Visuals in Vogue: Revolutionizing Hospitality & Travel Marketing

Visuals in Vogue: Revolutionizing Hospitality & Travel Marketing
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  • Visuals have long played a significant role in the advertisement of travel destinations. During the 1930s, travel advertising posters were booming in the hope of stimulating the depression-era economy.   

Visuals have long played a significant role in the advertisement of travel destinations. During the 1930s, travel advertising posters were booming in the hope of stimulating the depression-era economy (see some examples by clicking on the previous link). Actors like railway companies hired famous artists to create those posters. One noticeable example is the set of posters created by Salvador Dali for the French railway company. One of the objectives of the travel advertising posters was to allow potential customers to project the destination thanks to the emotions that one can encounter when looking at visual representations.

Nowadays, travel advertising posters have been replaced mainly by digital pictures and videos. Still, it is worth noticing that the creators of today’s visual representations of travel are also very different from artists such as Dali. Indeed, thanks to social media and streaming platforms, pictures and videos are ubiquitous in our lives. Consequently, creating visual representations, including ones for traveling, is no longer proper for artists or advertisement experts but is within the reach of anyone with a social media account and smartphone. Thus, we have witnessed in the past years a democratization of visual representation creators in travel, a trend that will keep unfolding in the coming years.

However, before exploring how travel actors, such as hotels and guests, reinforce this trend and understanding why it will keep shaping the hospitality and tourism industry going forward, let’s review some general facts and figures that explain why digital visuals remain prevalent.

Travel marketing: Facts and figures

First, according to DataReportal’s Digital 2023 April Global Statshot Report, 4.8 billion people use social media, which nearly represents two-thirds of the world population, and this number is expected to keep increasing by 2025. Almost 2.5 billion use Instagram, and over 2 billion use TikTok—two well-known platforms for users who post pictures or videos of their holidays. Similarly, 81% of small and medium-sized companies have social media accounts.

Second, according to a survey conducted in the US in 2019, not only Millennials or GenZ use social media. Indeed, among US adults aged between 50 and 64 years, 68% of them recognize using Facebook, and 23% Instagram. The age group that spends the most time on social media is the 16 to 24-year-old group, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds. They respectively spend 3 hours and 11 minutes for females/2 hours and 46 minutes for males and 2 hours and 56 minutes for females/2 hours and 42 minutes for males.

Third, according to the Digital 2023 Global Overview Report, when taking all social media platforms together, 21.3% of users recognize being on social media platforms to post things about their lives, and 20.8% for following celebrities and influencers. Those percentages are even higher when analyzing social media platforms dedicated to pictures and videos. Moreover, when comparing all platforms, 44.9% of users follow friends, family, or other people they know, and 25% of accounts are dedicated to restaurants, chefs, or food personalities. When focusing on Instagram, the #travel tag is the thirteenth most popular hashtag of all time, with 662,100,000 posts.

Those numbers indicate how mainstream social media platforms are in our daily lives. Moreover, they represent many opportunities for the hospitality and travel industry actors, as they allow them to multiply marketing channels. Indeed, the rise of social media platforms has allowed anyone to create visual representations of travel and become “Dali.” So, the different actors in the industry need to capitalize on the opportunities that represent online content, whether from social media users or influencers.

The role of influencers within the hospitality industry

Influencers in the hospitality industry are social media personalities who create online content related to their travels, such as about the hotels they stay in. They usually have a lot of followers on social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok. In exchange for a complimentary stay (or other services) and sometimes money, influencers promote the hotel by posting pictures and videos on their social media platforms. Working with influencers is now part of the hotel’s marketing strategy to reach a larger audience and increase visibility. Based on a study of more than 4,700 travel influencers and 325 hotels, cruises, and other travel companies conducted in 2023, travel creators averaged 170,944 impressions (the number of time an online content is shown to any users) from the content they made per partnership and generated on average 16,921 likes and 913 comments per brand deal.

However, there are downsides, such as the lack of control over the online content posted as the hotel hands over its brand reputation to the influencers, and the lack of authenticity as followers may sometimes feel that the content is forced or insincere, which can negatively impact the reputation of the hotel. To overcome those issues, some social media agencies (companies that connect hotels and influencers), such as Roundabout, have focused on developing niche creators that can convey the right image and values expected by specific hotels or restaurants.

Some companies have developed specific marketing campaigns based on influencers. Pan Pacific Hotels Group has launched a global influencer social media marketing campaign titled “#YoursToDiscover”. This campaign features international content creators showcasing the Group’s experiences, with guests using “discovery dollars” from the Group’s loyalty program to enjoy the hotels and local attractions. The campaign aims to inspire travelers to plan holidays. Content created by collaborators will be shared on the brands’ social profiles, each reflecting the brand’s essence. Additionally, there’s a social contest inviting travelers to participate, where they can win 1,000 discovery dollars (equivalent to US$1 each) to use across the three brands. Marriott is assembling a team of expert global creators skilled in budget travel. The hotel chain has initiated a new effort within its Bonvoy rewards program, TikTok Travel Tribe. This group of influencers specializes in engaging young explorers through brief social media videos.

