Influencer marketing has undoubtedly had a massive impact on the travel industry. However, some tourist boards and hotels are hesitant to embrace these new marketing channels. In recent years, a number of hotel owners and resorts have banned and discouraged social media influencers.
Despite this, the travel industry has gained a lot, and still has a lot to gain from influencer marketing, especially as consumers are basing more and more of their travel decisions on the experiences their favourite influencers are having abroad. Influencers have the power of improving these experiences, both for the consumers and tourist boards. The influencers can be utilised to improve these experiences and enlighten consumers on how to behave in certain countries. Some tourist boards want people to use their phones less and enjoy their experience more – this is something influencers could easily communicate with their audiences.
Though there are detractors of influencer marketing, it can be one of the most powerful marketing avenues for the travel industry. Not only for inspiring people to travel but to inform people of the expectations in these societies.
The Anti Social Media Movement
As social media marketing has grown to encompass near 10% of total marketing budgets in 2018, there’s been some backlash. Amid growing concerns about the harmful effects of social media use, activist groups, small businesses, and even tourist boards are having second thoughts. While the bulk of marketers still think social media marketing is effective, there are some that aren’t as keen.
According to a survey by Oberlo, 73% of marketers think that social media marketing is effective or very effective. This means that up to 27% don’t think it’s an effective channel. For some, social media is seen as harmful, or a threat, with a few prominent anti social media campaigns. Despite the benefits of social media and influencer marketing, there are a number of detractors to this marketing channel.
Hotel vs Influencer
In early 2018, Paul Stenson made international headlines with a public rejection to Elle Darby, a macro-influencer on Instagram. Stenson, the owner of The White Moose Cafe and Charleville Lodge received an email from Darby offering exposure for a free 5 night stay. Both the hotel owner and the influencer received backlash, and Stenson responded with a social media ban.
While many believe that this was Stenson’s own marketing tactic, the anti-social media sentiment was clear. There was a similar ban on influencers soliciting free stays in exchange for publicity in the Philippines. The White Banana Beach Club preemptively condemned influencers, stating that they reserve their services for people who “try to actually work.”
Vienna’s tourist board has launched the Unhashtag Vienna campaign. The city is a massive tourist site, and the tourist board believes that visitors are too focused on social media. With catchy slogans like “See Vienna, not #vienna,” they encourage visitors to experience their attractions without any social media filters. Another resort in Bali has followed suit, completely banning the use of mobile phones around their swimming pool.
Australia outright banned influencer marketing spend for government agencies when influencers on their payroll made offensive posts. Just like with any celebrity partnerships, some controversies surrounding influencers can have a negative impact on the businesses they work with. That’s why it’s important for businesses to work with trusted influencers (something that the top influencer marketing agencies can help with.
Vienna and Australia aren’t alone, with other groups warning of the dangers of using too much social media. Groups like the Royal Society for Public Health have shown that increased social media use in users aged 14-24 results in increases in anxiety and depression. This has led to the popularity of the “digital detox,” where visitors are encouraged or compelled to ditch their mobile devices.
What Consumers Think of Travel Influencers
Consumers tend to be in favour of influencer marketing. According to eMarketer, the majority of women have made a purchase due to influencer marketing. With the stories around Stenson and White Banana Beach Club, there were supporters of both the business and the influencers. However, they seem to be largely unbridled by these controversies and anti social media movements.
It’s possible that a number of these campaigns are actually their own form of social media marketing. Stenson’s stunt, in particular, turned viral, helping create a social media buzz around the business. Social media spend is increasing, and more users are becoming receptive to influencer marketing, despite digital detoxing.
The True Value of Influencers for Tourist Boards
PMYB’s Ben Humby appeared on TRT World to discuss the issues surrounding tourism and how influencers can support them. In our next article, we will give an overview of the panel discussion.
Across the board, social media users are relying on influencers and social media to inform their decisions. In the US, 60% of users rely on social media to decide their next travel destination. Pair this with the fact that users tend to trust influencers more than brands, you can see the true value of travel influencers. Despite the fact that a few travel boards and hotels have embraced the digital detox, influencer marketing is having a major positive impact on the travel industry.
