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‘Travel Voyeurism’: A Danger to Vacation Advertisers

If vacation search advertising were a beach instead of a marketing platform, ‘High Surf’ warning signs would litter beaches from the South Pacific to Hawaii to Florida. 

Why? Because potential vacationers have recently adopted a ‘look but don’t book’ mentality. The danger of these surging surf volumes is that advertisers are tempted to veer off-course and abandon their ROI-proven click-through campaigns in favour of display advertising. 

Wallop strongly encourages advertisers to hold fast against this rising but temporary tide of ‘travel voyeurism’ and stick with tried-and-true click-through campaigns. Booking inventory is up, costs are down, and opportunities are at hand.

We’ll explain beginning with the fascinating narrative of the past six months of vacation advertising.

Pandemic Storm Surge

As we entered the midpoint of summer 2020, sentiment regarding travel began to suddenly change. Many families planned vacations after a long period of lockdown resulting in a surge in revenue activity from late June into July and August. Quarantine fatigue had set in as many parents realized that the return-to-school date was quickly approaching. They desperately needed to book a relaxing family vacation after the off-the-chart stresses of the Spring.

Perhaps surprisingly several of Wallop’s client properties experienced their best months ever (measured by bookings revenue) during the month of June or July of this year. This was particularly true of properties with remote locations and very high ADRs.

As Summer 2020 came to a close, Wallop noticed many advertisers come late to the game hopeful of creating bookings for vacation properties. The result was increased competition during a period of declining customer supply which in turn led to a quick jump in the average cost-per-click in September and October. This decrease in bookings supply was commensurate with increasing advertising costs which led many advertisers to seek out other means of marketing their properties.

‘Travel Voyeurism’ is dangerous for advertisers.

Wallop then saw some fascinating market dynamics emerge from its client base and the market at large during the last few months of 2020. It began with several prestigious journals pointing to the rise of “Zillow surfing” in the housing market last Fall whereby individuals would browse inventory in their area (or even in other countries) all the while daydreaming about what they could purchase once the rolling lockdowns and quarantines eventually end. As the pandemic wore on, this trend escalated into the travel market and we began seeing many individuals looking at potential vacations despite the fact they were unable to travel.

Key metrics analyzed in December 2020 compared to the previous period


We identified the above trend as ‘emergent’ in our November COVID-19 Monthly Update report (which is publicly available) as we were consistently seeing surging amounts of impressions served at the same time as clicks and conversion rates were declining. 

Holiday hunters were showing an interest in exploring potential vacations despite their inability to actually to act upon them. So if you’re involved in the travel or hospitality business, we strongly encourage you to take a look at this live report that continuously tracks a large portfolio of our travel client’s advertising accounts.

Since it provides real-time insight into what’s ongoing and happening in the luxury vacation travel market, we perhaps should add the warning signs we spoke of earlier: don’t be attracted to the high surf. That’s because inventory of available bookings is currently high and display advertising won’t convert it for you. But click-through campaigns will.


In Summary: Stay on Solid Ground

This is a critical time for hospitality properties to properly orient their advertising efforts into what will continue to drive revenue during this unprecedented time. At the present moment, an immense amount of people are browsing travel blogs and leading to an explosion in the amount of impressions being served on the display networks. Let’s not forget this is in parallel to a decreased intent to plan a trip which is why the search network volumes continued to decline. 


Key metrics analyzed in December 2020 compared to the previous period


We advise our clients to not get caught in this trap of investing in display network campaigns in a period where ‘travel voyeurism’ has surged but to instead invest in campaigns that have proven continued return on investment. 

We’re urging clients to continue their campaigns on the Search network. The cheap impressions and clicks available on the Display media are tempting but they are failing to generate bookings and new customers. 

Stay the course with your proven ROI campaigns to ride out the storm.