While the travel sector has been marred by the pandemic, it has still been working away ahead of its recovery. Travel brands have been creating new agency relationships and strategies with the likes of Bahamas Tourism, Singapore Tourism Board, Trentino Marketing, Bermuda Tourism and the Slovenian Tourist Board hiring PR agencies. Virgin Atlantic has issued a global PR RFI which includes the promotion of its sustainability and diversity work; BA’s owner IAG is reviewing all global agency relationships; and Travelodge is looking for a new strategy under its new CEO and COO. On the Beach is to launch a creative campaign with a new agency partner; Marriot, which has also joined the Race to Zero, is to kick off an EMEA campaign to promote its new loyalty programme; VisitBritain is gearing up to a refreshed GREAT Britain campaign with newly appointed MSQ; and South West Trains has hired a new creative agency. There has been a lot of activity from London hotels with Marriot hiring a Senior Marketing Manager for its London cluster of hotels; Hyatt appointing a PR agency for Andaz London Liverpool Street; and Raffles picking a PR partner ahead of its Raffles London at the OWO launch in 2022.

Here are some more brands in ALF from the travel sector which are manoeuvring to appeal to consumers in a new way:

Luxury Travel

Having pioneered luxury travel in emerging and well-loved destinations for the past 75 years, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has become synonymous with bold exploration, travel and cultural discovery. This year, its diamond anniversary, it is inviting guests to celebrate the joys of travel and to rediscover InterContinental’s hotels and resorts around the world.

From now until April 2022, guests can enjoy an exciting line-up of limited time offers ranging from sparkling anniversary celebrations to exhilarating stay experiences. As part of its 75th anniversary initiative and Journey to Tomorrow commitment, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts will also donate US$75,000 to Water.org, hence supporting 15,000 people to gain access to clean water through sustainable, locally owned and run projects.

Michael Mayernik, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Water.org, said: “We are grateful to be part of the 75th anniversary of the InterContinental brand and their goal to shape the future of responsible travel. They are committed to changing lives with access to safe water as part of this initiative, giving women hope, children health, and communities around the world a bright future.”

Earlier this year, the hotel group launched the new luxury hotel brand The Vignette Collection to attract new customers and keep pace with rivals as travel begins to recover. IHG hopes that the launch of its luxury brand will boost its overall estate growth which has slowed dramatically compared to rivals, partly because 102 hotels in the US decided to move to a different brand at the end of last year.

The group increased its hotel numbers by only 0.1% in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2020, while rivals such as Hilton and Hyatt reported growth rates of about 7%.

Hyatt has hired Ogilvy to handle the strategic development and creative expression of World of Hyatt’s member communications, promotions and program enhancements. It also announced the acquisition of Apple Leisure Group for £1.95bn, allowing it to increase its market share of the luxury resorts market.

Secret Escapes, the members-only travel club that offers discounted luxury holidays, has recently hired two performance Marketing Managers, Abi Rostron and Caroline Schaaf. Soneva, which offers luxury resorts and private residences in the Maldives and Thailand, has hired a PR agency for its UK representation.

PrivateFly, the private jet charter, saw demand soar in September and October. Marine Eugène, its European Managing Director, said: “We are seeing a level of private aviation demand not seen for a long time and it is continuing to grow. There are many factors at play including the return of business travel; easing restrictions; changing patterns in leisure flying; and the continued wellbeing appeal of private aviation to avoid the health risks of crowds and shared cabins”.


Airbnb reported revenue of £942m in the second quarter of 2021, a 300% increase on the same period in 2020, and a 10% boost compared to Q2 2019. Profit rose with an adjusted EBITDA of £157m in Q2 following a loss of $397m in 2020 and £31m in 2019. The business has seen trends in longer term stays and stays outside top destinations. It updated its platform earlier this year to include ‘Flexible destinations’, ‘Flexible matching’ and ‘Flexible dates’. The new platform also includes a simplified booking process; greater accessibility and inclusivity for travellers; ‘one-of-a-kind stays’; better clarified cancellation policies; a redesigned hosting page; and more guidance and response support for hosts. Airbnb has also said that it will make a permanent cut in the amount it invests in marketing after reducing its outlay by more than half during the Covid-19 pandemic but still generating 95% of the online traffic it had seen a year earlier. The online marketplace is moving spend away from performance marketing and into brand marketing, and will focus more on PR.

Meanwhile, Vrbo, the Expedia-owned Airbnb rival which rebranded from HomeAway in October 2020, has been spending more on advertising since Q1 2018 (£2.6m in Q2). Expedia has announced plans to unify and expand its customer loyalty program across its brand portfolio to allow customers to earn and spend points on flights, hotels, vacation rentals (Vrbo), car rentals, cruises, and activities across all Expedia-owned brands. Vrbo has been trying to lure over hosts from rival platforms with its Fast Start programme which allows hosts to transfer over their ratings or Superhost status to its own platform. It also promised to increase the visibility of these properties in the first 90 days to improve bookings and booking value for hosts.

