Michael Gallinari
Mike is a US Travel and Leisure Reports Analyst at Mintel. Mike writes reports about consumer travel preferences as well as leisure market research.

The Cannes Lions is billed as the global benchmark for effective creative marketing communications. The five-day festival judges the most creative and forward-thinking advertisements of the year. The winners can serve as a marker for the current zeitgeist, and provide a loose roadmap for other brands to follow in their quest for consumer engagement. Brands in the travel space can look to the underlying sentiment and execution to get a glimpse of the industry’s future.

Flipping the script to encourage travel to new destinations

An ad from FCB/Six centers on the concept that once every three minutes someone uses the pejorative “go back to Africa” on social media. The agency flipped the negative statement to an invitation (of sorts) with a pan-African tourism campaign. The ad features the sights and sounds of African countries, while describing the campaign purpose – to replace negative uses of the phrase “go back to Africa” with positive images of international travel for Black & Abroad.

This reversal isn’t new in the travel industry; Airbnb famously ran their “We Accept” ad in 2017 in response to the Trump administration’s ban on refugees and immigrants from mostly Muslim nations. Similarly, after being referred to as a derogatory cesspool by the President, the countries of Haiti and Zambia used his comment to invite people to experience the country and judge for themselves.

As nationalism and xenophobia rise around the world, it’s likely that destinations on the receiving end of criticism will rely on this reversal in their international tourism marketing. According to Mintel research on vacation planning, more than half of consumers planning a vacation look to visit new places, and nearly half seek out destinations that are off the beaten path. The sentiment may not be limited to these destinations; the United States has seen its global share of inbound tourism drop since 2017, in part because travelers aren’t comfortable visiting. Should this sentiment become more pronounced, this reversal tactic may be one undertaken by Brand USA.

A green payment option for eco-travelers

Swedish fintech company Doconomy took home the Creative eCommerce prize for their credit card that is limited not by a dollar amount, but by a carbon budget. DO Black is a card that works with an app to measure the carbon footprint of purchases made with the card, and if the card’s carbon budget is exceeded, the purchase is declined.

DO Black’s release comes at a time of introspection on the part of travelers and the industry. Being that airplanes and cruise ships are big carbon polluters whose bookings are often done through credit card, the card can serve to underscore travel’s impact on the environment. The groundwork has already been laid; in Sweden, a phenomenon known as flygskam, or “flight shame,” has taken root as environmentally-conscious Swedes both feel and impart guilt for using air travel. By tying this passion directly to finances, the DO Black card can drive travelers away from planes and ocean liners.

Travel experiences providers can attract nearby travelers

The Mobile Grand Prix went to the “Whopper Detour” campaign, which used geofencing to identify every McDonald’s restaurant in the US, generating an offer of a one-cent Whopper to any Burger King app user that came within 600 feet of the Golden Arches. The ploy serves as a great example of the lengths brands need to go to in order to grab the attention of consumers.

The Whopper Detour showcases how activities at a destination (like a tour or museum) can virtually capture a traveler through geolocation and give them an offer to lure them in. Part of what makes this idea effective is how fluid vacationers see their plans. Nearly two-thirds of millennial vacation planners agree that a good deal would make them change their original travel plans.

Try before you fly

From Marvel to Marshmello, Fortnite has been no stranger to integrated marketing. However, Fortnite was able to take integration further with Wendy’s, creating an in-game avatar resembling the company’s mascot that traveled the playing field on a journey to smash the refrigerators in all of the game’s restaurants and replacing them with fresh burger facilities to point out that Wendy’s never uses frozen beef. The judges hailed the effort as “setting up a new trend” with this kind of immersive, in-game marketing.

In this light, destination marketing can be a fitting partner with video games. In an environment where destinations like Croatia, Iceland and Ireland saw an uptick in visitors after being featured in Game of Thrones and the Star Wars movies, escapists to virtual worlds are interested in seeing their inspirations manifest. Knowing this, is there any reason Fortnite players can’t skydive into a digital version of Interlaken? Or Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome can’t set up shop with the gnomes in World of Warcraft’s Azeroth? Or what about touring a Red Square made of squares in Minecraft?

What we think

This year, Cannes saw a lot of creative effort to bring people together, sparking ideas that lead to new opportunities and ads that were overall fun. While not all ads were for travel companies, the underlying sentiment of the big winners certainly captured the essence of what travel is all about.