In South Africa, Marriott International is a brand of choice but in March 2020, due to COVID, global and local travel came to a standstill. As COVID regulations fluctuated, domestic travel restrictions were eased. We targeted SA travellers, inspiring them to travel locally and converting them into Marriott International guests. Our team of travel influencers set out on carefully curated journeys, relishing their stays at Marriott International properties, and discovering local places of interest and activities. They created engaging and informative #InspiredbyMzansi travel stories across the content themes like Road Tripping and Winelands Weekend.

The Opportunity

In South Africa, Marriott International is a brand of choice for the large international tourism and travel market. In March 2020, due to COVID, borders closed, and global travel came to a stand-still. For months, Marriott International properties in South Africa had hundreds of empty beds across the country. As COVID regulations fluctuated, domestic travel restrictions were to be eased for the local summer holiday season. With a COVID-era budget, PD was tasked with targeting South African travelers, inspiring them to travel locally, assuring them that COVID safety measures were implemented and converting them into Marriott International guests

The Research

The travel and tourism sector was one of the hardest hit by 2020’s lockdowns. According to Statista, the number of tourists in South Africa in 2018 was 16.44 million and expected to rise to 19.6 million by 2023. That figure crashed to zero in 2020. Marriott International was forced to pivot targeting an underdeveloped market for the brand; the local and domestic travelers. PD monitored social media conversations, listening when South Africans talked travel. We learnt that they were looking for local destination inspiration, affordable rates, perks and packages, and COVID safety. We reached out to our network of local travel bloggers and social media influencers for their insights into the current local travel landscape and monitored social media interest in local and domestic deals and packages.Marriott International was competing for direct bookings with self-catering platforms like Airbnb and booking platforms like Safarinow and Booking.com.


Travellers expressed wanting to feel safe in the knowledge that properties and destinations were adhering to COVID protocols, but the brand had no COVID-era images to depict this.

South Africans wanted to pay local rates - domestic markets felt the travel sector was priced for international tourists and that the industry was out of touch with South African travelers and their budgets.


Many travelers had international holidays cancelled and those funds could now be spent locally.

Millennials value travel and experiences over consumer goods and those who had budget for holidays typically use Instagram for travel inspiration.