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Why Travel Brands Must Look to Authentic Content to Increase Bookings

A light breeze blowing through a set of palm trees, the sun hangs on a backdrop of crystal clear cerulean blue, waves gently ebb from the shore, a wash of relaxation pours over you. Exhale. Sounds amazing, right? This is the type of experience that is instantly conveyed when looking at nearly 36 million photos with #vacation on Instagram. This is also the type of compelling content travel brands are desperate to create. But can a staged photo of an empty beach or an empty pool area really convey an experience?

A search for a 3-star vs. a 4-star hotel online yields stunningly similar photos of sterile rooms featuring bedside alarm clocks and free in-room coffeemakers. These are not the kinds of photos that spark excitement and visions of what awaits you on your next vacation – they do not place you poolside with a fruity umbrella cocktail.

While the travel industry was an early adopter of Internet technology, the experience of booking travel has not reached its true potential on today’s visual web. Travelers are inundated with the promise of affordable travel online and must navigate a ruthless maze of comparison shopping tools. On average, people view 27 different sites before booking a trip. Beyond pricing, one of the biggest drivers of this site-hopping behavior is the thirst for visual content.

People are shopping in an increasingly visual manner, looking to their friends’ and families’ content on Facebook and Instagram for trip inspiration. Stock photos simply do not offer enough context or keep people engaged – in addition to being wildly expensive to stage and shoot. Too often executives and marketing teams focus on tightly controlling every aspect of an image, choking out any sense of the traveler experience.

People are shopping in an increasingly visual manner, looking to their friends’ and families’ content on Facebook and Instagram for trip inspiration.

With the prolific volume of consumer-generated content found on Instagram alone, brands are missing a huge opportunity to put this content to work on their own site and provide travelers with the confidence they need to make a purchase without clicking over to a third party.

Until recently only a few brands understood the true depth and breadth of the consumer photo opportunity, but as more and more of them begin to incorporate consumer imagery into the brand experience, real and measurable results show a new form of visual marketing is changing the way consumers are interacting with travel brands.

A great example of innovative ways hotel brands are using guest photos comes from Hyatt. The renowned hotel brand tapped Olapic to launch social.hyatt.com, a hub of traveler photos that showcases guest experiences while staying at any one of the more than 575 Hyatt hotels and resorts worldwide.

With experiential filters like beaches, golf, family friendly, and weddings, the hub allows travelers to seek inspiration and book their next Hyatt stay without having a specific destination or hotel brand in mind. It also reflects the direction Hyatt is taking as it advances its digital offerings beyond transactional, toward experiential. In addition to the gallery of consumer-generated photos found at social.hyatt.com, guest photos are featured on individual property sites such as Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa.

“We want to build long-term relationships with our guests, and that means offering them digital and physical experiences that keep them coming back,” said Ellen Lee, senior vice president, global digital, Hyatt.

The Hyatt hub demonstrates how travel brands can embrace consumer-generated images to create more guest-centric digital experiences that increase engagement and direct bookings. The use of guest photos satisfies the desire for more authentic content and keeps travel buyers on the brand’s site instead of forcing them to seek out more visual content and potentially losing the booking to an online travel agent (OTA).

*Olapic works with more than two dozen of the world’s leading travel brands in the air, hotel, cruise and tourism categories including Commune Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotel, Omni Hotels & Resorts, Texas Tourism, and JetBlue.

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