The potential of user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) has emerged as the new panacea for marketing strategy as it improves performance on every digital marketing channel. Indeed, people spend 90% more time on websites that have user-generated content galleries. Furthermore, social campaigns featuring user-generated content see a 50% increase in engagement, and ads with user-generated content generate click-through rates that are five time higher. Even better, 50% of consumers find UGC more memorable than brand-produced content, and 53% of millennials say user-generated content has influenced their purchasing decisions. Moreover, hotels have started to embrace the potential of social media platforms by allowing users to tag them, for example, or to be displayed as a location. Some hotels have even developed an entire online campaign based on user-generated content.

The Red Carnation Hotel Collection has capitalized on the consumer desire for authenticity by introducing user-generated content throughout the customer journey. Doing so gives potential guests more transparency as user-generated content accurately reflects their properties and Instagrammable hotspots that professional photographers may overlook. Moreover, when they see guests taking pictures or selfies, employees are encouraged to offer to help with taking the photo. This allows them to inform the guests of the brand hashtag and social channels to tag. Ultimately, it results in photos that increase engagement at lower costs.

Last year, the Ritz London even published a blog post on its website about a “selection of the most Instagrammable spots at the Ritz London to find obscure hidden gems & stunning hotel photography opportunities”. Pictures of the afternoon tea or the magnificent staircase were displayed to inspire customers to take pictures, selfies, or videos of those spots to create user-generated content.

There is no doubt that visuals will remain essential for the hotel and tourism industry. However, actors should be aware of the shift towards organic online content creation and develop marketing strategies accordingly. To conclude this section, we suggest essential takeaways related to the prevalence of visuals in hospitality and travel industry marketing that the different actors should focus on in the coming months and years should they wish to keep making the best of this ongoing trend.

Key takeaways to create a top-level hospitality and travel marketing Influencers will ask for more than complimentary stays or services

“The emotional value that people put into travel is so high that travel companies haven’t had to pay out creator fees, instead offering free stays or experiences, but I do expect that to change as more creators tap into affiliate marketing,” Tim Morgan, Jerne co-founder and CEO said. “We might see them roll that concept into the deliverables for companies because they’ll be able to make money from that long after the trip.”

Stricter regulations concerning influencers’ content

Authorities have issued new regulations to regulate better influencers’ work online, such as France, which requires hotels to be up-to-date should they wish to avoid issues like the one faced by the Savoy hotel in London last year.

Influencers have the power to shape the hotel and tourism industry

Influencers may use their visibility not only for the profit of those who hired their service but also to raise issues regarding the lack of inclusivity in the industry.

The growing importance of user-generated content when searching online

During the Google I/O 2023 developer conference, Google announced one significant update for the travel industry: introducing the “Perspectives” filter in Google Search. This filter, appearing at the top of search results, will be beneficial for queries related to travel. It allows users to access various content types, including blog posts, Q&A threads, images, and videos from TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, Quora, and Twitter. This feature is mainly aimed at increasing the visibility of content from influencers and traveler reviews, and it includes details about content creators, such as their names, profile photos, and popularity metrics.

The move is a response to the growing trend of younger generations using platforms like TikTok and Instagram for search purposes. Google’s “Perspectives” filter is an evolution of an earlier concept aimed at providing diverse insights for understanding news stories.

Better integrate user-generated content throughout the customer journey

Hotels should integrate user-generated content into all of their usual marketing channels, from the hotel website to the confirmation email. Hoteliers should get inspired by companies such as The Red Carnation Hotel Collection, which displays user-generated content at the bottom of its webpage.

Design instagrammable hot-spots

Hotels should develop Instagrammable hot spots, focusing on breathtaking views, specific architecture, or signature dishes. For example, McDonald’s was recently crowned the most Instagrammable fast-food chain in the US.

In the ever-evolving landscape of hospitality and travel marketing, the role of visual content has become paramount. As we have explored, this shift from traditional artist-created travel posters to the current era of digital content and social media influence marks a significant transformation in how travel experiences are marketed and perceived. The democratization of content creation, enabled by platforms like Instagram and TikTok, has led to a surge in user-generated content and influencer marketing, offering new avenues for engagement and brand promotion that hospitality actors absolutely need to keep integrating in their marketing strategy.

 

 

Lionel Saul

Lionel Saul – Research Assistant & Visiting Lecturer at EHL Hospitality Business School.  Connect with Lionel on LinkedIn.

This article originally appeared on EHL Insights.

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About Mary Weyand 11640 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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