As travel demand ramps back up, so, too, is advertising spend, with travel advertisers in the United States having invested nearly $623 million from January to April of this year.
According to advertising intelligence platform MediaRadar, which analyzed how airlines, lodging providers, rental car companies and tourism organizations have advertised so far in 2022, ad spend is up 43% year-on-year from $435 million in 2021. In 2020, ad spend totaled roughly $569 million during the same period.
Lodging advertisers contributed to half of the $623 million ad spend total, with six companies – Airbnb, Expedia Group’s Vrbo brand, Hard Rock Entertainment’s the Guitar Hotel, Hilton, Marriott International and Unique Travel Corp’s Sandals Resorts – spending more than $10 million each in the U.S. so far in 2022. Combined, their investment was close to $200 million, or 64% of the total lodging spend.
In a Q1 2022 earnings call with analysts, Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky claimed the company gets 90% of its traffic through direct or unpaid channels.
"Advertising is really a form of supplemental education for us. It's not the core driver of growth. We think the core driver of growth, Airbnb is innovation. It's about building a product that people love,” he said. "And the role of marketing isn't to buy customers. The role of marketing for us is to educate people about our new features and our new offerings."
Although Expedia Group does not break out Vrbo numbers, the online travel giant reported a Q1 2022 marketing expense of $1.3 billion – a 102% jump compared to $644 million in the same period in 2021.
In Expedia Group’s earnings call for the quarter, vice chairman and CEO Peter Kern said new Vrbo users were primarily coming through direct channels, and the company has “spent up considerably” in brand marketing on the company.
Overall, online travel agency spend, which is not included in the MediaRadar report, was up substantially in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
For Expedia Group competitor Booking Holdings – which does not have a dedicated lodging unit – marketing expense for Q1 2022 jumped significantly year-over-year, from $461 million in Q1 2021 to $1.15 billion.
Air, DMO, car rental
Airline ad spend so far in 2022 has jumped 141% year-on-year, spiking in February when carrier ad spend increased to 41% of overall travel ads investment. Compared to January 2022, ad spend in February was up a whopping 340% month-on-month.
The top spenders in February 2022, with a combined ad spend of more than $73 million, were Delta Air Lines (up nearly 750% month-on-month), Southwest Airlines (up more than 215% month-on-month) and Turkish Airlines, which spent 142X of its January 2022 investment.
Meanwhile, tourism organizations ranged from 18% to 35% of the monthly spend in 2022. Through April of this year, there has been a 46% year-on-year increase in ad spend compared to the same period last year.
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According to the report, the California Travel and Tourism Commission, Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Monroe County Tourist Development Council, Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visit Florida and Williamsburg Tourism Council have all invested more than $5 million in ad spend so far in 2022, totaling more than $58 million combined.
Rental car ad spending is up 50% year-on-year compared to the same period in 2021. The segment has also experienced a format strategy shift this year, according to MediaRadar: Year-on-year, TV and digital display increased 93% and 250%, respectively, compared to the same period in 2021.
All other formats – including online video, Facebook and print – decreased year-over-year in 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.