the future
of travel

How can brands compete as demand surges?

Watch the recording of the event


The travel sector has unquestionably been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, but even as the UK remains in lockdown, the demand for travel is growing exponentially. And with rising demand comes increased competition.

On Tuesday 9th March at 11am, our CEO Gary Jacobs was joined by 3 industry experts from Lonely Planet, OFX and The Tourism Authority of Thailand, with an audience of representatives from leading destinations, airlines, cruise operators, hotel groups, tourism boards, tour operators and more. They looked at the challenges the travel industry collectively faces, how brands and destinations can differentiate themselves and why holidaymakers may be seeking a new type of travel experience.

How can brands compete as demand surges?

Businesses of every size within the travel sector have had to adapt quickly and evolve their marketing as a direct result of the global pandemic. From finding ways to continue to engage their audience at home, to quickly developing and launching fresh new campaigns with relevant and engaging messaging, the travel sector has met the significant challenge that was put before us, but is it now time to look beyond the pandemic and think more strategically, and if so, where, and how, do you start that process?

FKC set out to bring the travel industry together to answer just that, hosting our own online travel event: The Future of Travel – How can brands compete as demand surges?

During the webinar, we outlined some of the key areas that destinations, airlines, cruise operators, hotel groups, tourism boards, tour operators and those with an interest in keeping up with the must-know trends in travel should focus on in order to make the most of the surge in demand for travel, offering practical advice and discussing shared experiences and the opportunities ahead with 3 industry leaders.

Here’s what you missed

Our top 5 insights (or golden nuggets as Gary called them!) include:

Keep your audience’s sentiment front of mind in your marketing

Tom started the session by highlighting that brands are now competing in a crowded and noisy marketplace. Chris agreed and said that Tourism Authority of Thailand has really focused on the mindset of the consumer in its comms and talked about the Stay At Home Thai Style Campaign he ran alongside FKC to reflect how the customer was feeling at the moment during lockdown. Chris has ensured Thailand stay one step ahead by constantly asking travellers for their input and feelings towards travel as they see it. He sees that customers are hungry to understand where and when they can travel and are in information-seeking mode. Brands who have a strategy in place for the moment travel opens up will be the winners in their respective markets, but in the meantime, they need to provide clear communication and reassurance to potential travellers.

Travellers want flexibility – brands need to respond

Hamish straight away flagged that customers are looking for flexibility, particularly on when, where and how they can travel. OFX are seeing that in the conversations they have directly with travel businesses. Their organisation has felt a trickle-down effect into what they are being asked for by their travel business clients. Is your brand offering travellers the flexibility they crave in your messaging?

The importance of reassurance for potential travellers

Gary noted that we’re almost starting from afresh and asked the panel how brands can achieve cut through. Tom raised how important it is to understand the different types of customers and their different needs. But there are broad trends to keep in mind. People love international travel but have not stepped through airport for a year or more, so it’s likely customers may gravitate to something that feels familiar. Therefore, a comforting message might hit the mark above others. There may also be a trend towards people booking more breaks in less-crowded locations, rather than city breaks over the next 12 months and potentially even beyond.

The emotional pull of travel

Tom suggested that brands must explore the emotional pull of travel, in terms of imagery, messaging and overall approach. The whole travel industry will benefit from selling itself. Emotive messages about ‘why choose our destination’ are essential right now and Chris is focusing on targeting specific groups of people, i.e. luxury customers, well-being customers and food and drink customers, with tailored messaging. Chris agreed that people miss the tactile nature of travel. In terms of marketing then, he sees digital marketing being a great way of tailoring messaging, but direct mail an even better way to create a more emotional response from consumers. Further to this, Chris also talked about his intention to use the story of the Thai people and what they are missing without the normal tourism they rely on for their livelihoods, further drawing on the emotional drives of travellers.

Putting your best foot forward

Tom flagged that the travel picture in Europe is changing every single day. He noted that many people have been doing online classes, learning to cook, wine tastings and more during lockdown, and interest in food and drink has grown. Gary noted that if you are a destination that is known for food and wine, it’s key to push forward this message and reach those people in a clever way. Advertising helps us reach people at the right time when their intention is high. It’s vital to get your messaging into the heart and mind of the consumer at the right time.

