Surekha Ragavan
Jun 19, 2020

What are travel marketers in Asia spending on right now?

SOUNDING BOARD: Four brand marketers tell us what their marketing plans look like as they brace the impact of the pandemic.

What are travel marketers in Asia spending on right now?

Travel is undoubtedly one of the hardest hit industries during this pandemic. Airlines, travel agencies, tourism and destination boards, hotels, and other related services have been severely impacted by lockdowns and border controls. This has inevitably resulted in layoffs, budget cuts, shifts in operations, or redeployment of staff.

We ask four marketers how the situation has affected their marketing—as well as what marcomms services they’re investing in or cutting back during at this time. 

Christine Li, senior vice president, head of marketing and communications, Genting Cruise Lines

During these challenging times, it is more important than ever to engage with our customers directly. We have shifted the focus of our communications to become more content-driven and via digital platforms in order to maximise efficiency in our markets.

As we begin to lay the strategic foundation for when cruise operations resume, our priority is to build consumer confidence in cruises by educating the public on the enhanced health and hygiene preventive measures we have implemented on board our ships, along with our “Cruise As You Wish” assurance policy to provide peace of mind for our guests. It is essential that our guests know that their health and well-being are our number one priority.

With content marketing playing such an important role in our overall marketing strategy, we established dedicated in-house digital, creative and video production teams to better support our regional marketing efforts. However, we still see value in our partner agencies and will continue to utilise their services when required.


Lynette Pang, assistant chief executive, marketing, Singapore Tourism Board

Our long-term marketing and communications objectives of telling the Great Singapore Story and keeping Singapore top-of-mind, remain unchanged. However, in the short term, our efforts are focused on two main areas: Rebuilding confidence in Singapore as a business and leisure destination for both local and international visitors as well as partnering with the local industry on their recovery journey.

The pandemic has driven us to rethink our audience engagement while prioritising safety and remaining agile and dynamic to ensure relevance. The renewed focus on digital has also allowed us to keep up with the rapidly evolving developments with frequent and rapid content development, as we work with partners to deliver innovative virtual experiences to global audiences. Recent examples include Zouk Phuturescapes, a weekend virtual rave which brought entertainment and nightlife to the homes of locals and international audiences, and Music Matters Live From Home, featuring collaborations between Singapore and global music talents.

With an overall aim of creating new possibilities for the industry, STB is partnering with local businesses to provide upskilling opportunities in partnership with tech giants like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Additionally, we have also launched the Marketing Partnership Programme and the SG Stories Content Fund to give the local industry an added boost to their marketing.


Bart Buiring, chief sales and marketing officer, Marriott International Asia Pacific

With travel restrictions and social distancing, we recognised that staying engaged with our guests and members was more critical than ever. Whether hosting virtual events like live cooking demos and live DJ parties, or offering hotel-quality food delivery services, we helped guests stay connected with our portfolio of 30 brands and travel programme, Marriott Bonvoy. We know that the first group of travellers to return are likely to be younger and mobile-centric, so we continue to invest in enhancing the customer experience on our digital platforms.

Our associates stepped up to support our guests, local communities and each other in the midst of the crisis, exemplifying our company’s commitment to take care and to serve. We believe business of travel will return, but it will be market by market. We are engaging with our customers in the right tone at the right time, appropriate for the phase of recovery in their market. When they are ready to travel, we understand safety and hygiene is the new amenity. We are preparing with enhanced cleanliness measures across all hotels and leveraging technology such as mobile check-in to enable physical distancing.


Jonathan Wan, director, global marketing, Japan Airlines

With international travel restrictions in place, we have significantly reduced paid advertising across all channels during the past months. In place of paid spends, we have focused on building our brand channels and content creation to better inform and engage with our customers. At a time when travellers are looking for answers and assistance from airlines, we wanted to ensure that they are given the proper support through our channels.

We have increased in-house production and planning during the early months of COVID-19 primarily for operational and cost-efficiency reasons. Our agency partners remain integral to our marketing structure and have been valued partners in helping us to navigate the COVID-19 landscape. While some roles may change, we foresee a deeper collaboration with our agency partners in the coming months as we pilot through the new normal together.

Inspiring people to travel safe and travel well has always been our marketing purpose. In the past, these aspects would be communicated through our Japanese hospitality, cabins designed for greater comfort and sustainable travel. Given the context of COVID-19, travelling safe and well takes on additional implications by ensuring enhanced hygiene and safety standards are in place. While our marketing purpose remains the same, our role as marketers is to ensure that accurate, useful and timely information are conveyed to our customers, allowing them to plan and travel with peace of mind.

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