Ahead of the Election, Booking.com Offers a Message of Unity

'America is for everyone,' travel brand says, highlighting immigrant communities

The reservations site is highlighting vibrant immigrant communities within the U.S. Booking.com

One of the hallmarks of travel marketing is to position travel as a uniting force, helping people gain a new perspective outside of their day-to-day lives, introducing them to diverse cultures and broadening their minds.

Of course, that message has been a tough sell in the midst of a worldwide health crisis that has halted most travel, particularly internationally. But with the U.S. election only a week away, it’s never been more important, according to Booking.com.

In a new campaign launched with a national full-page ad in The New York Times, the reservation site is aiming to defuse tensions and remind voters that “America is for everyone.”

“During a challenging year marked by a global pandemic that is keeping us from traveling the way we used to, it’s time to remember that we don’t need to travel far to rediscover some of the international cultures that unite us as a nation,” the ad reads.

The campaign is turning attention to 10 destinations in “our own backyards,” each a tribute to a neighborhood established and built by immigrants who have created distinctive communities within the U.S. For $50 a night the weekend of Nov. 20-21, guests can spend the weekend in New Jersey’s Little India or Miami’s Little Haiti.

“We are a brand for everyone working to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, no matter your budget or where you come from,” said Arjan Dijk, Booking.com’s CMO. “Election or not, we feel strongly about the message.”

Like the rest of the travel industry, Booking Holdings—the parent company of Booking.com as well as OpenTable and Kayak—has been squeezed by the pandemic, laying off 25% of its workforce and losing $443 million as revenue fell 84% in Q2. The brand also severely cut back its marketing spend, expecting to “remain significantly below 2019 levels for the remainder of the year.” In 2019, Booking Holdings spent nearly $5 billion on marketing.

Booking.com declined to give specifics about how much the advertisement in The New York Times and the extended campaign cost, only to say that it was more than $1 million collectively, and that it would be a 24-hour promoted trend on Twitter as well.

@RyanBarwick ryan.barwick@adweek.com Ryan is a brand reporter covering travel, mobility and sports marketing.