What We’ve Learned From Spring 2021

 
series of photos showing outdoor spring activities

In this post I want to quickly walk you through some of the common questions we’re hearing and cover some of the trends that we’re seeing as we head into the crucial summer months of the 2021 season.

Is demand for tours, activities, and attractions where it was in 2019? Higher? Lower?

Short answer:

Generally, we’re seeing similar levels of demand compared to 2019. However, it depends heavily on the type and location of the tour, activity, or attraction.

Longer Answer:

The charts below illustrate overall search demand across the US for various search terms. The charts go back far enough that you can see 2019 data when looking at the “previous year” line. Here’s an example.

Graph showing March 2021 search interest in "horseback riding" is much higher than same time last year.

As shown below, demand for guided outdoor adventures is currently hitting 2019 peak season levels of demand. (It’s important to reiterate that this is search demand; this is not booking data, and there can of course be a disconnect between traveler research and traveler action.)

Graphs showing March 2021 search interest in various outdoor activities is much higher than same time last year.

Zoos and aquariums are seeing similar increases in demand going into the 2021 season:

Graphs showing March 2021 search interest in "zoo" and "aquarium" is much higher than same time last year.

While demand for food and drink tours is on the rise vs the same time last year, there is still a significant gap between today and pre-pandemic interest.

Graphs showing March 2021 search interest in "food and drink tours" is much higher than same time last year.

For more search trend data, visit blend.travel/trends, or see one of these charts for your own search term and your own country at blend.travel/mytrends.

What should you do about this?

With demand for some activities reaching—and in some cases surpassing 2019 levels, you need to be ready. Here are a few practical ways to prepare:

  1. Make sure you staff appropriately to meet the demand. During a time when many tourism businesses could use a revenue boost, you don’t want to be turning down paying customers.
  2. Make sure your Google Maps listing is fully optimized, and ready for lots of views.
  3. Make sure you’re leading with your best photography and video. Good video and photos can make all the difference and shouldn’t be underestimated.
  4. Make sure your COVID policies are clear and in the right places.

Ok, so demand is heading in the right direction, but are people actually booking tours?

Yes. In fact, across our client base, the charts above are very representative of the revenue we’re seeing. Most of our outdoor tour and activities have seen year to date 2021 revenue surpass 2019 revenue levels.

The companies that have continued to struggle are:

  1. Tours and activities located in large metro areas where COVID mandates are still in place.
  2. Companies that depend heavily on large group events and team building groups. We have, however, seen some positive signs in recent weeks that this could be shifting.
  3. Companies that depend on either international travel or international tourists.

How is flight traffic recovering?

It’s not approaching 2019 levels yet. A few of Kayak’s “top cities” and “top countries” are seeing flight search interest surpassing 2019, but overall, search volume remains down by strong double digits. See more at https://www.kayak.com/flight-trends.

In the US, the TSA Traveler Throughput numbers are currently down 43% vs. 2019. You can follow these charts at blend.travel/tsa

Graphs showing 2021 flight traffic recovering from 2020.

Should I be spending money on advertising right now?

Short Answer:

Yes, but make sure it’s commensurate to the demand for your activity, and the ROAS of your campaign. For most of our clients, we suggest that at least 50% of their traffic be coming in through organic search and referral sources, and depending on your margin, our target baseline ROAS is normally around 4x.

Longer Answer & Some Tips:

At the outset I want to be clear that advertising isn’t THE answer. It’s dangerous to look at a single facet of marketing in isolation. For many of the brands we advertise for, we first lay a solid foundation in the form of a new website, a refreshed brand, an optimized online presence, and more. That said, a carefully-constructed advertising funnel can be a tipping point for your business—particularly when demand is at unprecedented levels.

I’m not going to dig deep into the numbers across our clients in this post (if you’re interested in hearing more about the results we’ve seen, shoot me an email, I’d be happy to chat), instead, I want to share some of the core tactics that we are working right now, and that you should implement going into the summer season.

Make sure you know what’s working.

I know this isn’t really a tactic, but I have to start with it. Without having a clear picture of your ROAS you’re just throwing ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks. Please don’t do this with your marketing dollars. Instead, build a reporting system that will show you what’s driving revenue, and what isn’t, so you make the most of your ad spend.

The other key metric to keep tabs on is your website’s conversion rate. If your site is converting at a low rate, you may want to make some website adjustments before spending a dollar on advertising.

Image of a marketing funnel showing data from "Impressions" to "Website purchases".

Remarket to people with the right message.

Remarketing simply means showing ads to people who have engaged with your brand. If you’re not remarketing, start today. You’ll find that it’s one of the easiest ways to drive incremental revenue for your brand. If you are remarketing, great. I want to give you some tips to take your remarketing campaigns to the next level.

1. Remarket to people before they arrive. Let’s imagine you’re a walking tour company in San Diego. If someone in Montana is planning a trip to San Diego, you probably want the messaging in your ad to be different for that person versus the local looking for something to do next weekend. And this is easy to do: simply exclude a 15-50 mile radius and only show ads to people within that radius for the other group.

Image of website UI excluding people living within 50 miles of the selected city
We excluded a 50-mile radius around Highlands Aerial Park so that we can show “planning a trip” ads to people who haven’t yet arrived in town.

2. Remarket to people in your destination. Facebook knows where your customer is right now. And because of that, you’re able to show ads to people who are in your destination, and even who are within a few hundred feet of your offices. Facebook allows you to target people who were either “recently in” your area, or “living in.” To reach visitors, be sure to select “recently in.”

3. Make sure your frequency justifies your AOV (average order value). Frequency is the number of times that any one person sees your ads. If you’re selling $500 private rafting adventures, the chances are you’ll need to show your ads with a higher frequency than if you’re selling a $20 walking tour. And the cost of the tour justifies the higher frequency. A good rule of thumb is to try to have an average frequency of 1x per day for remarketing audiences. But depending on your AOV, you may want more or less than that.

4. Remarket to specific demographics. Most advertising platforms know a person’s gender, whether they have kids, and how old they are. It may make sense to adjust your creative and messaging based on each of these factors. For example, ads targeting parents should include photos of families and children, rather than using the same photo for everyone in your audience.

We’re Optimistic About 2021

As of this morning (April 30th) 55% of US adults and 82% of seniors have received at least 1 dose of the COVID-19 vaccination. As this number continues to climb, we think 2021 will start to look more and more like pre-pandemic times. Of course, it’s going to take more time for some locations and companies than others, but we’re heading in the right direction.

Do the numbers we shared resonate with you? Are you seeing your revenue heading back to 2019 levels? We’d love to hear from you! Just shoot me an email from my bio.

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About The Author

Nathan Andrew

Nate is passionate about helping companies reach their goals through integrated digital marketing campaigns and local SEO. He loves helping tour and activity company leaders stay focused on the numbers that matter, and fostering sustainable long term growth and profitability.