Tackling unconscious bias in travel marketing


As destinations adjust to ever‐changing restrictions and mandates, DMOs look to attract the weary vacationer, who has waited more than a year to reinvest in their personal travel time.

Today, travel is marketed with deeper intentions to make up for time spent waiting out quarantines and vaccinations. Bringing back travel is a great mentality for hospitality and tourism social media accounts, but when they apply this “deeper meaning” in their posts and stories, what are they trying to say and who are they talking to?

Meaningful travel is a great way to brand this reopening – it’s trendy and extremely “hashtagable;” a great antithesis to “revenge travel.” However, the real question still stands:

What does meaningful travel mean to destinations and their eager travelers?
Are hospitality leaders and DMOs reaching any new audiences, or are they just playing to their regular, expected guests?

We know it helps everyone to see themselves in an advertisement to better imagine a meaningful and momentous vacation. Yet, far‐too‐often, there’s something missing. It’s not that all aspects of travel aren’t shown, but rather, it’s who brands want to see these beautiful places.

Content matters

It’s time to reconsider your regular content; influence with intention.

The release of 2020 census data shows us everything we need to know about diversity in the United States, highlighting the increase in citizens identifying as multicultural and multi‐ethnic.

And even more interesting, according to Havas Group, only about 5% of U.S. advertising is aimed at people over 50 despite the fact that older adults will outnumber children for the first time by 2035.

GLAAD and Getty Images even offered insights from their stock imagery, showing that visual representation of the LGBTQIA+ community remains low and stereotypical in the U.S. and globally.

Campaigns led by a more diverse cast, going out to experience what normally wouldn’t be a top‐of‐mind adventure, are becoming trendier in today’s travel space. Consider content featuring LGBTQIA+, Boomers and BIPOC travelers, to re‐engage with those eager‐to‐travel groups, who may have felt left out from previous social campaigns.

The ability to lead with first‐hand examples, diverse voices and diverse messaging, allows a DMO to reach all potential travelers, through an authentic perspective.

Hospitality and travel and tourism leaders can also be bolder, and in a way, more provocative.

Yes, all of these social media posts feature beautiful aerial shots, couples enjoying a glass of wine and adventurers hitting the trails, but who are you actually looking to engage with these images?

Visuals with meaning

Any destination with an adventure‐focused audience, highlighting their amazing hikes, snow‐peaked mountains and breath‐taking national parks, has activity‐forward social media content, with a strong audience and engagement.

However, destinations have a great opportunity to reach a new potential audience of travelers ‐ those who may feel as if certain DMOs are not as welcoming of a place to them, or lacks anything exciting for them to experience.

Diving in with comprehensive social media sentiment research, it’s easy to see that some of these destinations may have an unconscious bias towards certain types of travelers. To overcome this oversight, a new, more meaningful marketing strategy may be necessary to make all travelers feel welcome.

It’s important to tap into a deeper conversation with your followers. Other ideas to consider when revamping your social content could be: a focus on the bigger picture, not travel logistics or the most appealing attractions.

In addition, address any misconceptions or issues with your location that visitors might have brought up on social media. DMOs can use more upfront messaging that would have previously been considered taboo, including less‐than‐perfect images fighting graffiti and garbage issues, to lesser‐known insider tips and tricks.

Meaningful travel social media posts should be an inclusive invitation for all travelers to visit your destination and experience everything it has to offer, safely!

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