Marriott Tempts Loyalty Members to Get Outdoors

World's largest hotel brand joins Airbnb in partnering with the National Park Foundation.

National parks are having a moment as Americans long to go on vacation, but do it safely. Marriott, Unsplash

Key Insight:

For travelers who want to pair visits to Yellowstone, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain national parks with indoor plumbing, Marriott announced this morning it’s teaming up with the National Park Foundation, the charitable arm of the National Park Service.

If the partnership sounds familiar, it should: Airbnb entered into a similar agreement with the NPF less than a month ago, with the aim of encouraging travel to three of the park system’s lesser-known hidden gems. 

The difference? Marriott will be casting a much wider net, directing the attention of its more than 100 million Bonvoy loyalty program members with deals and discounts on stays at any of the brand’s 406 properties located near the country’s 419 national parks. Guests will also be able to use their points to purchase park passes and donate to the National Park Foundation.

Marriott announced in June that its occupancy rates had gone above 20% for the first time since the pandemic began, with most of the growth coming from drive-to leisure destinations as those brave enough to travel opted for road trips closer to home, such as to beaches and parks.

Instead of unveiling the campaign before or during the summer, Marriott waited until the fall to launch the partnership.

“The timing was really to kind of stretch that idea of the summer road trip into the fall,” said Brian King, who currently serves as global officer of digital, distribution, revenue strategy and sales at Marriott. (In 2021, King will begin overseeing the brand’s Caribbean-Latin American region as president.) It’s also a generally less crowded season to visit the parks, and falling Covid-19 rates surely help.

As the travel industry continues to struggle amid the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, hospitality brands including Marriott and its competitors have worked together to create a campaign alongside the U.S. Travel Association that encourages would-be travelers to book a trip just for the sake of getting something on the calendar. King told Adweek that Marriott’s current booking window is between zero and three days from a trip, on average.

At the time, King said the decision to go in on a collective marketing move was “pragmatic,” and that the brand hadn’t committed to any broadcast advertising yet in 2021. In August, Marriott announced that it had lost more than $232 million in Q2.

The partnership with the NPF is evidence of that pragmatism. Using Marriott’s in-house digital media company, Marriott Traveler, the brand will be releasing content geared at providing tips and guides for travelers heading to the parks this fall. That content will also be shared on Marriott’s owned social channels.

“Part of the message or the work here is creating content,” King said. “It’s a much more cost-effective form of marketing.”

@RyanBarwick Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.