For the travel sector, COVID-19 has been a once-in-a-generation disruption.
Many of the ways that destinations, resorts and travel companies had previously engaged audiences and generated interest were put on hiatus because of travel restrictions and safety precautions. Even amid new research suggesting that reporters are ready and excited to travel once restrictions are lifted, it’s still hard to know what the future holds.
Wyndham Resorts decided to change its tack, pursuing new partnerships and virtual interactions to keep consumers connected with its brand.
“During this downtime, we’ve shifted our efforts towards thought leadership by offering our CEO, Michael Brown, as a leading industry expert to top cable networks,” explains Noah Brodsky, chief brand officer for Wyndham Destinations. “Recently, Michael has appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Yahoo Finance and Cheddar to discuss the impacts of the pandemic on leisure travel and how Wyndham Destinations is responding and moving forward.”
As many traditional media opportunities have vanished, Wyndham looked to fresh partnerships to find new audiences for its message.
“When our owners and guests first started quarantining, Wyndham Destinations partnered with engaged partners like Postmates, Highlights magazine and Showtime to offer free services and at-home entertainment,” says Brodsky.
These new partnerships are something the brand can lean on as it navigates its way back post-crisis, and they could be a dynamic part of its strategy long after COVID-19 has faded.
“Now that our resorts are slowly re-opening, these partnerships have continued to evolve to accommodate travel demands in the COVID-19 era,” Brodsky says. “For example, all Wyndham vacation club owners get free delivery from Postmates during their stay with us, ensuring that they can enjoy takeout as they would at home, in the comfort of a spacious vacation suite that comes complete with a fully stocked kitchen. Additionally, owners who sign up for Postmates while on vacation will continue to receive an additional 30 days of free deliveries, which can cost up to $9.99.”
What makes a partner valuable for a brand right now?
Brodsky says there are a couple of factors to consider. First, is the relationship mutually beneficial?
“We want to develop partnership deals that create value for both our company and our partner,” he says. “Value, for us, can be in the form of marketing leads, advertising exposure or even just discounts or freebies for our customers or associates.”
Another consideration is how the brands might fit together, a tricky jigsaw puzzle for a parent company like Wyndham that manages distinct brands.
“Wyndham Destinations is comprised of two lines of business,” Brodsky says. So Wyndham tries to suss out whether a partner is a better fit for one of its vacation clubs, like Club Wyndham, or its vacation exchange, with more than 4,300 affiliated resorts in more than 100 countries.
Finally, a partner should align with your key values. “We always look for overlap in our core beliefs and values, which we call HEART (hospitality, engagement, accountability, respect, and teamwork),” Brodsky says.
The virtual side
Wyndham has also created signature virtual interactions to help drive awareness about its brand during the pandemic.
“The first initiative we did was a virtual putting lessons from pro golfer and two-time Wyndham Championship winner Brandt Snedeker,” says Brodsky. “Instead of putting out one, long instructional video on our social channels, our team used Instagram Stories to distribute Brandt’s at-home practice drills in a digestible format.”
Sports was an easy fit for the brand’s creations.
“We decided to leverage our club owners’ enthusiasm for NASCAR via
However, for consumers with different tastes, brand managers also put together a virtual offering: remote wine-tasting lessons.
“Both our Club Wyndham and our WorldMark by Wyndham owners enjoyed virtual wine-tasting lessons from Markham Vineyards winemaker Kimberlee Nicolls,” Brodsky says. “For this initiative, we took our educational approach one step further and partnered with Markham Vineyards to secure 30% off wine and 1-cent shipping when they pre-ordered their happy hour wine selection from the Markham Vineyards Wine Club. “
Brodsky says that from a marketing perspective, the company plans to keep much of the digital transformation it has executed in recent months. To identify what is working and what isn’t, Brodsky and his team are keeping a close eye on the numbers.
“Ultimately, we use the same financial metrics that the entire company is measured by when evaluating the success of our partnerships,” he says. “Once an individual partnership campaign is finished, we look at factors like how many vacation club tours were booked, the number of social media impressions, and the amount of secured media coverage.”
Once the year comes to an end, he foresees a robust process to sort through all the results and lessons from a remarkable year.