New statistics tell a sad story: Americans are less happy today than they’ve been in decades. One way to turn that frown upside down: Plan a trip. That’s the message behind Let’s Go There, a national marketing campaign launched on Sept. 8 by the U.S. Travel Association and a coalition of more than 75 travel-related businesses and organizations.
The campaign tells travelers, “When it's time for you, we'll be ready,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel. "Our industry recognizes the need to pull together at this moment — as colleagues, not competitors — in a united message of welcome, preparedness and desire to serve travelers' needs."
While the effort targets leisure travelers, it will branch out to the meetings industry "at the right time," Dow told Northstar. "Leisure is where we’re beginning, because that’s where the business is and where the sentiment is right now. The Let’s Go There campaign runs through this month, and then we’re going to go dark prior to the election — because competing with all that noise would be very difficult. We’re hopeful that when we come back in late fall, our campaign will also shift to include Let’s Meet There."
The aim is not to rush people, stressed Brian King, global officer for Marriott International and co-chair of the coalition. "The goal of the campaign is to generate interest and to get consumers in the mindset to think about planning travel, but only when they're ready to do so. I think the messaging strategy carefully balances the need to emotionally inspire wanderlust with the rational need to make sure it is safe to travel."
The challenging climate for hospitality businesses, and our collective role in driving a rebound, were discussed in a Sept. 8 press conference led by Roger Dow and key members of the Let’s Go There campaign.
Travel = Happiness
"As a happiness researcher, it has saddened me for the past six months to see the numbers coming out about people’s happiness," said Michelle Gielan, founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research. Those numbers, backed up by a recent Covid-related study by the University of Chicago, represent the lowest levels of happiness in 50 years — when such statistics were first recorded.
Historically, planning travel has been closely tied with business success, said Gielan, who began researching the connection between a positive mindset and business success more than a decade ago. One impressive fact: If you take 11 or more vacation days per year, you have a 30 percent higher chance of getting a promotion or a raise over the next year, per her research.
Gielan wondered: Would the same hold true during a pandemic? She got funding to find out through the Let’s Go There coalition. The answer: absolutely. "Anticipatory savoring is an incredible driver of happiness," explained Gielan, "and travel taps into that."
The research, conducted in late August by the Institute for Applied Positive Research, questioned 263 adult respondents throughout the United States. Following are the percentages who agreed with the following statements:
- Simply knowing there was something to look forward to would bring me joy: 95 percent
- Planning travel for some time in the next six months would bring me happiness: 80 percent
- Planning something would make me feel more in control amidst so much uncertainty: 74 percent
- Getting to travel and feeling safe while doing it would bring me peace of mind: 96 percent
Travel as a Patriotic Act
"Having a trip to look forward to is a much-needed reminder that better days are ahead," said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California. And it doesn't just benefit your psyche.
"I really want to emphasize that every hotel room booked or restaurant table reserved means people in those communities are actually getting back to work," she noted. "It’s a great modern-day act of patriotism. Nationwide, about one-third of travel-supported jobs have been lost. And in California alone, more than 600,000 hospitality workers are out of a job right now. The Let’s Go There campaign is about supporting businesses' workers."
Confident About Recovery
"We don't know when the travel industry will fully recover, but we are confident that it will recover," noted Jill Estorino, president and managing director at Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, and co-chair of the coalition. "We have all been here before. This time might look different, but at the end of the day our industry is incredibly resilient, and the memories and experiences we enable cannot be replaced."
"I do have immense optimism that there will be a strong return to our industry," agreed Marriott’s Brian King. "We know there's this yearning for togetherness. We all have to get out and see the world again."
There’s good reason for optimism, added Caroline Beteta: "Fortunately, travel has been one of the most resilient sectors of the economy. Dreaming and planning your next trip is one of the most powerful things you can do — it will improve your health and the health of communities across the nation. They're waiting. They look forward to receiving you very soon."