Phones are ringing! Cash in, or double down?

Arnie WeissmannLast year, it was all about saving cash. Most of the Travel Weekly 2021 Power List agents saw their business fall in double-digits. Agency survival was based on cutting spending and borrowing.The phones finally ring. The phones are finally ringing. There are cruise lines sailing from U.S. ports. Airlines are expanding their routes. Shrunken hotels are being reopened. As expected, the promised increase in travel demand is starting to materialize. Travel advisors are one of the beneficiaries of an increasingly complex travel system.Is it time to increase cash reserves and take advantage of consumer demand?Carl EmbersonI asked several top industry marketers this question. Carl Emberson is the director of operations and marketing at Punta Mita, a luxurious development in Mexico's Riviera Nayarit. I met him while I was there a few weeks back. He said that Punta Mita was one of the top travel companies in 2020 because the wealthy were looking for low-density, safe places to escape the pandemic. Punta Mita's home rental business boomed and homes were sold through whispering campaigns even before they were put on the public market.Given the high demand and the over-the-transom business that was consuming his supply, did it make sense for him to use this boom to market and wait until after the pandemic-related activity has subsided to do so?He said, "Some people make this mistake." You don't want that to happen. You will be able to market in crisis situations or when the business is optimistic if you have a good understanding of the value of marketing. Keep marketing, no matter what.Rob KwortnikRobert Kwortnik is Cornell University's associate professor of services market at Cornell University's school of hospitality. He likens reducing marketing spending in an upmarket to a runner who has a false sense of security when they have a lead. Reduced marketing spending during high demand periods is like a runner who coasts to the finish line while a determined competitor kicks into high gear to win. In this instance, you win the customer.He explained that companies can increase their chances of moving potential customers down the buying funnel by investing in marketing when there is more demand. Marketing should be maintained when times are good in order to ensure that customers consider the brand.Julius RobinsonJulius Robinson, Marriott's chief marketing and sales officer in the U.S., stated that "the travel market is still extremely fluid and will remain so for some time." We can't assume that trends like those we see today will stay. It is important to maintain our brands front-and-center now more than ever.Betsy O'RourkeBetsy O'Rourke is chief marketing officer at Xanterra. Xanterra is the parent company of Windstar Cruises as well as several tour operators and national parks concessions. She stated that her company has "opened every marketing channel to generate bookings both close-in and further out." This is the time to make those bookings. Since the pandemic started, we have been monitoring consumer sentiment and predicted the surge for 2022. The wave was very fast followed by 2021. In anticipation of this surge in pent-up demand we budgeted to spend money in Q3 & Q4 and are now reaping the rewards.Kevin FroemmingKevin Froemming is the executive vice president and chief market officer at Playa Hotels and Resorts. He said that consistent marketing in good and bad times was important. Marketing campaigns that are successful not only increase occupancy but also drive up average daily rates. We will continue to develop aggressive marketing and promotional campaigns with Hyatt and Hilton as demand increases. Our global branding partners Hyatt and Hilton will also be involved.Keith LaneKeith Lane, Celebrity Cruises vice-president of sales, said, "We have all been hunkered down over 16 months. Now is the time tell the story, market and sell. The U.S. has saved more in the past few months than any time in history. Let's make sure they have a wonderful vacation.Stephen McGillivrayStephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer at Travel Leaders Group, strongly believes that now is the right time to create targeted marketing about your product. Who better to target than our loyal customers as travel advisors? These consumers are highly interested in travel and will seek out other products if your product isn't being heard or seen [in this channel].It was unanimously decided that, despite being tempting, now is not a time to stop spending marketing dollars. No matter what the economic climate is, one thing remains constant: Businesses always respond favorably to those who ask.