There has been a marked shift in the ways in which travel and hospitality brands discuss travel. As of late, messaging has become significantly more holistic, with brands looking to ingratiate themselves into the entire travel process, instead of siloing their efforts on one part. Where a booking (especially a direct booking) would typically be the end goal, a consumer’s travel purchase journey now consists of discovery, looking, booking and experiencing.
Hospitality brands need to be there at every touchpoint in the buyer’s journey in order to optimize customer loyalty to its fullest potential, but marketers have trouble producing enough content to meet that requirement. In fact, 63 percent of marketers feel pressure to continually produce greater amounts of content at a higher frequency, but over 50 percent struggle with actually producing or sourcing enough engaging visuals.
Putting the pressure on your in-house design team or agency to crank out content can be a tough ask, especially if your brand is looking for consistently engaging, relevant and exciting content across your marketing strategy. Instead of attempting to create the content you think your customers want to engage with, why not tap into the content they’ve actually created: the relatable, user-generated visuals they’re snapping throughout every trip they take.
With a wealth of authentic content available — 83 percent of people say they’d post pictures about a positive hotel or resort experience — it’s up to brands to take advantage of the opportunity. Here are three ways hospitality brands can benefit from the content their customers create.
1. Community-Focused Loyalty Programs
Leading Hotels of the World’s loyalty program, Leader’s Club, thrives by placing authentic #LHWTraveler content across their dedicated loyalty program email newsletters. Whether members of the program have upcoming travel plans, are just returning from a trip or are shopping around for a destination that piques their interest, the inspirational social proof they see in the emails is always useful and relevant.
With loyalty programs like Leader’s Club, hospitality brands can focus on maintaining an active, community-focused presence that cultivates consistent action from its members. By inviting #LHWTravelers to share their favorite photos from their recent trips, LHW’s Leader’s Club helps to extend the life cycle of their vacation mindset — a mindset that’s highly susceptible to beautiful, inspirational travel content. After all, returning from a vacation is tough, but planning the next vacation helps ease the pain!
2. Curated Shareable Moments
Hospitality brands that have traditionally provided value at one step in the traveler’s journey, like accommodations, are now seeing the potential in expanding their involvement in the entire trip. Brands like AirBnB have taken this new strategy to heart, and they’ve introduced experience-based tours and trips through AirBnB Adventures. With this expansion of their portfolio, AirBnB is positioning itself not only as a hospitality brand, but as a travel experience brand.
For hospitality brands like Uniworld River Cruises, a veteran in the experiential travel marketing space, leveraging the influential power of authentic social proof is second nature. By not only keeping up top-level cruise accommodations, the Uniworld team also hosted highly shareable (read: Instagrammable) events throughout their cruises to encourage travelers to share their photos.
Yoga on the deck, biking excursions, photogenic decorations (and more!) provide Uniworld customers with a unique experience within their trip, making for double the content Uniworld can leverage across their own social channels, webpages, emails and print. With this social proof featured across their content, Uniworld is increasing engagement and click-through rates, directly driving more bookings.
3. Engaging Web Experience
Small Luxury Hotels of the World knows its best content comes from its guests. That’s why they feature those authentic moments from their visitors immediately on the homepage of the website to pull prospects in right at the moment of inspiration.
A specialty hospitality brand like Small Luxury Hotels puts significant emphasis on its web experience, because that first impression can make the ultimate difference between sparking interest or losing the sale. And consistently featuring that authentic content across the brand’s online experiences keeps a customer engaged and primed to book. In fact, 52 percent say they’ve made plans to visit a specific destination based on an image or video they saw from friends, family or peers from social media — up from 43 percent in 2017.
Some hospitality brands, like Outrigger Hotels & Resorts, are even getting creative with the ways they leverage visual social proof to share information with current and prospective guests. When the Big Island of Hawaii, the location of multiple Outrigger Hotels, started experiencing heightened volcanic activity, the Outrigger team used the real social posts of travelers on the Big Island in real-time to show visitors that there was nothing to worry about. In this way, visual social proof user-generated content offers not only provides an engaging web experience, but also informs travelers with real-time information from the perspective of the community.
For hospitality brands, genuine traveler-created content effectively turns lookers into bookers. Social content is transforming the way we experience travel, and hospitality brands that stay ahead of the trends and contribute to those social experiences will foster ongoing loyalty and support.