PART XIV: SHIFTS IN THE U.S. MEDIA LANDSCAPE AMID COVID-19

May 20, 2021

With more than one-third of Americans fully vaccinated, states either fully reopened or close to it, and an EU travel bubble forming, traveler optimism is at an all-time high since the start of the pandemic. Things are moving fast, and media must navigate a rapidly changing travel and tourism ecosystem, new CDC guidelines, as well as evolving public sentiment as we head into the summer travel season.

The following is a summary of trends and industry shifts that MMGY NJF has compiled from recent media feedback, widespread reporting and webinars.

MEDIA  OPPORTUNITIES 

  • Talk now, travel later – In Cision’s 2021 Global State of the Media survey, 2,700 journalists in 15 countries worldwide provided insights into how media are approaching doing their work and travel. While 37.4% of respondents expressed fatigue with covering the pandemic (the biggest struggle noted), 45.5% also indicated that they are looking for new ways to cover COVID-19 as part of their 2021 editorial strategy. To balance pandemic coverage, writers are looking for more feel-good stories highlighting a return to normalcy and how companies and communities are helping each other. Stories of diversity, equity and inclusion remain top of mind, as well as research-based thought leadership content. 
  • The MMGY NJF team has noticed a significant uptick in the number of media looking to travel, with requests for assisted trips from May to September on the rise. These requests have been for independent trips, some with family members in tow. Trends we are seeing include journalists making regional road trips and others flying out to a destination to then road trip. Beaches, parks, outdoor adventure, and secondary and tertiary cities are also of increased interest to media.

MEDIA MOVES

  • Meredith Corp sells and spins – Reuters reports Meredith’s plans to sell its television stations business to Gray Television, Inc. while also spinning off its magazine division. The sale of Meredith’s Local Media Group includes its 17 television stations in 12 local markets in a deal valued at $2.7 billion. Meanwhile, the magazine segment, known as National Media Group, will focus on growing their brands like People, Better Homes & Gardens and Allrecipes.
  • Hearst sells Marie Claire – The U.S. edition of the women-focused magazine was sold to Future, a British publisher. The move is credited to increasing Future’s North American audience significantly. 
  • The Los Angeles Times and Washington Post have new executive editors – After 20 years at the Washington Post and formerly serving as senior vice president of ESPN, Kevin Merida, the groundbreaking journalist, was announced to the post. Sally Buzzbee has left the Associated Press to take over as the new executive editor at Washington Post. Buzzbee will be the first woman to lead the 143-year-old news organization after a closely watched selection process. 
  • The Ellen Degeneres Show to end – After 19 seasons, the long-running daytime television program will end after the 2021–2022 season. 

TRENDS IMPACTING THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY 

  • EU welcomes Americans –After a yearlong ban on nonessential travel, the European Union will allow vaccinated Americans to visit this summer. The policy reversal was announced by the head of the European Commission on behalf of all 27 member states noting the huge progress made by the U.S. in its vaccination campaign. Ahead of the general opening across the EU, countries heavily dependent on tourism are moving ahead with opening plans. Greece is fully available to visitors as of May 14, and Italy’s Prime Minister similarly announced a reopening, in mid-May. Croatia and Cyprus have already begun permitting vaccinated and COVID-19-negative travelers within their borders. Elsewhere in Europe, outside of membership in the EU, Iceland, Montenegro and Serbia have also taken steps to ease coronavirus-related travel restrictions. 
  • The debate over vaccine passports continues – Countries such as France eye the return of American tourists with tools like vaccine passports. The standardization and execution of a digital resource to house vaccination credentials has been backed by the world’s biggest and most powerful economies. Tourism ministers of the G20 endorse the certificates as a way to save travel and tourism, the hardest hit industries of the pandemic. Meanwhile, domestically, vaccine passports remain politically controversial. Texas and Florida lead a charge in limiting, or outright banning, the tool with states such as Arizona, Idaho and Utah joining them. 
  • Airport mini-hubs by major airline carriers – Popping up across the country in fast-growing economies, airlines are getting competitive in developing hub networks resulting in nonstop flights and affordable prices. The pivot to tertiary markets is a clear indicator of the long-term strategy to target the leisure traveler and focus less on traditional business pathways. Corporate relocations and housing booms in places like Austin, Boston and Raleigh-Durham further drive the boom in mini-hubs.
  • A renewed hospitality industry drives labor demand – As the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors show signs of a robust summer, a growing shortage in staffing has become evident across the country. Skift reports that while hotel occupancy has risen by as much as 30%, previously laid off workers have been lost to other industries or to competitors. For restaurants, the struggle is real. The reopening of the economy has forced millions of restaurants to tap the same, small labor pool that previously saw the elimination of 2.5 million jobs. As noted by Axios, the sudden hiring need has affected 37% of food and hospitality small businesses being hindered by worker availability.