Leveraging User Generated Content in Travel & Tourism
Summertime is almost upon us, and much to the excitement of children around the world (and fear for many parents) that means vacation time. Hotels, airlines, travel websites, cities and destinations are gearing up for what is likely to be a hot and busy tourist season. You would think that one of the best ways they can ensure they are top of mind on a family’s “go-to” list is by creating content that fulfills every step of their travel needs and desires. Exotic destinations, after all, should be a content marketer’s dream – the glimmering sun over a Turkish mosque, the blood stained streets of Pamplona’s bull festival, sunken treasure hidden under clear blue waters and coral shallows, alpine skiing amidst the silence on the mountains. When it comes to telling engaging stories, shouldn’t travel practically do the job for you? Not so fast.
For the last decade, the travel industry has been rather obsessed with user generated content – yet perhaps the wrong kind. Reviews have become both a major focus and the worst nightmare for travel marketers. While it is true that negative reviews can flood the Internet just as easily as positive ones, marketers got so obsessed with how other people graded their brand/destination that they got distracted from telling their own stories, resulting in a form of review tunnel vision. Of course there are exceptions. Some travel brands evolved and created original exploration stories that supplement, and perhaps have an effect, on user-generated reviews. Travelocity’s long-standing “Roaming Gnome” social campaign for example has resulted in almost 80,000 Twitter followers and 300,000 Facebook likes, getting thousands of people submitting creative content in hope of winning a free trip to their dream destination. Another example of a super successful UCG tourism campaign is Tourism Queensland’s “Best Job in the World” – a concentrated effort to promote the whole of Australia in a single voice.
Whether you like it or not, user generated content is a key part of the marketing mix for travel and tourism brands. When harnessing the power of UCG on a local scale and leveraging social media, travel brands can compete with massive photo spreads in top-funded travel magazines and blogs. UCG can take a massive burden off travel marketers in terms of content creation. Because travel is a local by definition, marketers can use social media platforms for curation, discussion, and display of experiences, often garnering greater reach and awareness than any traditional media campaign. Personal stories are a great place to for brands to start building their compelling platforms.
One great way to produce quality UCG content is for brands to team up with content creators – people with a knack for words, video, and photography who live close to a marketable destination – in order to delve deeper into the allure and local charms of a destination. By leveraging local content creators, brands can become community content publishers of unique experiences. A blogger taking you to that small-town wedding in sun-soaked Tuscany; a videographer hiking in the snowcapped mountains of Pokhara, Nepal; or a photography journalist taking you to those white nights in St. Petersburg. A couple great media platforms that produce original documentaries and viral Web user generated content for travel brands and destinations are Matador Network and Travel Mindset. The possibilities for local exploration through UCG are endless. Start inspiring your travel consumers today.
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