Part II: Searching for Wisdom in a Data-Driven Strategy

As we move farther along the timeline of the COVID-19 crisis, it’s become more apparent than ever that a road map to recovery must rely on data to predict timing and markets – but it cannot stand on its own. Context, analysis and the human element are the keys.

While it may be tempting to lean into our marketing instinct to guide COVID-19 strategy, historical and current data provide essential insights into identifying the markers that will guide messaging through the Wait, Ready, Set, Go phases of recovery. From gathering facts such as traveler spend to measuring intangibles such as traveler sentiment, research is the first essential piece of an integrated puzzle.

Collect data from multiple sources.

We rely on data points from several perspectives to create our blueprint. MMGY Global’s proprietary first-party research includes the annual Portrait of American Travelers® survey, which is now entering its 30th year, and the quarterly travelhorizons™ survey that projects future travel intentions. Other research capabilities also extend to brand-specific custom surveys, audience modeling and projections of travel trends in the era of COVID-19. 

Geolocation movement data from publicly available sources such as Apple identify where people are physically traveling – on foot, via public transportation and in the car. Over time, this will inform us how far people are willing to go, from neighborhood routes to out-of-town trips.

Through social listening and tools such as Google Trends, we can build a snapshot of traveler sentiment: As emotions evolve from fear and longing to glimmers of hope and anticipation, that empowers us to move from the “Wait” to the “Ready” phase of recovery and beyond.

Then, of course, there are analytics from our partners – OTAs, STR occupancy data, and platforms such as Sojern and ADARA – to identify exactly where, when and how people are thinking about returning to travel.

Inject human perspective.

Data cannot exist in a vacuum, nor was it intended to be. We gather data to provide information; when analyzed collectively, that information becomes knowledge; and when contextualized over the course of time, that knowledge becomes wisdom. What we know now has evolved from previous crises – 9/11, H1N1, SARS, the 2008 financial collapse – and we continue to layer incoming information into what we have already learned.

Develop a strategy.

While it’s critical to remember that COVID-19 is a fluid and often unpredictable situation, we consistently have our finger on the pulse of travelers’ intentions. We understand how travelers are behaving and intend to behave in the near future, and we measure that against each destination’s unique set of circumstances. In the short term, we can project who will be traveling, how far they’re willing to go and what kinds of activities they will seek out. Those elements provide the key indicators of when we will enter a new phase of recovery.

Reimagine, don’t reinvent.

The good news is that we don’t have to throw out our pre-crisis campaigns to address our current climate. In many cases, the solution has been crystal clear, like pushing the CTA up the conversion funnel from purchase to inspiration. In other cases, it means pivoting to a more tactical message about value, cancellation policies, or health and safety measures. But when we have already drilled down to our specific audiences through research, and can lean into existing story pillars and KPIs, that framework bolsters every piece of content that we put out.

Click here to read part one of our crisis communications toolkit, which explains how humanizing your brand can create enduring connections that will last beyond the crisis recovery stage. In part three, we present our guide to better understanding your audience when developing your strategy.