Keeping travellers engaged

Just as we outlined in our recent case study, Amazing Thailand, as part of our ongoing creative partnership with Tourism Authority of Thailand, we saw some impressive engagement with our Stay At Home Thai Style Campaign. Growing Tourism Authority of Thailand’s audience and encouraging people to interact with the brand will stand them in good stead for when travel restrictions are lifted.

The outlook

Each of our expert panellists was able to provide insight on the future of travel in different ways which made for a highly valuable set of insights. Tom noted that people will be scrutinising their travel budgets as they have been without travel for so long. What’s clear though, is that it’s now more important than ever before to be resilient, yet adaptive. It’s time to be bold and act now to adapt and innovate your marketing and comms strategies quickly to capitalise on the demand for travel and stay ahead of the competition using clever creative that gets big results.

The time is fast approaching to look at life beyond the pandemic, and it’s now time for travel organisations to establish their exit plan and start to build momentum for their brand. Building the right foundations now will help your business be three steps ahead of your competitors and set you up for long-term success.

What’s next?

When people are eventually allowed to travel again and make that all important holiday destination choice, will they immediately think of your destination, your airline, your hotel group? That where we come in.

We here at FKC are seeing the huge potential the demand for travel start to come to fruition for many of our clients and as experts in travel, we are very well positioned to support any business currently looking to use creativity to have an impact and drive long-term growth.

As experts in the travel industry, we can help your brand to get 3 steps ahead and make an impact as travel begins to open up again. Email us at to see how our clever creative can get you some big results.


The presenters

Tom Hall

Senior Leader, lonely planet

A long-time senior leader at Lonely Planet, Tom Hall is a well-known and respected expert voice on travel and tourism. Tom has spent the past few months writing and speaking on how travel and tourism can navigate the post-COVID world and is now planning Lonely Planet’s 2021 relaunch. He is a long-time contributor to dozens of publications including the annual Best in Travel book, the new Low Carbon Europe title and Lonely Planet’s long-running magazine.

He also writes for The Guardian and many in-flight magazines and websites. Tom is a regular voice covering travel on CNN, BBC News, Sky News and many other national and international broadcasters where he has given advice and context on issues affecting tourism from volcanic eruptions to economic crises.

Chris Lee

Head of Marketing Tourism Authority of Thailand

Formerly Commercial Director with long haul tour operator Travelmood. Chris runs Emotive Travel Marketing, a representation company working with Tourist Boards from Asia, Australia and the US since 2009. Chair of the Pacific Asia Travel Association UK Chapter from 2011 to 2015, he remains on the Board and Executive Committee.

Chris is also on the Advisory Panel of Top Network and Chairman of the Trustees of Charitable Travel Foundation.

Hamish Muress

Senior Currency Strategist and Business Development Manager, OFX

Hamish entered the foreign exchange sector following his graduation from Newcastle University, where he earned a Masters in International Politics and Economics. He became a member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment in 2016 and continues to build on his expertise in foreign exchange, focusing in particular on risk management and international payment strategies for eCommerce businesses.

On top of the ‘day-job’, Hamish is a regular spokesperson for OFX and his market commentary is regularly picked up by Reuters, BBC Live, Forbes, The Guardian, The Telegraph and Bloomberg Radio. Hamish has spoken at several conferences working in partnership with Amazon, the Australia UK Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Nation covering a wide range of market related topics to help UK businesses grow globally.

Gary Jacobs


Gary has been working in the advertising/marketing communications sector for a lifetime. He left Grey to launch FKC in 1995 with the aim of becoming a travel & tourism specialist communications agency. Having an in-depth understanding of these market sectors and the experience he has accumulated over the years enables him to help clients tackle their marketing communications problems with authority and insight.

Gary’s strength is in developing imaginative and innovative, strategically-led marketing communications programmes that help FKC’s clients to effectively differentiate their offering and deliver outstanding results.