Why Native Advertising Matters for Travel Brands Right Now

By Alison Pfaff Dec 12, 2022

A recent University of Texas marketing study asked a simple question: Does it make people happier to spend money on things or experiences? After surveying more than 2,000 participants, the researchers concluded, “people are happier with experiential purchases over material ones irrespective of when you measure happiness: before, during, or after consumption” and regardless of the cost. The study also found that “experiences also provoke more satisfaction even though people typically spend more time using their material possessions.”

The timing of this study is relevant. Conducted in early 2020, and published in May 2020, this study doesn’t factor in the pandemic. All signs point to consumers spending more on experiences post-pandemic: In general, millennials and Gen Z value experiences more than goods, and, despite inflation, consumer spending remains resilient. This all suggests that we still haven’t seen the exhaustion of disposable income amassed during the pandemic. Combined with the base level finding that consumers are already happier spending on experiences, these factors signal significant news for the travel industry, which, after a particularly bleak 2020 and 2021, are looking to return to — and surpass — pre-pandemic levels.

In light of the expected torrid demand in the travel economy — fueled further by the rise of social media influencers — travel brands know their audience is out there. But in a highly competitive market, how do you differentiate your brand from the rest? As the media landscape continues to shift, it’s not as simple as identifying a demographic and employing a direct advertising campaign anymore. Target audiences are more heterogeneous than ever and it takes advanced analytics and engaging content to reach them. Now, more than ever before, the savvy travel brand is looking to content marketing as the best way to stand out from the pack.

Because travel brands thrive on storytelling to build brand identity, content marketing in the form of native advertising provides travel brands with an extreme advantage over competitors. Engaging content marketing not only promotes brand awareness while developing trust and customer loyalty, it creates three times more leads than traditional marketing while costing 62 percent less. Top forms of content marketing include blogs that use SEO optimization, podcasts providing a story-based approach, and videos that can be shared across social media platforms. Videos are especially advantageous to the travel industry, as 84 percent of people say that they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.

These forms of content marketing are effective because they’re grounded in storytelling. Effective content marketing in travel is about authentic, localized, unique experiences that are best expressed through stories. Each medium — longform, video, podcasting — has its own advantages, which is why a hybrid approach that utilizes a mix provides brands with the most bang for their marketing buck.

Travel storytelling is not only effective for popular destinations or international brands. As travel continues to trend regionally, storytelling can also be used as an important part of strategic marketing to promote less-visited sites, under-recognized experiences, and new and emerging brands.


The future for travel is bright. Here are a few key takeaways:


  1. According to the U.S. Travel Association, Americans are projected to spend $1.15 trillion on travel in 2023.

  2. An American Society of Travel Advisers survey found that 82 percent of Americans are more likely to travel abroad in the coming months, now that inbound COVID-19 testing requirements have been lifted.

  3. Statistics show increased demand for travel, positive outlooks from consumers for the travel industry, and support from state and federal levels.

With proven results and unparalleled value, native advertising utilizing a multimedia approach should be part of every travel brand’s marketing strategy. Learn more about how the Hearst StoryStudio can help you differentiate your brand in the crowded travel market.

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