COVID-19: An Attraction CMOs Insights on Marketing Through a Pandemic

August 17, 2020

With our access to real-time traveler audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period, as the industry stabilizes. 

These insights are based on data collected through August 9, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a regular basis to provide a view of trends and patterns in consumer behavior. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveler profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.

Attractions Global Search Trends  

COVID-19 is still deeply impacting the travel space. Though the TSA saw 800,000 travelers pass through checkpoints on Sunday, August 9, 2020 for the first time since the pandemic began, there are still notable declines in search and booking trends for attractions. The attractions vertical will likely be one of the slowest to recover in the travel space. However, this will vary from region to region as they experience shutdowns and closures at different times. There will also likely be some variants in recovery based on who the attraction’s typical audience is. For example, if the attraction appeals mostly to international travelers, the COVID-19 impact will likely be greater than for an attraction that has a nice mix of international and domestic travelers, or better still, is visited predominantly by domestic travelers. 

Below, we take a look at recovery across various regions for amusement parks, boat tours, water sports, outdoor activities, tours and activities. The attraction search events are indexed from the week of March 22, 2020 when travel bottomed out across the globe, and we’ve tracked recovery from that point on. 

A Deep Dive Into California and Florida Attractions Search and Booking Trends

Statista data indicates that California and Florida had the most visited North American amusement parks in 2019. Parks like Magic Kingdom in Florida, Disney Anaheim, and Universal Studios (both California and Florida) fall on the list. Despite the pandemic and increasing case numbers in these states, our data still shows interest in travel to them. USA Today recently reported that California, Florida, and Nevada are top summer destinations, noting that California and Florida theme parks are especially popular in the summer. Thus, we did an insights deep dive on large scale/major attractions in these two states. The insights include major amusement theme parks, zoos, and aquariums. 

We looked at the share of booking events of California attractions compared to flights and hotels to and within California from the week of March 22 through the week of July 26. As shown on the graph below, flight and hotel trends align closely to major attractions. Since March 22, we’ve seen a cautious recovery for attractions through Memorial day. It continued to rise into the middle of June before it went down on the week of June 28 as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases broke records in California. Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there, as last week the number of cases in California was the highest of any state. While the resurgence of positive COVID-19 cases did have an effect on the number of booking events for a few weeks, booking levels didn’t drop as low as they did in April, but instead remained steady over the past couple of weeks. 

Of note, the chart below reflects booking activity from when people book on attraction websites for future visits, which is different from actual travel dates as most major attractions are still closed in California, outside of attractions like the San Diego Zoo, and Knott’s Berry Farm and Six Flags hosting special events. 

Unlike California, most major attractions in Florida have reopened. When we look at the share of booking events for Florida flight and hotel bookings compared to attractions, all three show a steady increase through Memorial weekend and peak in mid-June, but dip on the week of June 28th when confirmed COVID-19 cases increased in Florida. Since that dip, booking activity surged back up for a week but dipped again towards the end of July. With over half a million infected in Florida currently, an August high, it remains to be seen what will happen with these trends. However, a couple of major Florida attractions are rolling out deep discounts for local residents to encourage safe travel to local attractions. 

As the pandemic has substantially grown the drive market, we are also seeing a shift in party size for a major attraction that has a location both in Florida and California. Below, we look at a composition of party size among attraction seekers who are planning a trip to a single major attraction in both locations. The biggest takeaway here is there is an increase in planning among visitors in pairs (in blue), rather than larger parties like families (in yellow). This could indicate that pre-COVID-19 travel was more family centric, and it’s likely that high risk individuals are staying home, shifting travelers to book in pairs rather than booking as a group or family.

Because most major attractions in California remained closed outside of special events, we are not seeing sufficient future booking data to report on. However, search data indicates that attraction seekers in California are looking to travel almost instantaneously as summer is coming to a close, and we’re seeing similar patterns for Florida travelers as well. Once school resumes, intent to travel among attraction seekers declines but picks back up in the new year towards spring. However, this could change again as schools are considering reclosing with students across the nation testing positive for COVID-19 and parents could choose to find creative places to homeschool.

Future Attractions Searches For California And Florida 

Source: Sojern Attractions Internal Data

Sojern’s Webinar Series: An Attraction CMOs Insights on Marketing Through a Pandemic

Regardless of the location, attractions across the globe are taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their guests. In our webinar, hear from the CMO of Universal Parks and Resorts, Alice Norsworthy, on how they are successfully marketing a major attraction during a pandemic. Alice shares how they solved for a myriad of challenges and answers questions like: What new procedures were put in place? How have they adjusted their marketing strategies? Are most guests driving or flying? Get valuable takeaways that you can apply to your marketing efforts.

For real-time insights specific to your region or country, check out our insights dashboard.