Expedia, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs Show Road To Travel Recovery

Stagnant for months, the travel industry shows signs of recovery, data from Goldman Sachs and Microsoft shows, as Expedia Group Media Solutions pumps financial support into advertising. 

Expedia Group Media Solutions, the global digital advertising arm of Expedia Group, released additional details on its destination relief program, part of Expedia Group’s $275 million commitment to help travel par­tners recover from the impact of COVID-19 and fuel industry-wide recovery efforts.

The group will make $25 million advertising relief available, which includes products, programs and media value-adds from Expedia Group brands for display campaigns across Expedia Group sites.

Several brands within the Media Solutions portfolio, such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, Wotif, ebookers, and CheapTickets — now offer custom brand recovery packages with advertising solutions to reach travelers.

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Advertisers can select from packages offering stand-alone and co-op campaigns supported by Media Solutions advertising formats such as destination of the week emails, destination website landing pages, coupons, destination spotlight sponsorships, and brand social media placements such as on Instagram Stories.

Goldman Sachs sees modest improvements in the U.S. and Asia-Pacific, with Europe lagging, according to a research note published in late June.

“App downloads in the U.S. have shown a much stronger recovery for Booking.com relative to Expedia as compared to each company’s trough near the last week in March,” per the research note, citing data from Sensor Tower. “As of 8-June, Booking.com app downloads in the U.S. were down 20% y/y vs. Expedia still down ~40% y/y after each bottomed around -76% on average in the last week of March.”

Microsoft recently benchmarked search volumes for travel queries with commercial intent in January 2020 to better understand consumer demand during the recovery process. The analysis examines queries with commercial intent that have displayed at least 30 cumulative Mainline Ad Impressions during the two weeks from January 6 through January 9, using it for a baseline for comparison.

A year-over-year benchmark also provides analysis to highlight the percentage deltas of the search volume that exists between the current weekly time frame and pre COVID-19 to understand how far off travel is from a “normal” or pre-coronavirus period.

In the United States, branded searches, compared with generic, are recovering at a slower pace, but appear to react to events-based travel as they experienced a dramatic uptick, compared with generic leading up to the Memorial Day weekend.

In the UK, branded searches, compared with generic, are recovering slower with the gap widening as travel restrictions ease to and from some countries in June.

The lag in brand search recovery is also dragging down overall search volume with a year-on-year gap of -40%+. Microsoft suggests advertisers should invest in generic keywords as these seem to be emerging strongly post the COVID-19 peak.

The key questions asked:

  • As borders begin to reopen and personal freedoms to mobilize increase, what effect will this have on consumer demand to travel?
  • How are travel searches with commercial intent evolving during this time period?
  • How does this play out from a brand/non brand perspective?

Key findings:

  • Travel searches with commercial intent are nearly closing the year-on-year volume recovery gap in France, Netherlands and Germany driven by lockdown easing and virus containment.
  • Brand searches display more reactivity to events/lockdown easing in the U.S., Spain, and France, but the opposite is true for the UK.  
  • Generally across markets, brand and generic searches have been amplified amidst lockdown easing.
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