The Promotional Power of Wanderlust


A client recently asked the question, ‘what does the future of travel promotions look like?’.  It is a question I, and many of my colleagues and industry peers, have been asked repeatedly over recent weeks.  Optimism, pessimism, or realism has changed our daily perspective and warped our frequently unqualified and ‘at best’ prophetic responses.  But amidst all the expert analysis, and pure guess work, one fact above all others has become abundantly clear. The power of ‘Wanderlust’ will never be dampened.

The inherent desire to travel has been a bedrock of the promotional industry for many years, but on the 23rd March 2020 the promotional landscape in the UK changed overnight as lockdown came into effect.

Conscious of the potential fears of a society, now with limited movement outside of their own homes, and daily news feeds fuelling a growing fear of travel of any description – it was only natural for brands and business to look for alternative rewards to motivate sales and staff.  Travel was no longer a motivator as the fear of infection out-weighed any indulgent travel need – so many campaigns turned their focus on rewards that could be delivered into the home, and deal with the present. Travel Prizes and Promotions suffered their own lockdown and a change in approach was necessary.

From transforming living rooms into escape rooms, to sending personal celebrity videos messages, bringing a different culture into your home to online Michelin star cooking courses, brands were able to engage and reward their customers in the one place there was a  guarantee they would be able to deliver the prize.  They became part of the lock-down experienced and offered the opportunity for escapism, wrapped up in a big safety blanket.

Wanderlust, though, does not stay dormant for long.  As the weeks passed, this desire to stay indoors, to stay safe, has been taken over by our need for human interaction, and our desire to travel.  It has only taken a matter of weeks, but already Travel Promotions, and the opportunity to fulfil this ‘Wanderlust’, have bounced right back to the top of the promotional ladder.

As the nation slowly sees lockdown restrictions eased, the frustrations and limitations of the past weeks have manifested themselves on our psyche in many different ways – but for most of us the opportunity to soon be able to escape our homes and explore the outside world has become an overwhelming desire and need.

There is no question that Wanderlust is built into our DNA, it is the desire to feed the soul, and the fear of missing out of treasures yet to be discovered.  That said, COVID 19 has undoubtably had a dramatic impact on how the subject of travel promotions will now be addressed. One such consideration is that customers are quite likely to turn to trusted suppliers who have come through the recent challenges with strong credentials, as security (financial and health) is likely to outweigh riskier, and potentially cheaper, alternatives.

As the focus turns to the summer, and end of year campaigns, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that not all travel prizes can, or will, be delivered in 2020.  This however has not dampened the vision of many brand managers who also believe the promise of a once-in-a-lifetime trip sometime in the next 12-18 months, is just as powerful a reward that delivers an immediate fix. It feeds into our desire to have something concrete to hold onto through the difficult times, even if we must wait a little bit longer for it.  As demonstrated in recent campaigns such as The Sun newspaper’s reader promotion ‘Win a luxe adventure holiday for two to Peru’ or Specsavers’ ‘Weekend getaway to Madrid’. A recent article in National Geographic went as far as to highlight the positive impact on mental health the promise of future escape can have

For those still seeking an alternative short-term promotional solution, that can be guaranteed, domestic travel experiences have seen a huge resurgence. Ensuring that the experience is just as exciting and memorable, but taking away the necessity for air travel, has offered many a great short term, high impact solution. Brands are tapping into the UK’s treasures, with Waterstones offering a break to the Cotswolds and Sainsburys Magazine, a luxury trip to Cornwall. It is also a way for brands and companies to show support for their home economies and follows a shift towards more sustainable solutions.  While the desire to travel and explore will remain, there are ways of going about this in a sensitive manner that will resonate with many brands and customers.

Finally, there is the ‘Bucket List’ equation. More than ever, many of us have a sense of the fragility of life and of our freedoms.  There is no doubt that this will have stirred a desire to experience these ‘bucket list’ wishes as soon as possible, and promotions supporting this dream become a reality can certainly tap into this heightened awareness.

So while we all adapt to the new ‘post COVID promotional world’, it is clear that the power of Wanderlust will play a significant role in shaping our dreams and wishes.


David Heron is Co-head of Agency at The Black Tomato Agency