape being dominated by the upcoming election, the travel industry’s push forward for recovery is also commanding editorial interest. This was reinforced during an agency-wide meeting where special guest Jacqueline Gifford, Editor-in-Chief of Travel + Leisure, shared her insights into the future of the publication and how they are choosing to cover the travel industry.
The following is a summary of trends and industry shifts that MMGY NJF has compiled from media feedback, widespread coverage and webinars:
TRAVEL TRENDS AND COVID-19 IMPACT ON THE INDUSTRY:
- Increased confidence in domestic travel. Even with COVID hot spots continuing to pop up around the country, MMGY research shows that perceptions of safety for domestic travel, transportation, lodging and even business travel are now at their highest since the start of the pandemic. “We’re seeing this momentum from the summer spurred on by people venturing away from home for the first time in months,” said Chris Davidson, Executive Vice President of Insights and Strategy. “Americans are figuring out what they feel comfortable with and are starting to feel safer traveling domestically, though international travel is still perceived by most to be unsafe.”
- White House COVID-19 infection causes a ripple effect in the travel industry. President Trump testing positive for COVID-19 marked a significant point in the virus’ ongoing spread, which will no doubt cause a ripple effect in the travel industry and beyond. With the White House becoming a COVID-19 hot spot, confidence in travel has been slightly shaken as to what a clear plan looks like in order to contain the spread.
- After commendable gains, NYC takes big steps backward. Officials in New York City failed to quell growing clusters of the coronavirus in several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo noted the overall positivity rate has been driven upward by the 20 ZIP codes. As far as tourism is concerned, The New York Times notes that international arrivals to New York are down as much as 93%, and the people and businesses of the city’s tourism industry are on the brink.
- What the upcoming flu season could mean for domestic travel. Ten U.S. states have entered the ‘Red Zone’ ahead of flu season, including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah, Iowa, Montana, Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma and Alabama. They have 25 or more new positive COVID-19 cases every day per 100,000 people. The start of autumn shows no signs of U.S. infection rates decreasing, and the majority of the country is still preparing for an anticipated “twindemic” given the upcoming flu season.
- Cruising remains shored until at least November. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended a ban on cruises from U.S. ports. The new “no sail” order expires Oct. 31. In this extension, the federal agency says: “Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas provide current evidence that cruise ship travel continues to transmit and amplify the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.” Axios and The New York Times are reporting that CDC Director Robert Redfield wanted to extend the “no sail” order to next February, but was overruled by the White House.
- Airline layoffs begin as predicted, with more likely coming. The airline industry reached a breaking point after a federal block on job cuts expired and congress struggled to reach a deal on a coronavirus relief package. American Airlines and United Airlines furloughed 32,000 employees after lawmakers and the White House failed to agree on a broad pandemic relief package, including more federal aid for airlines.
MEDIA & MARKETING HIGHLIGHTS:
- Media continue to shift their travel coverage for 2021. The New York Times “52 Places to Go” will look different next year and will be called “52 Places We Love”. The iconic series from the travel section traditionally draws on editors, reporters and contributors for recommendations on the most timely sights and delights on offer in the upcoming year, but in 2021 they will rely on reader’s contributions for both editorial and photography content to compile the list.
- Media companies continue to shrink and furlough employees. Essence Communications, one of America’s oldest and best-known major publications dedicated to Black women readers, furloughed its staff this month, citing unprecedented revenue losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Essence is the latest in a series of media publications that have implemented furloughs during the pandemic, including Vox Media, magazine publisher Condé Nast, and BuzzFeed News.
- Travel + Leisure pushes forward. Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline Gifford confirms her team is remaining flexible when it comes to both print and online stories, assuring us that staff understand that when print is released, it’s OK if destinations included look different than they did when the article was written. That being said, lead times are becoming shorter for print, now looking at three- to four-month blocks rather than six to seven. Domestic travel stories remain a major focus, with regional freelancers being assigned stories to minimize transportation risks, and international travel will still be covered on an inspirational basis.
- Despite deep cuts, tourism boards are forging ahead with regional messaging and media visits. According to a recent webinar hosted by the Society of American Travel Writers, many CVBs have pivoted their messaging to be heavily focused on local stories and partners and communication has greatly increased. CVBs are also cautiously beginning to host media again, primarily on an individual basis from drive markets.
- Hospitality schools weigh the pandemic’s long-term impact on the travel curriculum. In a show of optimism, hospitality schools are not shutting their doors without a fight, but instead, weaving this real-life experience into the student curriculum. And while a curriculum overhaul process at an accredited university can take as long as 18 months, according to Nicolas Graf, associate dean at New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, the pandemic’s impact will maintain a grip on hospitality operations for years to come and therefore stay relevant for study.