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Interview: ITV offers insights into the future of travel

Travel Weekly and ITV have formed a partnership which will include the presentation of exclusive research findings from the ITV Village viewer community at this autumn’s Future of Travel Conference.

Travel Weekly’s Robin Searle spoke to Jason Spencer, business development director, Lucy Crotty, cultural strategy & insight lead, and Glenn Gowen, head of audiences (commercial), about the partnership and the importance of travel to the broadcaster.

Why is the travel sector important to ITV?

Jason Spencer (pictured, left): We are the UK’s largest free-to-air commercial broadcaster and travel is a hugely important sector to ITV on so many levels. For viewers and advertisers, TV offers a window on the world and it has the power to transport viewers to anywhere and everywhere, creating demand for destinations – whether they feature in a drama, a travel show or a 30” TV ad.

The escapism and entertainment of travel mirrors what TV offers viewers as well. And let’s not forget, our viewers are the customers of the UK’s many travel brands. From a business perspective, we have seen huge demand from travel brands for advertising opportunities since travel restrictions were lifted, and we see huge potential in how we can continue to support these brands, regardless of their size or sector, in a number of ways. So travel remains a very important and fast-growing category for us.

Why have you formed this partnership with Travel Weekly?

Spencer: There are huge benefits for us both on a number of levels. The travel industry has emerged from the impact of the past two years with different consumer behaviour around how they plan and book their travel – domestically and internationally. So our partnership is about how we partner to supercharge the travel industry’s return to growth.

We will do this through a major new piece of research into the new rules of travel. We will lift the lid on how the British people now plan and book their holidays in light of concerns about the cost of living, sustainability and value for money.  The research will draw on rich insight from the ITV Village, ITV’s community of viewers, to provide travel brands with a mainstream audience perspective on the category.

This will launch at the Future of Travel Conference in September where we will also make a major announcement about our commitment to support travel brands on their TV journey, make sure you turn up to the conference to be the first to hear about it! We also have a number of other initiatives planned with the Travel Weekly team to inspire and engage travel brands over the next year. Our aim is to share what we know about our viewers to support the travel industry in new and exciting ways.

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Martin Clunes, Islands of the Pacific, courtesy of ITV

Tell us more about the exclusive research project you are carrying out ahead of the Future of Travel Conference?

Lucy Crotty: ITV is the beating heart of mainstream British culture and we create industry thinkpieces to help empower clients with insights that unlock commercial and creative advantage. Our insights create a fresh perspective around the attitudes, tastes and behaviours of mainstream Britain. Working with Travel Weekly we have developed a multi-layered research framework with the aim of providing travel brands with a rich understanding of the new rules of travel behaviour in 2022 and beyond.  The research framework is based around the 4Cs that will feel are really important for travel brands.  1) The Consumer 2) Content 3) Culture 4) Communication.

Glenn Gowen (pictured, centre): We have partnered with STRAT7 ResearchBods, experts in data-driven consumer insights, and System1, the ad effectiveness agency, to deliver an impactful thought-leading project to benefit travel brands with a fresh perspective on the category.  STRAT7 ResearchBods manage the ITV Village, our thriving community of viewers.  The ITV Village is our very own social network where viewers talk to us about everything from TV shows and channels to personal finance and pets.

We will be utilising the ITV Village to conduct the consumer insight element of the research framework.  System1 are world leaders in advertising effectiveness and through our strategic partnership we are able to provide brands with a tried and tested approach for predicting and improving advertising effectiveness.

Who will take part and what topics will be covered?

Crotty: In this research, we will lean into three core issues that the travel industry faces in 2022 and beyond.

  • The cost-of-living crisis and creating value for consumers
  • Barriers/levers to communicating sustainability to mainstream audiences
  • How lack of distinctiveness might be preventing you from communicating effectively

The three core issues will be framed in key insights and opportunities relevant for travel brands, no matter their size. We will be speaking to more than 1,500 ITV Villagers as part of the study, the biggest ever category-based study we have conducted at ITV.  Alongside this System1 will be utilising its extensive norms database to explore best practice in creating great TV advertising within the travel category and key learnings from other categories post lockdown.

What will travel companies be able to learn from the findings and will it be particularly relevant to companies in certain sectors or of certain sizes?

Gowen: Our ambition with this research is to explore how Britain’s travel attitudes and behaviours are changing in 2022 and beyond, providing in-depth actionable insights into how brands can connect with mainstream audiences in the current environment through their company values and brand communications.  We will explore the importance of how to communicate value to mainstream Britain in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, how sustainability sits within the decision- making process and the opportunity for brands in these two pressing challenges.

Importantly, we will also explore how travel brands can increase their distinctiveness in an increasingly competitive environment by providing best practice guidelines for creating effective advertising.  The research will provide new rich insight for travel brands regardless of size as we feel that understanding mainstream audiences is key to success.

I'm a Celebrity

I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! courtesy of ITV

Will the findings be available for all Travel Weekly readers and subscribers to access?

Spencer: The findings will be launched at the Future of Travel event in September and then we will be working with Travel Weekly to share the findings in more detail with Travel Weekly subscribers and give them more access to the data. We will discuss further of course with brands who want to find out more about how to leverage this insight.

How has ITV evolved as a result of the events of recent years, and do you see parallels with the travel industry?

Spencer: There are a lot of parallels between the challenges and transformation in both our industries in recent years – and lots we can learn from each other, as well as ways we can be better together. But so I don’t steal my own thunder, we will be writing a think-piece for Travel Weekly very soon to cover just this!

Given the challenges facing the travel sector, both short and long-term, are you confident in its future?

Gowen: The cost-of-living crisis has impacted all areas of the economy but my view is that ‘this too shall pass’.  Destinations, length of holiday and expenditure have changed for some but travel remains a fundamental human need.  The need to explore, to connect, to experience new things, to have a break from the everyday will not change.  It’s in our DNA.  It has been clear from setting up the research that mainstream audiences are massively engaged when talking about travel which proves how important the category is to consumers now and in the future.

Crotty: Post pandemic, we can see a palpable shift to people looking for re-discovery, to escape from the doom and gloom and fill up on making memories once more. It is reassuring to see there is demand to travel both home and away, despite the niggles of travel delays. Travel broadens the mind and re-energises the soul and people are still keen to spend in this category for the experiences it offers. These help boost people’s connection to one another, mental resilience, escapism and the energy to deal with everything modern life offers.

Spencer: Escapism and entertainment are basic needs and travel and TV do this better than pretty much anything else, despite all the changes and challenges that modern society has thrown at us. We live evermore in an experience economy where we value the emotional connection we have from laughing, smiling, spending time with others – and travel beats TV every time – but only just! So as Glenn and Lucy say, we are at a moment in time. The way we react and transform our respective industries, the way we listen to customers, and the way we work better together – all these will help us accelerate to a brighter future.

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