How influencer marketing is bringing authenticity to the travel industry

Sophie Anthony
Sophie Anthony
February 28, 2024
More than ever, people are turning to online content to plan their holidays. 89% of millennials reportedly plan their vacations based on pictures posted by their peers...

Introduction

More than ever, people are turning to online content to plan their holidays. 89% of millennials reportedly plan their vacations based on pictures posted by their peers. With travel photos shared by creators side-by-side in social feeds with those shared by friends and family, the boundaries of familiarity are increasingly blurred. But the impact is clear: influencer marketing has changed how travel is consumed.

With its influx of easily searchable information, social media provides consumers with more options than ever before around travel destinations, activities, and experiences. The travel sector is departing from its emphasis on polished and perfected content to promote its map of destinations, instead leaning into authenticity and trust. In this article, we’re delving into how travel brands like Visit Scotland and Explore Worldwide are taking note and utilising user-generated content to resonate with consumers and create content that builds upon a groundwork of trust. 

Perfect match for the perfect impact

Creators that align with a brand’s vision and values act as an extension of their voice, speaking to different types of consumers through familiar and relatable language. For Explore Worldwide, a B-Corp Certified adventure travel company, aligning their values with those of the creators they work with is immensely important. Jae Hopkins, Marketing Director at Explore identifies the role of connection as vital in influencer marketing, detailing that “people only follow influencers they feel connected to”. Creators reach audiences on platforms they use, and in languages they speak, meaning that digital travel content is more naturally and seamlessly consumed than traditional catalogues or advertisements.

As a result, travel brands that tap into creators who align with their brand, messaging, and ethos, can access an audience that is already attached to that creator, and benefit from that pre-existing connection. Whether it’s that pre-existing affiliation, or just the human relatability of creators, data shows that 85% of consumers see UGC as more influential than brand content. Hopkins emphasised the effect of this, “if creators are saying that things matter to them, then you start to think maybe they matter to me too”. 

Explore Worldwide’s offering of environmentally conscious options for travel consumers speaks to a very specific demand for responsible holidays. As a result, their audience is also a very specific group of consumers. Hopkins shares that successful influencer marketing is “about having the right influencers to be impacting people it’s relevant for”. 

Creating content that speaks to audiences where they’re most native is crucial to breaking through and generating purchase intent. Scotland’s national tourist board, Visit Scotland, aims to advise, inform, and inspire all visitors to Scotland. With such a huge target audience, tapping into niches and ensuring content is platform native is key for the brand to remain friendly, approachable, and fresh. Amanda Thomas, Global Influencer Marketing Manager at Visit Scotland shares how she’s found that using creators enables travel brands to reach “a younger audience that fits their budget and lifestyle, on the platforms they’re using”. 35% of Gen Z spend over 4 hours online every day, meaning that for this demographic, messaging through online platforms is crucial. With a perfectly matched creator, brands can push messaging in a more targeted way, for maximum impact. 

Thomas expands on this, outlining how creators lay a bedrock of trust that makes the foundation of their relationship with their followers. Visit Scotlands credits this trust as “essential”. Thomas places a critical emphasis on collaborating with creators who authentically speak to the brand, noting, “Often we’re looking for a deeper reason for the collaboration that aids with the storytelling – a personal connection to Scotland, a unique interest that we have a product offering for, a voice within a particular industry that we can create a relevant itinerary for”. 

Visit Scotland’s emphasis on collaboration that is true to creators, and true to their brand, relies heavily on the trust the creator has built. For Visit Scotland, Thomas makes clear that well-positioned influencers are a valuable voice for brands looking to reach niche and growing audiences with specific interests or needs. 

Broadening Horizons: Expanding Perceptions 

Both Explore and Visit Scotland report their emphasis on responsibility and sustainability as a vital consideration in working with creators. Having creators work as an extension of the brand means it's crucial that they also share these values and are perfectly matched with the creators they choose to collaborate with. The outcome is that brands can reach further, and showcase more, broadening consumer perceptions of what’s available, and what’s possible. 

For Visit Scotland, Thomas outlined how creators have helped them “showcase hidden gems, encourage shoulder season holidays, help support new openings, and remind people about the importance of connecting with the local community and supporting local industry.” Here, the objective of their impact surpasses likes and impressions but goes as far as to challenge perceptions and leave a lasting impression that not only promotes Visit Scotland but promotes wider environmental responsibility too. As Thomas puts it “This hopefully then translates to an audience that has a broadened idea of how they can visit Scotland responsibly”.

Measuring Influence

When it comes to influencer marketing, one challenge that Hopkins voices, and that many CMOs echo, is the question of measurement. How can you measure the impact of creator content on audiences, brands, and communities? There’s a common misconception that influencer marketing is difficult to measure, but we’ve found that when done right, measuring influencer marketing campaigns unlocks valuable insights. 

We know the importance of measurement because we believe that influencer marketing has a True Human Influence. It does more than get likes and comments for a brand. Instead, it sticks with audiences, and it influences them to think, feel, and act. By using brand lift studies to measure influencer marketing campaigns, brands can report on a wide range of deeper campaign outcomes, from purchase intent to brand confidence. These metrics go further to empower brands and uncover what consumers want, and why they’re drawn to content, loading travel brands with learnings to put into practice in future campaigns. 

For brands with such clear missions, such as Explore and Visit Scotland, it’s so important that they can measure the True Human Influence of their campaigns on their target audience. Metrics such as brand sentiment and favourability allow brands to gain a better understanding of how they’re achieving their missions through their marketing efforts. Travel brands with strong missions and clear identities sometimes avoid collaboration to prioritise control, but with closely aligned creators, these brands can reach new heights with their marketing efforts, access more specific and engaged audiences, and make an impact beyond likes and impressions.

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