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The Olympics, Travel Bubbles and Government Meetings: The Trends Dominating Our Current News Cycle and What It Could Mean for the Travel Industry

June 28, 2021

Travel is trending, massively. Not only is it on the minds of many with a self-diagnosed “travel bug,” it’s taking up substantial space in our current media landscape. It’s consistently landing frontpage coverage from mainstream outlets—from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Post—right alongside breaking news and major political stories. In the past 30 days alone, travel—from business to holiday and leisure—scored coverage in over 250K news articles. This metric is even steeper when we factor in surrounding social media conversation.

Leaders in the travel ecosystem—from airlines to hotels, convention centers and ride-hailing services—should embrace this heightened limelight to further their value stories with key audiences and stakeholders. To better understand the landscape, we conducted a deep-dive, digital analysis looking at all relevant travel news. Some of the topics—and publications—drumming up the most coverage came as a surprise and should be helpful for industry leaders looking to contribute to the narrative in the near-term.

Here’s what we learned.

Travel that is deemed “essential” is still driving most news coverage, even as we continue down the road to recovery.

Official government travel, like convenings for the G7 summit, is driving significantly more news coverage than travel related to business—for the time being. Over 32% of all news coverage relevant to travel in the past month mentions government meetings and traveling world leaders both domestically and internationally. When President Biden—a proponent of the value of face-to-face meetings—boarded a plane for his first international trip after many months of virtual convenings, coverage quickly followed. As travel for government meetings continues to be the norm, we should anticipate a similar upward trend in coverage around corporate travel. More on that, below.

When it comes to news coverage relative to international travel, topically, the Olympics takes the gold. This finding isn’t too shocking, given the immense hype around the event’s postponement in 2020.

Which brings us to the term “travel bubble”—about as new and widely used as “Zoom fatigue.” Right now, coverage around who can travel when and where, as determined by government-enforced restrictions, is growing in popularity. News surrounding the U.K.’s green list is particularly prevalent.

Breakdown of travel-related news coverage by topic in May and June 2021, compiled from Talkwalker.

Business outlets are increasingly covering travel news, a shift from early 2020

Mainstream business publications including NBC, CNBC, CNN, USA Today, The Atlantic and Forbes have covered travel most often over the past month. Business outlets in the U.K. and Australia are similarly active in this space, with regard to reach and subscribership size.

This is a shift from travel news pre-pandemic—which was largely covered by smaller, locally driven trade publications. It presents a solid opportunity for travel industry leaders to own the narrative moving forward, by pitching their value stories as they appeal to a business-centric audience. For example, how travel benefits cities, communities and the global economy—especially as it relates to recovery or how traveling for corporate meetings impacts bottom lines and better business.

The final takeaway

As the impact of COVID-19 and recovery continues to unfold around the world, leaders in the travel industry should continue keeping a finger on the pulse of popular news coverage and trends. Not only does media play a role in consumer behavior, but it is also predictive in nature and may foreshadow travel-related behaviors beyond 2021.

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