Holiday Bookers

After Icelolly and TravelSupermarket’s merger went through this autumn, a new strategy will be on the cards for the new combined service. Skyscanner also appointed a new CEO and SVP of Marketing earlier this year.

Hays Travel, which recently made two new senior hires - Ken Campling Group Finance Director and Clair Rankin as Head of Finance - will be looking at its marketing budgets after acquiring Thomas Cook in 2019 for £7.8m. 

In August, the travel agency said that bookings had risen “beyond expectations” every day this week as customers’ confidence to book holidays has grown.

Jonathon Woodall, Hays Travel’s Chief Operating Officer, said that the independent chain saw bookings rise by 193% in the first five days of August compared to the same period in July. These increases are seen in European destinations such as Greece and Spain, as well as long-haul options and special holidays such as the Maldives, America, Bali and worldwide cruises. Hays is planning to offer a cruise of the Amazon in the spring and has seen customers spending more than usual to upgrade their holidays as many want something extra special to look forward to.

After its acquisition of Thomas Cook, advertising spend spiked to over £1m in Q1 2020, the highest amount invested in any quarter. The company’s media budget is steadily creeping back up, and with bookings hitting such high numbers, its advertising investment will soon be back to pre-pandemic levels and a search for a new creative and media partner will be on the horizon as Hays looks to reach consumers with new advertising campaigns.


Cruise brands are also making a comeback. Carnival’s P&O brand is launching its new Iona vessel in December 2022 and plans to have 90% of its US ship in operation by February 2022, ahead of the spring season. The business recently promoted Robert Scott to the role of Vice-President, Sales & Marketing for P&O Cruises, and appointed Ben Moore to the role of Digital Media Manager. From 18th October, Sture Myrmell will become Carnival UK’s President, overseeing the Cunard and P&O brands. Carnival is also returning with new CSR goals focussed on climate action; waste reduction; sustainable tourism; health and wellbeing; diversity, equity and inclusion; and biodiversity and conservation.

Elsewhere, Fred Olsen has hired a Social Media Marketing Manager and NorthLink Ferries has appointed a Content Marketing Manager.


Cathay Pacific Airways has won numerous awards and has been voted sixth in the list of the top ten airlines. Virgin Atlantic was voted seventh. Just before the pandemic hit, Cathay Pacific Airways spent £3.5m on a new advertising campaign, £2m more than it had ever done in any quarter.

Rival British Airways is still on the hunt for a creative and media partner and appointed a new Head of Strategy and Digital in the summer; whilst Virgin Atlantic picked Lucky Generals to manage it creative strategy, resulting in a bigger media budget to convey a new message to get holiday makers on its planes.

Cathay Pacific Airways has also launched a new business class experience and lifestyle brand to provide offers in hospitality and shopping as it seeks to tap into new revenue streams. The brand "Cathay" will allow customers to purchase services and goods through the airline and is planning to release a credit card in conjunction with the new service. Cathay's move comes after low-budget carrier AirAsia announced plans to launch air taxi and drone delivery services in March, and following Singapore Airlines branching out into the restaurant business last year. 

The airline reported a record annual loss of £2bn for 2020, and to get travellers back onto its planes or use its new services, will be increasing its media spend and start looking for a new creative strategy. It has also hired a new Marketing Manager for Europe.

The company is celebrating 75 years of service and wants its fans to join in on the festivities. "Over the past three-quarters of a century, Cathay Pacific has grown from a small regional airline to one that has thrust its way out across the globe from its energetic home city, Hong Kong" a spokesperson said.

To mark this special occasion, the airline is unveiling a variety of exciting opportunities for customers to commemorate the milestone, including a special series of limited-edition merchandise, and its first-ever cocktail collection created in collaboration with award-winning craft-bottled cocktail brand LAIBA.

CEO Augustus Tang noted that the airline, like all others around the globe, is still recovering from the pandemic but that the company's resilience and customer base would ensure at least another 75 years of flying.

"What has never changed is our unyielding commitment to our loyal customers, our dedicated people, and our wonderful home city, Hong Kong", Tang added. "We wouldn't be the company we are today without the enduring support they have shown us, and we are incredibly grateful to each and every one of them. We hope they will join us in marking our 75th anniversary, and we look forward to many more journeys together."

Looking beyond the traditional travel sector, here are some brands that rely on the travel sector as a route to market, which are increasing their marketing activity:

Travel Retail

The travel retail sector has been investing and innovating, and is raring to go. There has been a rise in brands hiring in travel retail marketing roles, and many have introduced new strategies as customers return to travel hubs.

In confectionery, Lindt & Sprüngli Travel Retail is introducing new brands, formats and packaging for 2022. This includes the Lindor Bag Milk 100g format which targets the growing demand for self-treating and on-the-go snacking, as well as the new Lindt Nuxor, 165g gold milk ballotins and a channel-exclusive Milk & Dark Assorted range. The chocolates manufacturer will support the revamped range with a ‘Time to Travel’ POS activation highlighting its Farming Programme. Research conducted by the brand found that 50% of European travellers will most likely consider buying confectionery for a gifting occasion.

