• Hannah Di Bella

How travel PR is being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

After months of living amidst a pandemic, many different industries are struggling with the repercussions.

The travel industry is among those that have been hit the hardest. “With the travel sector accounting for 10% of the global GDP, communicators are focused on averting economic disaster by getting governments and journalists to understand the relevant impact of the pandemic,” said Dr. Diana Marszalek, a PR news journalist.

As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the travel and leisure industry full force. The pandemic has caused many countries to lock down their borders, reduce their flights, and limit hotel capacity. In turn, these actions have caused the international tourism industry to suffer from a 910 billion to a 1.2 trillion dollar loss. Although someday all will go back to normal and people will start traveling again, there is no playbook showing businesses how this will pan out. This has dramatically affected the travel PR industry as a whole, and it will likely take years to recover.

Not only has this affected PR firms’ clients, but it has directly affected their employees as well. Travel PR employees are working arduously to continue building their clients’ reputations alongside this pandemic. However, these endless hours of work are coupled with reduced pay and layoffs. Geoffrey Weill, president of Weill, a PR and marketing firm specialized in travel and tourism, compared how work was before the pandemic and how it is currently. “We’re a company that never counted hours and never counted how much we did for each client. We just did and do what we need to do,” he said. Unfortunately, this company value has changed with no clear ending point in view.

Although the road back to normal is predicted to be long for travel PR agencies, many practitioners try to keep a positive mindset and take the proper precautions to get back onto their feet. Jennifer Hawkins, president of Hawkins International PR, stated how important it is to ensure that their clients have a clear vision of the precautions they will take as they reopen. “They must ensure their protocols around cleanliness and social distancing are very clear. We’re not saying put a press release out about it, but make sure it’s clearly indicated in your customer correspondence and on your website,” she said. These ultimately are the small but crucial steps hospitality businesses will have to take to get back to where they were before the pandemic. They need to take the necessary means for their guests to know what to expect with future travel.

Ultimately, the travel PR industry is going through a harsh time that will likely take a lengthy amount of time to recover from. However, at the end of the day, people will have the desire to travel for years to come, and with time things will start shifting back to normal. As Weill and many other PR firms are saying, “dream now, travel later.”

By Hannah Di Bella

Hannah is a senior at San Diego State University studying Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations. She is currently an intern at Petrucci Marketing, a boutique marketing firm. After graduating in May 2021, she hopes to work in travel PR.


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