Keeping the spirit of travel alive in Covid-19: futile time-filler or brand opportunity?

Keeping the spirit of travel alive: futile time-filler or an opportunity for travel brands to win hearts and minds?

However much people want to escape their homes, booking a holiday isn’t probable or even possible for most: in a recent survey, 48% of people said they have no holidays booked after June and are not thinking about booking any for the future[1]. But escaping our homes is not the only reason we go on holiday. It’s no surprise that consumers and brands are doing their best to recreate the spirit of travel at home. Is it all a futile time-filler, or could travel brands act now to make sure they’re at the top of the list when the glorious ‘Book Now’ moment comes round again?

I’ve spent many hours talking to consumers about what makes going on holiday so important to us, and beyond leaving your home, it boils down to four main emotional needs:

  • The need to discover something new
  • The need to indulge and experience something ‘special’
  • The need to socialize with new people, or spend focused time with loved ones
  • The need to create lasting memories

Being away from home undoubtedly gives us a break from our routine and thereby creates the perfect opportunity for us to fully experience these things.  When they all coalesce, the feeling is sweet. Perhaps you recall sitting with friends in a piazza in Tuscany, putting the world to right while sipping on local wine? Life feels ‘just right’ in those moments, doesn’t it?

You might assume that as we can’t go away during lockdown, we therefore can’t fulfill those needs. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. We’ve taken a look at how brands are helping consumers tap into the emotional needs of travel by demonstrating that when it comes to great holidays, geographical movement is only part of the prize.

Discovering Something New: Wendy Wu & National Trust

Like many others, travel company Wendy Wu has been taking its customers on virtual tours and excursions. This month customers and agents can voyage to China, Japan, and even learn more about cruising the River Delta. Making the most of people being at home, Wendy Wu aims to inspire future adventures, but to me this has the power to be the next step in travel documentaries – interactive opportunities that little sense of awe and exploration from our sofa.

The National Trust have also been ensuring that families can still enjoy discovery in their back gardens or local parks. Their famous ’50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾’ has been adjusted to suit the smallest of gardens and 1h walks.

Sawdays & Soho House: Indulgence & Luxury

Sawdays are encouraging people to experience the delicious good food of their favourite locations from the comfort of their own kitchens. Simultaneously tapping into the joy of learning a new skill on holiday, they’re helping people travel round the world by taking them on a culinary adventure – and if food isn’t one of the most simple joys we can indulge in throughout lockdown, I don’t know what is.

Soho House are ensuring that their members can still live a life of luxury from within their own homes by switching membership fees to store credit. Instead of retreating to one of Soho House’s cosy log cabins in the Costwolds, members can order treat boxes that have everything you need to add a touch of luxury to your lockdown life.

Turkish Airlines & P&O Cruises Fans: social connection

Turkish Airlines have launched their ‘Throw Forward Thursday’ social media campaign. While this might sound like hell on earth for those whose hearts are breaking at not knowing when they will be able to get away, it has recreated some of those water cooler conversations where we are able to bond with someone over a shared bucket list destination, experience, or list of top tips.

And my favourite example of how the spirit of travel is being kept alive comes not directly from a brand, but from a Facebook fan page for P&O Cruises. Determined to keep socializing and sharing despite cancelled cruises, hundreds of P&O Cruises fans are taking part in a virtual cruise, complete with an itinerary, daily announcements, and a mock crew. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you’ll know that the most popular past time is talking to other cruisers about cruising. If you get stuck into the comments, this is what these budding travellers are doing: sharing pictures, tips, experiences, and memories with like-minded people. It might not be the same as nattering while looking out over the Caribbean Sea, but it’s pretty heart-warming, nonetheless.

Creating Lasting Memories?

Escaping your everyday routine is only part of the pleasure of travel. What makes a holiday a holiday – and not just going from A to B – are the other key emotional benefits that it brings. We’ve become accustomed to seeing these emotional benefits as mutually dependent on physical travel, but what these brands are showing us is that they don’t need to be. With a bit of creativity and an open mind, there’s no reason why your kitchen can’t become that Tuscan piazza, especially with a little help from Sawdays.

It’s great to see brands helping consumers indulge in their holiday fantasies but will it result in any meaningful return for these brands when ‘this is all over’? Brands need to make a lasting impression now so they are bumped to the top of the consideration list. This really is where it becomes tit for tat: during this time of the difficulty, anxiety and tedium, creating any cherished memory would be the ultimate silver lining. If brands can play a role in this, then hopefully they too can benefit in the future and continue to provide us with fabulous holiday experiences.

[1] TVE Travel & Covid-19 Study, April 2020. n=2203
By: The Value Engineers

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