These days, nobody books a trip without researching it online first. But what kind of content are people looking for when they browse travel and hospitality sites?
A new study by Stackla revealed that when it comes to planning travel, consumers increasing look to authentic social proof for inspiration and validation.
It may seem commonplace today that social media sparks people’s interest in travel, but Stackla’s study found that an impressive 86 percent of people have become interested in traveling to a particular destination specifically based on friends’, family or peers’ social images — 1.8 times more than images from a travel influencer on social media. And this isn’t just serendipitous social scrolling; people actively seek out social proof when researching places to visit and stay while traveling.
Sixty percent of people say user-generated content (UGC) is the most influential content they reference when planning travel, far exceeding the 23 percent that say professional images from travel brands’ websites and the mere 2 percent that say influencer photos are most influential.
The data shows that while the influence of consumer-created content has grown, consumers’ faith in social and celebrity influencers has significantly declined in the last couple years. In fact, 38 percent of people go so far as to say content from celebrities or social influencers never impacts which hotel or resort they choose to stay at when traveling.
But are people actually booking travel because of other travelers’ content? As it turns out, a growing majority are. Fifty-two percent of people have made plans to visit a specific destination based on an image or video they saw from friends, family or peers on social — up from 43 percent in 2017.
And once people are on their trips and enjoying their hotel stays, they naturally transition from being content consumers to becoming content creators. When asked, 83 percent of people said they would post about a positive hotel or resort experience — meaning most people organically begin kicking off the inspiration lifecycle for others during their travels.
With the majority of people seeking and posting authentic travel images and videos throughout the booking lifecycle, it’s clear there is massive potential for travel and hospitality brands to tap into the wealth of user-generated travel content being shared online everyday.
While many travel brands regularly use real visitor visuals to feed their branded social networks, not nearly enough are applying that same strategy to their other digital paid and owned channels.
One hospitality brand that’s been at the forefront of this effective content marketing strategy is Leading Hotels of the World (LHW).
Managing over 400 properties around the world, LHW had persistent visual content challenges and recognized the abundance and influence of the authentic images their guests were posting on social media. Instead of wasting time and money producing tons of picture-perfect visuals to support all their marketing activities, LHW began supplementing their branded photography with real guest content — featuring it across their homepage and property pages, and even creating a ‘Trending Moments’ webpage dedicated to their social guest images, complete with interactive calls-to-action.
Not only did leveraging UGC help LHW create more authentic, compelling and relevant online guest experiences, but it has also helped lift onsite conversions and improve internal content efficiencies.
LHW proves that strategically leveraging the user-generated visuals that people crave and create can go a long way towards improving the content experiences you provide guests while helping to boost direct bookings.