Trend one: Promoting global Instagram-worthy attractions
When people see a picture they no longer just want to view it, they want to live it or, in this case, visit it. From iconic skylines and tropical waterfalls, to cat-cafes and hip, graffiti-clad streets – cities and countries are quickly realising the influence that photogenic appeal has in attracting travellers.
As a result, travel brands are creating spaces for people to capture photos worthy enough to post to social media. The end goal is to transform the destination, or attraction, into one of the world’s most Instagrammable spots.
Regionally, no city has done this more successfully than Dubai. Atlantis the Palm and the Burj Al Arab, two of the world’s most photogenic hotels, have both played on their opulence and unique architecture to attract visitors from around the world. But, more than just ‘Insta-worthy’ photo opportunities, destinations are harnessing social media to offer short-term lifestyle changes.
In a creative twist, while grappling with over-tourism, Austria’s capital launched its ‘Unhashtag Vienna’ campaign to encourage people to put down their phones and see the city uninterrupted by viewfinders. And Slovenia ran a campaign called ‘unplugged’, which encouraged travellers to disconnect. These destinations are playing on their strengths and have cleverly utilised technology to encourage people to visit and yet switch off upon arrival.
Trend two: Encouraging peer-to-peer advice
Word of mouth is one of the most effective forms of advertising. Today’s millennial mindset sees young people turn increasingly to social media influencers for advice. And the great thing is that people can turn off, or unfollow, if the content isn’t relevant to their unique interests.
For the tourism industry, brands are utilising influencers to drive engagement and brand exposure. Through comments and stories, influencers are empowered to know what people want. That in turn allows them to carve out indirect marketing campaigns by creating hashtags or video content, but in a more subtle way. And when people admire the content produced by a travel blogger, they are inspired to book a similar trip for similar experiences. The reach potential is more easily quantified when marketing through influencers too, due to likes and follower numbers. That creates transparency for those partnering with online personalities.
We live in a sharing economy. Constant peer pressure and a fight for likes and engagement is what drives unique content. Millennials love brag-worthy claims, and the more offbeat an idea, the better. More and more influencers are realising that they can no longer just scratch the surface when uploading content. They bring experiences to their followers and it’s that desire to please that elevates their online status and marketing power.
When travelling, millennials seek convenience, but exploration is also high on their agenda. Unique influencer content responds to these needs and moves away from that traditional, prepackaged approach that agents rely on.
Authenticity is one of the main reasons people choose to trust an influencer, and personalisation is what keeps them coming back. As such, modern travel consumers prefer social influencers to user-generated and brand-owned content.
Trend three: Requesting online customer feedback
Social media has transformed customer service. Most brands today have a social media presence and the beauty of that is public feedback – whether good or bad. People are increasingly turning to social media to voice comments about companies, and most – especially the younger generations – expect brands to respond quickly. How companies embrace this all-access feature can have a huge impact on their consumer engagement, and ultimately, sales.
Hotels, airlines and travel tour companies really have nowhere to hide in today’s connected world, so more and more companies now have dedicated social media teams to take care of all things online. A bitter response to a negative comment can turn customers off for good. Companies that respond to complaints in a sincere manner have a better chance at developing a strong rapport among current and potential customers.
In 2018, a Clutch survey showed that 83 per cent of people expect companies to respond to social media comments within 24 hours. In an age of instant communication, consumers expect businesses to keep up. Back and forth personal communication helps to humanise a brand and makes a customer feel valued.
More than just a platform for feedback, social media can serve as a social listening tool too. Engaging followers by posting questions or bite-sized video content, brands and companies can utilise the information to carve out experiences that people crave.
Looking at the bigger picture, social media and influencers have the power to create viral content. And the power of viral content is its ability to reach the masses in short periods of time; a reach no traditional marketing campaign could ever achieve. While virality can make or break a celebrity, when it comes to destination marketing – and influencer status – it’s usually only ever a good thing. It creates buzz around a place or person, and that curiosity often translates to exploration.
Trend four: Increasing the use of mobile applications
Instant online access has defined the way people travel. Where inspiration once came from travel brochures and agents, mobile phones – more so mobile applications and search engines – have become the go-to source for travel needs.
According to the GSMA Intelligence Report, the Gulf has one of the world’s highest internet penetration figures. Its smartphone adoption rate also dominates global figures, sitting at 74 per cent. That number is expected to grow to 81 per cent by 2025. But this upward trend is echoed globally. People are more connected than ever and travel marketers have tapped into this. Realising people no longer have the attention span or patience to book a precisely scheduled, weeklong trip six months in advance, travel operators have transferred their services to mobile applications. Careful thought has been put into marketing buzzwords and jargon to increase search engine optimisation (SEO), too.
Mobile now plays a big role in travel bookings. The convenience of a mobile app means a person can book their flight in the car, on the way to the airport. Not only is it convenient, it allows you to compare prices all the time.
Travellers today crave a more fluid experience so they can explore better. Instant gratification plays a big part in a travel success story. And apps and search engines allow for this. Google’s ‘near me’ is no longer just about finding a specific place. It’s about finding a specific thing, in a specific area, in a specific period of time.
Looking at Airbnb, travellers now have an alternative option when it comes to booking accommodation, with transactions completed in seconds. But more than just a booking app, it also offers experience inspiration too.