As travel recovery continued in the summer, the online travel giants scrutinized their marketing investment to take advantage of, and drive, momentum in Q2 and beyond.
Booking Holdings, Expedia Group and Airbnb looked to what they already had in terms of their existing customer bases and continued to put marketing dollars elsewhere, hopefully to bring in new travelers.
This led to a mix of careful performance-marketing investment for Booking.com and Expedia, as well as some experimentation via new channels and campaigns.
Airbnb, which traditionally relies more on PR and word of mouth than performance marketing and commands a healthy volume of direct traffic, was still seeing the results from its first marketing campaign in five years, which launched in February this year.
While Airbnb had talked about its brand earlier in the year, Booking.com and Expedia seemed to take over come the second quarter.
Booking Holdings more than doubled its marketing spend in Q2 to $988 million, up from $461 million in Q1 2021.
Compared to 2019, marketing spend was down 29%, which Booking attributes to more direct business and a higher return on investment in paid channels.
Despite the increase in investment, the company says it continues to drive value in its Genius loyalty program and test other channels such as digital and social as it looks to drive incremental traffic and increase brand awareness.
Booking Holdings also restated its plan to leverage campaigns similar to its “Back To Travel” initiative, launched in the U.S. in April and in the U.K. in May, offering travel credits for future stays.
With the uptick in bookings in Q2, Expedia, meanwhile, said it “aggressively pushed into marketing.”
Its Q2 earnings report reveals adjusted selling and marketing expense for the period was almost $1.2 billion, a 320% increase year over year.
The company talked again of its “long-term goal of building more brand recognition and pushing more into brand marketing, creating longer-term relationships with customers,” adding that performance marketing is still volatile.
As part of that strategy, Expedia Group announced the appointment of Jon Gieselman, who joined in May as president of brands, from Apple.
Looking ahead into Q3, Expedia Group says it believes it will close the gap further on pre-pandemic marketing spend although it will still be well below the same levels in the corresponding period in 2019.
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