Ferrero rolled out a new Nutella platform dedicated to the travel retail channel. Exclusive Nutella and Nutella B-ready products will be restyled, and new in-store visibility tools introduced. General Manager Sergio Salvagno said: “The travel retail channel remains a key focus”. Ferrero simplified its product portfolio during the height of the pandemic but is investing in new product innovations for when the crisis eases. From January 2022, Ferrero will launch a range of Ferrero Rocher tablets in travel retail channels worldwide.

Loacker, the wafer chocolate specialist, has also said that it is looking to drive recovery in the travel retail sector. Duty Free and Travel Retail Business Director Juan Miguel Cabrera said: “Our traditional regional targets were historically in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, but we are keen to explore new growth opportunities in Europe and the Americas too.”

In drinks, Bacardi is one to watch. Global Head of Marketing Travel Retail Ignacio Vazquez Guerra, said in an episode of The Moodie Davitt Report’s podcast: Once COVID is behind us… the top priority was going to be omnichannel and digital… we have been single-mindedly focused on driving this huge transformation in terms of moving from a product and physical space-led operation to a digital and physical omnichannel operation.” He added: I think we can take global travel retail to a limit that has not been seen before and that’s what we’re working towards.”

William Grant appointed a Managing Director Global Travel Retail earlier this year, signalling an investment in this area. Doug Bagley, Chief Commercial Officer for William Grants & Sons, said of the appointment: “David brings a wealth of industry knowledge to the team and will be a huge asset as we continue to invest in what we see as a vital channel for our brand portfolio”. The business is rolling out its new 13-year-old limited edition expression Tullamore Dew Rouge from April.

Meanwhile, Edrington’s Global Travel Retail Regional Managing Director Jeremy Speirs said in an interview with DFNI-Frontier that “travel retail exclusives continue to have huge importance. They set apart the offer in travel retail and leverage the wealth of opportunities for engagement and recruitment the channel offers. We continue to search for innovative ways to interact with our consumers using the travel retail channel, and new and exclusive products afford us the chance to build unique experiences both before, during and after the consumer’s trip.” The company’s Macallan brand recently collaborated with graphic designer David Carson, which was supported by physical and digital activations; and Edrington also announced a partnership with Bentley to create “immersive experiences and inspirational products” for shoppers. Spiers added: “We’re going to continue our commitment to innovation and premiumisation which has fuelled the success of the brand in travel retail… We’re also on an exciting digital journey and will look to deliver memorable experiences both online and in-store to support the brand’s growth.”

Campari is targeting the wealthy with a new luxury unit called ‘Rare’, which will initially launch in the US before expanding into key European markets. The unit will comprise three tiers: ‘Opulent’ will focus on “high-net-worth individuals”, ‘Boutique’ will sell niche products to “in-the-know” consumers, and ‘Signature’ will feature “foundational” super-premium offerings.

Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard is returning to travel retail with a renewed focus on sustainability. Its new Life Cycle Analysis tool for its travel retail stands will ensure recyclable packaging, recyclable POS and energy efficient digital displays.

Estée Lauder’s sales increased by 13% year-on-year in the 12 months to 30th June with travel retail delivering double-digit growth in some regions. Skincare is one of Estée Lauder’s growth channels, so it is likely to invest in skincare brands such as La Mer in the travel retail space. The business has also revealed sustainability goals for its travel retail channel, which includes switching packaging from cardboard to FSC-certified board and removing plastic films. Research found that 70% of shoppers claim they are influenced by sustainability credentials when purchasing an item whilst traveling.

Shiseido has also identified travel retail as an area for investment after it saw the channel outperform other markets. President & CEO for Shiseido Travel Retail Philippe Lesné said: “Travel retail remains the ultimate global showcase of our brands, and we believe it will emerge stronger and more resilient… As the physical and digital worlds continue to merge in the new normal, we see this as a pivotal opportunity to further strengthen our capabilities in consumer experience and online-to-offline engagement with travellers”. Also investing in skincare, Shiseido has launched its Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate III in travel retail. Shiseido celebrates its 150th anniversary next year.

L’Occitane has been focusing on travel refill packs to boost the sustainability of the sector. In fashion, Ermenegildo Zegna, which is listing in the NYSE to help it expand into Asia and the US, has launched a new autumn/winter menswear collection which combines elements of business, casual and loungewear pieces; and offers a wearable luxury wardrobe perfect for business travellers coming out of the pandemic with a renewed focus on comfort.

Elsewhere, travel luggage brand Rimowa has launched a new campaign starring singer Rihanna, basketball star LeBron James, writer Patti Smith and tennis champion Roger Federer. The work promotes Rimowa’s new Never Still range of bags and sees the celebrities open up about their experiences of not being unable to travel during the pandemic.


By Natalie Fedden

Senior Content Executive, ALF

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