Influencer marketing is one of the most cost-effective channels for marketing. A survey by Bigcommerce shows that 89% per cent of businesses say that influencer marketing has a similar ROI to other channels. Consumers are also more likely to trust influencers over businesses directly. It’s a very effective way to build long-term relationships with customers, drive awareness and conversions.
Visual content marketing is becoming a dominant force in social media marketing. Especially in the travel industry, compelling visuals are a must. Instagram is a visual platform, which is perfect marketing for tourist boards. Over on Facebook, posts with photos get 120% more engagement, according to Wishpond. Influencers have a direct impact on photo engagement, with increases of nearly 20% according to L2.
Tourism boards who undervalue the reach of influencer marketing are at risk of falling behind. While travel agents have traditionally been the most effective marketing channel for tourism, influencers have begun to replace them. They tend to be seen as more trustworthy than other marketing channels, especially for younger users.
Millennials are significantly more likely to value experience over items, making them a perfect audience for influencer marketing. A survey run by Eventbrite found that over 70% of millennials would prefer a luxury experience over a luxury item. 30% of millennials say that influencers impact their decisions, making influencer marketing an incredibly effective marketing channel for the travel industry.
Successful Travel Influencer Campaigns
There are plenty of examples of successful travel influencer campaigns. Our own recent campaign for Hilton drove phenomenal results as we delivered their “My Simple Pleasures” message. The campaign targeted Turkey, Dubai, and UK residents over the age of 30 to build Hilton’s brand equity. By putting Hilton at the centre of influencer’s experiences, we were about to emphatically elevate the presence of Hilton internationally.
AirBnB ran another majorly successful campaign, where they provided free premium housing to influencers for Coachella in 2018. This massive music festival takes place in California, and is a must-attend for social media personalities. By Partnering with influencers, AirBnB majorly increased their brand awareness and website/app traffic.
Amadeus River Cruises, a fitness-based cruise in Europe, also saw growth by partnering with influencers. Social media influencers can make it easier to target consumers, and by partnering with fitness influencers, Amadeus River Cruises saw nearly 25% of their cruises fill up more than a year before they launched.
There are plenty of other examples of influencer campaigns that have helped build brand equity and lead to real-world sales. This marketing channel is being undervalued by some tourist boards and hotels. But if marketers in the travel industry want to stay ahead they need to embrace this growing avenue.
Consumer Spending Power
While Instagram is incredibly popular with younger audiences, older audiences are also worth targeting. Studies from the Office for National Statistics show that 45-55% of the travel spends of UK residents come from tourists over the age of 45.
Analysis by Forbes shows that, while they may not be as active on Instagram as those under age 35, older consumers still rely on the internet to influence their purchasing decisions. As much as 68% of them rely on reviews and social media to make purchasing decisions. This shows that they still have a positive attitude towards social media, and can be receptive to influencer marketing.
Consumers of all ages are more receptive to influencer marketing than ever before, and those numbers are likely to increase. Just a few years ago, influencers were a niche part of digital marketing. Now, they offer an incredibly powerful marketing channel to connect businesses and their consumers. This is especially true of the travel industry, where image and video-based content and influencer recommendations can have a huge impact on conversions.
Maximising Digital Exposure with Travel Influencers: For Tourist Boards and Marketers
Despite the digital detox trend, the travel industry is moving more towards influencer marketing. Tourist boards understand this and have been steadily increasing market spend on influencers. While some places like Vienna and Australia are moving away from this growing marketing channel, other big names in the travel business are embracing them wholeheartedly.
Consumers are more receptive to influencers, and a growing number of older users are forming a relationship with social media. From the young traveller who is highly likely to use Instagram, to the older tourist who relies on social for purchasing decisions. By keeping up with the trends, tourist boards and travel marketers can maintain long-lasting and sustainable growth as social media continues to impact consumer decisions. In addition, tourist boards can actually utilise influencers to deliver messages to audiences, such as informing consumers on how they need to behave in particular locations.