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Phocuswright: Driving Better Travel Marketing Experiences

This past week we attended Phocuswright, with many of the world’s largest travel brands, to learn about the latest innovation happening in the industry. Additionally, Olapic was proud to speak during the conference, to provide some tips for leveraging earned content in  travel marketing to drive better booking experiences and increase engagement.

As the on-demand economy has experienced explosive growth in recent years, giving rise to brands like Uber, Airbnb, and more, the importance of driving quality and authentic experiences for customers has become abundantly clear. In fact, according to Eventbrite’s recent report, 72% of millennials expressed their desire to increase spending on experiences rather than physical things. And while this is great news for the travel sector, it also means that brands must work harder to create engaging content that drive meaningful brand experiences.


The above changes in the industry and increased craving for travel experiences in younger generations have posed a unique challenge for travel brands: creating enough inspirational and dynamic content to fill channels across the booking journey. In our session, Olapic’s Adam Gerstel and Andrew Gonzalez explored ways to solve this “content crunch.”

As technology and distribution channels have grown in volume, the more fragmented the booking journey has become. A recent nsight article addressed this exact idea, stating, “Travel CMOs need to adapt and keep pace with these changes. In the past, the consumer shopping journey was linear. From research, to travel, to experience. But today, there are steps in between before the process comes full circle. It starts with inspiration and research – which has many influencers, followed by travel and experience, and then review. The process has changed in many ways and CMOs need to adjust strategies to accommodate the new environment.”

With this in mind, it’s important for travel brands to be accessible during the non-linear steps of their customers’ journey. At Olapic, one of the best ways we’ve found travel brands can organically connect with their customers is through travelers’ own content.

According to Hello World’s research:

72% of consumers post photos on a social network while on vacation, while 76% post them after they return.

With over 47 million photos hashtagged with vacation, and the number only increasing each day, it’s clear that there is a plethora of content for brands to curate and use to supplement their marketing messages to battle this growing content crunch.


Whether they know it or not, travelers want and need content to drive inspiration for their traveling experiences. Among consumers, 46% of them are empowered through social media to search through feedback and comments from peers before making a buying decision, according to Deloitte’s research. Additionally, we know at Olapic that consumers respond well to other users’ content because it’s often more honest and relatable than branded content.

Stock photos of hotel rooms or travel destinations can begin to look stale to discerning end-user, because they don’t quite capture the essence of a brand’s experience. And, it’s the experience that buyers want to intimately understand, through the eyes of their peers, before making a purchase. Not to mention, the aspect of FOMO (the fear of missing out), which Eventbrite’s research says 7 out of 10 millennials suffer from in a world where experiences are now increasingly shared publicly across social media accounts.

Additionally, learning from previous customers who created high-quality, dynamic content for your brand via visual social channels like Instagram or Snapchat, can not only help better inspire and convince new customers to consider your destination, but also drive customer insights for your brand. Analyzing this content from a marketing lens, allows your brand to better understand what your fans enjoy about an experience, what drives them to share meaningful content, and what they find most engaging. Through the collection and observation of UGC, travel marketers can better create and supplement their messaging with more targeted visuals and information that their audiences crave.


With the above ideas in mind there are a few ways that your brand can encourage the creation of UGC and integrate this kind of content in your marketing strategy for a more personalized customer booking experience.

1. Beef-Up Your Customer Engagement Program

  • Identify an evergreen hashtag and campaign to encourage your customers to share their photos, thoughts, and videos via your brand’s hashtag. Create a fun campaign that reminds visitors of your hashtag and how you’d like them to share content. Additionally, consider creating an incentive behind the campaign such as a promo code or free drink at the local bar to encouraging this type of sharing.

2. Promotion is Key

  • Distribute your evergreen hashtag on all your channels, and not just the typical ones like social posts and profiles. Include your hashtag, and the travelers’ content you’ve already collected, in social ads, email promotions, at your physical location on things such as ‘do not disturb signs,’ and on your website in a gallery.

3. Analyze the Content

  • There are most likely customer photos ready and waiting for your brand to tap into, so take the time to observe that content as well as newly submitted UGC to better understand what guests enjoy about your travel experience. Maybe a lot of your earned content that contains the color blue is popular, or you notice photos of a particular meal at your hotel’s restaurant is getting a ton of likes: Use these insights to provide more guidance to your customers about what content your brand needs, and consider incorporating these findings into your customer marketing strategy as well!

It is no surprise that for a travel brand to succeed in this day and age, it must be increasingly customer-centric in its marketing messages. Authenticity is key to creating better brand experiences, reaching new customers, and inspiring brand loyalty in others. If you missed our session at Phocuswright, watch the video replay here:

For more information on how Olapic has helped travel brands like Hyatt and Gate 1 Travel succeed in earned content marketing check out our resources here.