The Real Power Of The Travel Influencer

These days savvy travellers can search for the perfect vacation spot on countless sites.  Enter your search parameters – pristine beaches, luxurious hotel rooms, perfect reefs for divers – and seemingly limitless choices will appear.  You can plan your ideal vacation, AND the perfect spot for your vacation selfies. What’s the point of a great holiday if we can’t show our friends back home what they’re missing?

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Those crystal sand beaches will be the perfect backdrop for your selfies on Facebook and Instagram.  The quest to post the perfect pictures on these sites has become a quantifiable factor in choosing a destination.  In fact, according to a recent survey, more than 40% of millennials make “Instagrammability” a part of their choice.

More and more, millennials are turning to Instagram to view other people’s perfect vacation shots as an aide in making their own choices, particularly for lesser-known vacation spots.  To that end, Instagram has introduced Geotagging, so that searchers can find a vacation photo that appeals to them, and then pinpoint the exact location of that shot.

In some cases, the increased tourism has been a welcome boost to a vacation site that is not as well known, or off the beaten path.  Sometimes, however, the influx of tourists has almost overwhelmed a location that is not prepared for hordes of selfie-hungry tourists.  In Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for example, the Travel and Tourism Board took the unprecedented step of asking visitors to stop Geotagging. Their desire to protect their ancient forests and pristine lakes outweighed their desire for tourist dollars, as the sheer numbers became too great.

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However, many destinations actively promote large numbers of tourists, and they recognize social media’s influence in the consumer’s choice of destinations.  Facebook and Instagram have become key factors in their marketing plans, both in targeting potential customers and engaging with them. Images generated by customers have become ubiquitous, as many potential customers consider these images to be more relatable and authentic than traditional advertising shots.  In that sense, satisfied customers who post images have essentially become both influencers and collaborators.

Some tourism boards, notably Tourism Australia, have embraced the influencer and made them part of their marketing strategy.  Their Instagram account, with more than three million followers, works with a network of influencers to share and promote images of Australian attractions, with substantial success.


Travel marketing, in which imagery is the strongest tool in attracting customers, has found a way to make the satisfied tourist a significant part of the strategy.  When those customers add relatable captions, potential customers have both imagery and text to influence their destination decisions.

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Airbnb is another brand who takes advantage of social media and influencers.  Everyone wants reassurance that their local accommodations will be clean, safe, and comfortable.  Images from satisfied users provide that comfort level.

Some brands even finance trips for influencers.  The cost is low, and the campaign can be specific and targeted.  Influencers who provide high-quality images are in demand. However, as the category nears the saturation point, that image quality becomes even more important.  Imagery must be visually appealing, strong, and unique to resonate with the target market. Those potential clients are visually-focused and need to be able to imagine themselves in a specific locale.  Influencers with a specific style can be most effective, as their followers trust their taste and their images. Marketers also recognize those images, and maximize their effectiveness by reusing them in other areas.

So what’s next?  Instagram has now included buttons on some business profiles so that users can book travel directly without leaving the site.  This encourages immediate, visceral response to images, and demonstrates the power of influencers in this category. Expect to see this trend develop, and expect to see more travel brands include influencers in their marketing strategies.