Traveling the world, even your own country, is a thing so many aspire to do, and usually from a young age. From Spring Break in some sunny locale, to backpacking across Europe before heading to college or honeymooning in Southeast Asia for a few weeks, the notion of travel is exciting and romantic.
Except, as of late, some travel marketers have set down the piña coladas and brochures of smiling families having fun to instead focus their advertising creative and brand messages on their values and politics.
1. Airbnb’s ‘We Accept’
I briefly mentioned this commercial from Airbnb during my “What Were They Thinking?” episode about Super Bowl LI’s ads. This 30-second short proclaims simply that no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. “The world is more beautiful the more you accept,” it states, as faces from various cultures, ages and sexes are shown.
As a disruptor to the traditional hotel industry, you’d figure Airbnb’s ads would be more about finding that perfect, unique accommodation (a houseboat in Copenhagen, perhaps?), but in this case they remind us that our hosts (or our guests) are as much like us as they are not.
2. Hyatt’s ‘For a World of Understanding’
Like the Airbnb commercial I mentioned above, I also covered Hyatt’s ad in a recent “What Were They Thinking?” episode, applauding the hotel chain’s promotion of cross-culture connectivity. A 30-second version of this ad ran during The Academy Awards in late February, as part of its “For a World of Understanding” corporate brand campaign. As you watch the ad unfold, you see travelers who are in unfamiliar places, interacting with locals who, with a gesture of kindness, help make a connection and bridge a gap between cultures and languages. All the while, the ad is backed by Andra Day’s cover of “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” a hit originally by Dionne Warwick.
As someone who has been in another country, alone, who couldn’t really speak the language, this ad hit home for me. And like the travelers in Hyatt’s ad, I too had locals reach out and help me as needed, and to this day it’s always a part of the story I tell when I talk about travel — making connections and memories.
3. Expedia’s ‘Train’
This commercial from Expedia first aired on CNN on Jan. 20 during the presidential inauguration, and is the most politically charged of the three, in my opinion. The visuals Expedia chooses to show, from military checkpoints to raft-bound refugees and humanitarian protests, all the while ending with the message to “travel the world better.” In a time of such division, the marketer speaks of coming together globally, reminding us that we’re the key.
AdWeek spoke to Expedia about the commercial, and Vic Walia, senior director of brand marketing, had this to say:
We believe that travel has the power to transform you and shape your views of the world. We believe that the more each of us travel and peek over our neighbor’s fence, we learn that we have more in common than we have different. Our hope is that everyone can take this day to reflect on how they can connect to their neighbors across the country and around the world.
Now, if you look at the YouTube comments on these videos — and honestly, I rarely recommend that — you’ll see some people were not into the idea of these marketers sharing these messages. And maybe this causes them to lose some business from folks who believe there’s no place for politics in travel. But then you have TripAdvisor’s CEO Stephen Kaufer standing up against Trump’s first executive order on immigration (aka the “travel ban), making it very clear where they stand.
To me, travel is a means to making connections … connections across cultures, across languages and across borders. Sure, perhaps there’s a Mai Tai in there somewhere, or a little sprinkling of good-natured sightseeing, but when you travel, you’re entering someone else’s world. Be present. Be respectful. And as Airbnb, Hyatt and Expedia all show, be a connection.