Ep 20: Travel Recovery & The Role of the Media

About This Episode

21 May 2020 • 35m13s

This week, Gary and Hannah take on one of the most polarising topics in travel: the role of the media.

The 24/7 online and TV coverage of COVID-19 has resulted in accusations of media sensationalism, and featured a heavy concentration of statistics and information from government sources.

As the travel sector looks to a brighter second half of the year, what role with the media play in the next phase of the recovery? How will travel brands, NTOs and intermediaries seek to leverage different media platforms, and how will consumers respond as they prepare for unprecedented shifts in the travel landscape?

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Show notes

00:30 Probably the most polarising travel topic of them all: the media

6 main aspects to the media in travel:

  1. Travel trade media, which has historically been very pro-travel, and reports from the perspective of NTOs, DMOs, airlines, hotels, tour operators, travel agents.

  2. Consumer travel media, which publishes for travellers themselves. Good examples would be Conde Nast Traveller, Travel + Leisure, DestinAsian here in Asia.

  3. Newspapers and their online portals, which report daily on travel issues and economics.

  4. 24/7 TV news media, which has been consumed, worldwide, by the pandemic

“COVID-19 has really put travel and tourism on the front pages.” (Hannah)

  1. Social media

  2. The role of bloggers, vloggers, influencers and KOLs.

02:50 The media landscape has certainly changed with travel over the last decade

Two other areas of the media in travel that often get overlooked:

  1. The media and the communications/engagement strategies of tourism boards, travel providers, brands and intermediaries.

  2. The role of the law and media – which has become more entrenched in our region with the introduction of so-called Fake News legislation in countries like Singapore and Vietnam.

“These laws prohibit the posting and sharing of stories that are considered to be socially divisive – and often incur large fines or even penal sentences. During the time of COVID-19, these laws have enhanced governments’ monitoring and regulatory tools over media networks of all kinds.” (Gary)

04:55 Has the media sensationalised the coronavirus, and when does it reach saturation point?

“We do live in a 24/7 media environment […] If you look at the way that TV news and online news are structured these days, stories that have an element of disaster or natural effect on human lives, they are covered to the nth degree.” (Gary)

“I’ve not experienced a pandemic like this before, and nor has the media, so the media has been learning as it goes along.” (Gary)

“There has been an element of sensationalism, and everybody does like a disaster story. But I think in the travel media […] people are starting to be a bit more forward-looking now.” (Hannah)

“It has really thrown the spotlight onto travel, but it’s not a very good time for travel to have the spotlight thrown onto it.” (Hannah)

09:35 Travel and the media is a vast topic, so we identified 5 key themes:

  1. Travel positivity – travel bubbles, safe havens, the EU summer, new flight movements

  2. Travel and PR – hotels with their new hygiene/cleaning protocols

  3. The logistics of travel – especially relating to the new era of air transport

  4. Social division – anti-traveller sentiment

  5. Investigative stories – the cruise sector, sustainability and environment

“The impact has been so hard, so prolonged and so deep […] We have reached an inflection point […] where flight levels are down in some countries to a 99% drop in capacity” (Gary)

11:00 Australia and New Zealand floated the idea of a Travel Bubble, and then came Save Havens

“The word travel bubble […] gives us hope that there is a way forward even if it’s going to be very structured and very phased.” (Gary)

“Within about 10 minutes I’d read two articles about two different countries, Vietnam and Thailand, both with quotes from the tourism board saying they want to promote their destination as a safe haven. So that might be the new buzzword for post-COVID travel.” (Hannah)

“The only way is up. We’re at the bottom now […] So that in itself is a positive story that the travel media are happy to shout out about.” (Hannah)

14:15 For the near future, any kind of travel recovery is likely to be domestic and regional, and the media will need to reflect this

“In South East Asia, we have several countries that could define themselves as safe havens […] but the big markets that every country wants back are China, Japan and South Korea.” (Gary)

15:25 New cleaning and hygiene protocols and low-touch services like mobile room keys are being rolled out by hotels, and they are trying to promote these through the media to gain access to travellers

“I remember putting presentations together on mobile keys for hotels 10 years ago.” (Hannah)

“A hotel group says it will be doing antibody tests on staff, guests and even hotel diners, which is pretty extreme.” (Hannah)

18:00 Four Seasons has announced a partnership with Johns Hopkins University to validate their hygiene and sanitisation programme

“I think that’s an incredibly smart move. Four Seasons probably beat everyone out to that because Johns Hopkins is a globally recognised university and has a strong presence in China, and has a good reputation in China. It’s had a presence there for many years.” (Gary)

21:00 It’s not just about the cleaning of rooms, guests may not want to stay in a room that’s been occupied by other guests within the last 24-48 hours

22:05 Air travel is going to be completely different in future

“Many news outlets seem to be almost revelling in figuring out if everyone will be wearing PPE, will they be wearing face masks, will the middle seat be taken or not taken?” (Hannah)

“A lot of TV footage is showing airlines replacing air filters, and using these HEPA filters.” (Gary)

“The Atlantic magazine in the US said that ‘Air travel is going to be very bad for a very long time’. There is a lot of truth in that.” (Gary)

24:50 A newspaper story in South East Asia featured passengers being told after a flight to get tested because there were asymptomatic passengers on board

26:05 At the beginning of COVID-19, a lot of media coverage focused on Chinese travellers being subject to attacks in Europe. This reversed later on, with media headlines in Asia showing some countries not wanting to receive western travellers.

“There is an element of distrust towards strangers and people who aren’t where you’re from. That’s a tough one for travel to get around.” (Hannah)

“This element of xenophobia […] is not helped by politicians that have been using the virus as a political game.” (Gary)

“One of the dangers here is if we move through an era of recessions, of unemployment […] in some countries more poverty, as well, I think this fear of outsiders, worryingly, is going to be here. And the media will report that if it happens. (Gary)

30:00 Investigative stories about COVID-19 are shining a light into issues not often reported

30:15 Around 100,000 cruise ship crew are still sailing around the world despite having no guests. These crew are from many countries, including Philippines and Mauritius. They have been left in limbo, and can’t get home.

“I don’t think the cruise sector has had many positive stories in the past few months.” (Hannah)




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