Digital marketing in the age of coronavirus – what travel brands need to know

Digital marketing in the age of coronavirus - what travel brands need to know

As markets around the world reel from the turmoil of the COVID-19 coronavirus, companies of all sizes are feeling the effects – perhaps none more so than those in and adjacent to the travel industry.

The crisis is forcing companies to reevaluate many aspects of their financial plans for the foreseeable future and – particularly for those operating in the B2C space – to reassess their digital marketing strategies such as paid search.

After all, does it make sense to pay for traffic if consumers aren’t buying travel?

Analysts are anticipating the impact on publishers: Loop Capital Markets’ Rob Sanderson told Seeking Alpha Tuesday he expects Google parent company Alphabet to suffer a 15% year-over-year decline in travel ad revenue in the first quarter of this year and a 20% drop in Q2.

And multiple media outlets reported on a note from Needham & Company’s Laura Martin and Dan Medina on Friday that said the analysts have lowered their Facebook revenue and earnings-per-share estimates in part because ad revenue is down in travel, retail, consumer packaged goods and entertainment, which together represent 30 to 45% of the company’s total revenue.


Digital marketing strategy has always required a mix of art and science, and the difficulties – and pressure – to get that mix right is heightened in times of uncertainty such as during the coronavirus outbreak.

According to Craig Paddock, director of search at travel and hospitality marketing firm MMGY Global, most clients are only “moderately reducing paid search budgets with the expectation of being able to spend those dollars better at a later date.” The exception to that, he says, are international paid search efforts for United States-based clients, which are being paused.

One of the factors impacting the decision to keep campaigns going: MMGY’s data indicates consumers are, in fact, still buying travel.