News & Views

What Travel Stories Are Being Covered? Six Big-Picture Lessons from U.S. Media Post-Delta

While 2021 has been anything but smooth sailing, the ups and downs have created some lasting impacts on the U.S. media post-delta. Entering the SATW conference in Milwaukee, I wanted to know what travel stories are being covered now as we emerge from Delta.

Turbulent Times, Glimmers of Hope

We saw glimmers of hope earlier this year as we touted recovery efforts and increased bookings. European destinations opened to travelers from the U.S. as the vaccination efforts steamed forward.

Trips to Discover reported findings on Google that were positive heading into the summer. Hotels, cruises, and airlines were all booking again. The delta variant changed all of that. By the autumn, Longwoods International reported that consumer confidence among travelers was dropping. The percentage of travelers who say that coronavirus will greatly impact their travel decisions in the next six months jumped from 21% a month ago to 34% in their September results.

As the data changes, so does media coverage, and SATW shed light on what travel stories are being covered by U.S. media based on market trends.

1. Endless Content Shifts

The changes won’t stop anytime soon. As travel resumes in spurts, a focus on traveling safely to a place and overcoming any red tape are the way forward is back. These are the types of informational Q&As that are getting pick-up now. It’s what U.S. consumers are looking for because many are phasing into commercial travel again.

As COVID vaccines roll out for children post-delta, we will soon see a return to coverage about family travel, which has been lacking since the beginning of the pandemic. But again, what travel stories are being covered now? Coverage on solo travel, romantic getaways, and friend excursions are still much more attractive in terms of headlines.

Follow the news and get ahead of the headlines. There’s no return to normal on the horizon. Not yet at least.

2. DEI and Media Content

More than a year out from the protests and demonstrations during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement, we’re experiencing change. There is more diverse writing talent, more diverse influencers, more hunger for various voices than ever before.

So, what travel stories are being covered? Stories about diversity beyond simple nods and roundups are selling. Travel websites and media outlets alike are promoting inclusivity left and right and having under-represented voices develop stories for different communities will continue to be an opportunity.

And that means telling these stories year-round! Don’t wait for Black history month to interview an up-and-coming Black chef. Don’t wait until June to discuss the queer tour company making travel safer for LGBTQ travelers. Just be sure to keep people at the center of everything you do. Travelers want to see themselves represented in the destination, and that’s the media’s role when it comes to DEI.

  1. Responsible, Sustainable Travel

That said, travel isn’t all about identities that differentiate us. It’s also about the things we have in common. The environment and sustainability will continue to be important as wildfires rage and floods ensue. Travelers want to feel empowered by their choices so knowing they are making greener spending decisions will help them.

So, what travel stories are being covered? It’s not stories about hotels that stop using tiny bottles. It needs to be more than that. Meeting people and hearing stories about real change, change that can be seen and experienced, will continue to do well.

4. Budget vs Luxury

On a more practical level, travel media continues to see a move towards more online content and advertising dollars shifting to digital spending. At the same time, we’re seeing more focus on luxury travel because luxury advertising continues to fuel many of the legacy publications that are challenged by newer up and coming publications, or even influencers. Luxury angles are no longer being saved only for the printed page.

Again, we asked the question – what travel stories are being covered? Stories about wellness getaways and retreats post-delta isolated fully-catered experiences or private yacht escapes, glamping expeditions or seemingly unachievable bucket list destinations are going to do well. People are dreaming of traveling, so deliver stories that lean into that dreamlike quality.

5. Local, but Different

Writing about domestic trips is still a winning strategy moving forward. But let’s move beyond “get outside” and find the people and places and experiences in our locations that will truly draw domestic travelers still hesitant to go abroad into more local destinations. It’s no longer an ephemeral trend. Travelers want it. And as new destinations become green lit for travel, dig into beyond the essentials.

Travelers want sustainable and smarter options when they travel, so stories that do more than just re-introduce an island or nation but demonstrate how you can visit them responsibly are gaining traction (see #3 above!).

6. Travel, Stay Awhile, Maybe Forever?

Additionally, travel PR pros should pitch stories that are not just about traveling to a destination, but that are also about the quality of life or local facets of a city or region that can promote both travel and relocation.

As returns to offices continue to get pushed back post-delta, the remote lifestyle will not fade away, and travel media continue to talk about remote work opportunities whether it’s from Barbados, Tulsa, Lisbon, or some other previously unthinkable destination. Finding new twists and angles on these topics will continue to attract audiences, especially as more people feel comfortable stepping back out into the world

Interested to expand your horizons and create meaningful bonds between your destination and the media that reports on it? If you want more insight into what travel stories are being covered and how you can glean that coverage, DCI has more than 60 years of creating those links. Contact Karyl Leigh Barnes at [email protected] to learn more about tapping into our marketing and PR prowess.


Written By

Karyl Leigh Barnes

Karyl Leigh Barnes is President of DCI’s Tourism Practice. Since joining the firm in 1998, Karyl Leigh has led destination strategy and created marketing communication programs for destinations on every continent except Antarctica.

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