The Impact Of User-Generated Content In Travel Marketing

Travel is a big deal on Instagram. 

Taking photos and staying in contact with family are the top two reasons travelers pull out their smartphones while vacationing. According to MDG Advertising, 68% of mobile device owners use their smartphones primarily to keep in touch and almost half prefer to use them to take photos and videos, creating a climate perfect for Instagram to come out on top. 

This is especially true for Millennial travelers. According to a study by Chase Marriott Rewards, 97% of all Millennial travelers post on social networks and share experiences with friends while traveling. In fact, 73% post to social networks at least once a day while traveling, and as of today, there are more than 39 million #travel photos on Instagram alone.



These trends explain why so many travel and tourism brands are focusing in on user-generated content (UGC) for their marketing efforts. From increasing brand awareness to gaining insights, travelers’ photos are now a huge opportunity for these brands. 

According to Monique Misrahi, senior manager at Digital Content at Wyndham Worldwide, this content enables Wyndham to personalize the travel experience for guests.

“User-generated content allows us to see our brands as our customers experience them,” Misrahi said. “Using the content on our sites lets the customer be a part of telling the brand story, visually integrating their experiences into our digital landscape.”

One Wyndham brand, Days Inn, showcases the photos of real guests on their website.

Visuals especially are important for all brands, with more than 70% of marketers agreeing that visual content outperforms text, according to a recent study we conducted with Digiday; and with 4.4 times more efficacy. Travel and tourism brands are no exception. Typically they have leaned on stock or professionally created images. However, according to Nielsen, earned media is far more trustworthy for 84% of worldwide respondents. More and more, these travel brands are seeing the effectiveness of stories shared by real travelers and strategizing different ways to incorporate them.


Generating UGC around your brand is like getting a personal referral from your customers to all their friends and followers. Also, it lets you put your customers at the heart of your marketing. 

“Telling the Hawaii story through personal stories and images may be one of the most effective ways we promote our destination,” Jay Talwar, Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau’s chief marketing officer, said in a recent interview. “Tied to this is the ease with which social media allows friends and family to share their experiences and most importantly their recommendations, either tacitly or explicitly. This is important to us as we’ve seen those recommendations are an incredibly strong motivating factor for friends, families and colleagues when they select their next vacation spot.”

3 Key Takeaways for Travel Marketers

1. There are massive amounts of content being created by real travelers every day on a variety of platforms - from YouTube to Twitter to Instagram.

2. This content, especially the visual content, is incredibly influential. Because of that, many travel brands are developing new and innovative ways to include it in their campaigns and branding.

3. Lastly, this content provides direct insights into traveling trends and travelers’ experiences, which brands can use to develop even more targeted and meaningful marketing.

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