April 7: Covid-19 Update

Bannikin | April 7, 2020

Welcome to our third media and communications newsletter, designed to help you track travel- and corona-related developments that continue to affect our industry at large.

Now several weeks into our new reality, this newsletter will help set you up for success as the travel media begins to tell different stories – stories that we want to be a part of.

Over the last week, we’ve seen mainstream travel media explode with pieces about virtual travel experiences, while industry outlets have published think-pieces about how (and when) travel will recover. As the world continues to develop around COVID-19, insights on its impact on the travel industry are undergoing their own evolution—resulting in a divide between “false optimism” on imminent travel recovery, and realism.

Here at Bannikin, we are always advising our clients to rely on facts, and one of the only facts regarding the future of the travel industry is that we just don’t know where it’s going or what it will look like when this is all over. What we do know is that the travel industry is ripe for disruption, and this crisis may well be providing our industry with a blank slate. Read Bannikin Director Terrilyn Kunopaski’s article on the future of travel here.

According to top marketers in the travel industry, now is a crucial time to ensure clients care about your brand by forging much-needed personal connections with them. As you develop your ever-evolving editorial calendar in order to engage your clients and partners during this time, be sure to consider what you stand for, and what role you want your brand to play in our industry’s post-Covid-19 disruption.

Below is our weekly roundup of news, expert insights and food for thought about how to navigate this tricky line between staying connected to your clients and partners, and being respectful to the global situation we are all faced with.

If you can’t access an article due to a pay wall, let us know and we may be able to send it through to you.

Stay safe and healthy,
Your friends at Bannikin


The week at a glance

Tuesday, April 7:

Monday, April 6:

Sunday, April 5:

  • The virus forced New Zealand to close its borders last month, a previously unthinkable move for a nation with tourism as its top export earner.
  • The coronavirus is hurting travel, so Greece has begun offering virtual tourism

Saturday, April 4: 

  • In Italy, going back to work may depend on having the right antibodies
  • Cathay Pacific to cut more flights after carrying just 582 people in a day

Friday, April 3 : 

Thursday, April 2: 

Wednesday, April 1:

Tuesday, March 31:

  • British Airways suspends flights from Gatwick Airport; Gatwick closing one of its two terminals
  • Indonesia bans foreign arrivals
  • Adventure Travel Trade Association announces the 2020 Adventure Travel World Summit is officially postponed until September 20-23, 2021, with the new host destination to be announced soon

What the travel media are saying…

USA Today – Planning for life after coronavirus: When will we know it’s safe to travel again?
Snippet: Here are three things that must happen before US travelers return to the sky, sea and hotels. It’s not enough for just one of these entities to rescind its warnings. To be safe, wait for all three:

  • The State Department must lift its Level 4 travel advisory.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has to give the “all clear.”
  • The World Health Organization needs to give a thumbs-up to travel.

Lonely Planet – The hashtag encouraging people to share their post-coronavirus travel dreams

Snippet: Travel editor with the Irish Independent, Pól Ó Conghaile, was inspired to start the #WhenWeTravelAgain hashtag on Twitter, because people in Ireland can only engage in outdoor exercise within 2km of their homes at present.

New York Times –  Why Is Getting a Refund From an Online Travel Agency So Hard?
Snippet: For many travelers looking to save money, booking through a third party site like Expedia, Priceline or Kayak has become second nature, especially for those looking for last-minute travel or package deals. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Many people attempting to cancel trips and get refunds have learned that including a middleman when booking a trip can make things complicated.

What experts are saying…

Skift – Marketers Confront What Travel Will Look Like Post-Crisis
TL;DR: Posed with the question of what travel will look like by 2025, leading travel experts suggest the future of travel is:

  • Highly localized: rural areas around cities; local businesses
  • Focused on small: small resorts over mega chains, camping/glamping over conglomerates
  • Nature-driven: natural, open spaces; away crowded urban centre
  • Purposeful: trust and humility; projecting positivity; sharing values with clients

Bannikin – What does the future of travel look like? The fact is: we don’t know
TL;DR: We don’t know when the travel industry will recover from COVID-19, or what it will look like on the other side. The industry may have to be reimagined, as opposed to recovered, which gives the industry an opportunity to move ahead in areas where we have fallen behind for so long: equity and equality, sustainability, innovation, customer-first mentality.

COVID-19 Content 

As we’ve been tracking mainstream media coverage from five major travel media outlets over the last three weeks, we’ve seen the emergence of several trends:

1.  Virtual experiences: Online experiences that not only keep the exploration fire burning, but provide a service to meet people’s renewed need for personal growth and at-home activities

These stories began to emerge within the first week of our international travel bans, and have only continued to pick up steam.

2. Travel news: Updates on the COVID-10 pandemic as it related to global travel

We continue to see stories that focus on travel news and updates, but these have slowed somewhat after the initial wave of travel bans and airline cancellations.

3. Traveller behaviour: Service pieces about how to change flights, transfer tours, etc.

We continue to see these kinds of stories – particularly as they relate to getting refunds from airlines – though we’ve also started to see stories of tips and hacks return, such as how to store your travel gear when you’re home.

4. Emotional impact stories: Articles about how coronavirus is impacting travel writers and editors

In the first week of our international travel bans, we saw stories like how it’s okay to be sad that your travel plans are cancelled; now, these kinds of personal essays are more focused on lessons from travel that help with self-isolation, signalling a more optimistic, pragmatic tone than the initial wistfulness.

5. Good news stories: Uplifting human/environmental stories that relate to the current reality

Though we saw many of these stories several weeks ago (Italians singing together from their rooftops, an elderly couple meeting for dates at a border), these stories have shifted more into mainstream news, and travel media has focused its attention on virtual experiences, instead.

6. Wanderlust: Narratives designed to inspire people to dream about/plan/book travel

Though we are seeing many past wanderlust stories being shared on outlets’ social media accounts, we are not seeing many new wanderlust stories published, save for those that were previously planned for print magazines

Over the next week, we will continue to see virtual experience stories dominate the mainstream travel media landscape. That said, with so much competition in the “virtual experience space”, in order to appeal to the media, these kinds of experience need to:

  • Be interactive – it’s not enough anymore to just “watch” or “read” something; instead, focus on activities that engage the viewer from their living room, like learning a language in a virtual classroom, taking a tour on Google Earth, or enjoying a live DJ party.
  • Be personal – in this new world of social distancing, maintaining connections between people is not only beneficial, it’s a necessity. Showcasing how your guides or brand leaders are spending their time at home, having them speak on topics that interest both them and your clients and allowing clients to learn more about the people behind the brand is a great way to start.
  • Solve a problem – people are feeling high levels of anxiety, so set up a live meditation class; children are adapting to online learning, so think of what kind of learning tools you can put online; and people are craving a reprieve from their work from home routine, so offer virtual activities like drawing classes and live concerts.

Keep in mind for the week ahead
Over the next week, we will continue to see virtual travel experiences dominate the mainstream travel media, while industry outlets continue to discuss high-level projections for the days, weeks, and months ahead. It’s important to remember that while many experts will continue to share their opinions on the industry’s recovery, the only truth we know right now is that we don’t know when or how travel will resurface.

What we do know is through content marketing and media relations, there are still ways to connect with our clients and provide them with solutions (or alleviations) to their problems, which will go a long way in maintaining an emotional connection with them down the line. Today, more than ever, connecting with people – and providing ways for them to connect to each other – is paramount, so focus on harnessing the power of people in order to propel a sense of community, one that can be accessed virtually, for now, and in real life, down the line.

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