How travel brands can use influencers for global growth

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Today, a deserted holiday destination is hard to find. More likely than not, you’ll be enjoying the sights alongside a wall of outstretched arms attempting to take the perfect selfie while a drone whirs overhead. The pressure to achieve the picture-perfect holiday post for Instagram is on.

Finding attractions worthy of social media has become a priority for the modern traveller. More than 40% of millennials consider “Instagrammability” when selecting a travel destination, according to a survey by Schofields.


However, it’s not just a vanity quest for likes. As people consume less traditional media, Instagram’s role as a discovery tool is becoming more prominent, particularly for locations off the beaten trail. Instagram’s geotagging has taken this to the next level, giving travellers the option to pin the exact location of their wanderlust photography.

While tourists seeking to achieve copycat photos have bought a welcome business to some areas, others have been a victim of their own success. Last year, the Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board asked visitors to stop geotagging on social media in an effort to protect their pristine forests and remote lakes against near-constant visitors.

Selling the dream

With social media’s power to impact travel and purchasing decisions so evident, it’s no wonder travel brands are keen to maximise its marketing potential in their own strategies. Bringing awareness to their products and building engagement with their target customers.

User-generated content was a solution in the early years of social media, with travel brands sharing customer-created images on their channels. But as the market has matured, influencers have become the collaborators of choice for brands serious about getting the most from this opportunity.

Influencers excel in travel marketing because they are expert storytellers. They know how to use imagery and captions to connect with audiences and have earned strong followings as a result. They are able to share their first-hand experiences in a way that adds an extra layer of emotion to travelling; they sell the dream.

Take Airbnb, which has successfully leveraged the authority of social influencers in several campaigns. Aligning with their ‘Live like a local’ message, they chose trusted experts in particular regions to act as ambassadors. The authentic content matched the brand’s values of individuality and personal experiences and while it was a campaign to reach more people, it actually helped a global brand feel local.

In sending an influencer on a trip or asking them to promote their brand through content, brands are realising they can achieve authentic, high-quality imagery that engages. Thanks to the relatively low cost of influencer marketing, multiple influencer campaigns can be activated around the world for a strategic, cost-effective, far-reaching campaign.

Aligning talent with brand values

Brands looking for similar success should make high-quality content their number one priority. So much of travel is about emerging yourself in an experience and landscape different to your own and professional content creators are able to bring this to life. It’s important to remember that content will sit among the stiff competition in an over-saturated category. Only the strongest imagery will cut through and resonate, particularly with the increasingly visually-focused Millennial and Gen Z customer.

It is important for brands to collaborate with high-quality content creators. Talent needs to align with a brand’s quality values for the imagery to successfully resonate with their target customers.

Influencer assets are most effective when in the signature style of the creator. Not only to maximise authenticity but to stop their followers immediately dismissing the content as just another ad. While the content fits seamlessly into their feed, it doesn’t mean it’s the only place for it. The savviest clients will reuse influencer-generated content within their own channels to maximise its life span – and return on ROI.

Instagram previously introduced action buttons on business profiles to allow users to directly book, reserve, or get tickets to something without leaving the app. It’s early days but once developed this could offer an irresistible opportunity for travel brands to enable a seamless transaction in-app. With that in mind, we will see more travel brands investing in their global influencer strategy now to maximise future returns.


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