You only have to scroll on Instagram for a few seconds to find a snap of one of your friends on vacation, or that super-popular account sharing their breakfast at a local deli in whatever country they’re visiting right now. 

Both of these have something in common, they’re content generated by real people, at real places, enjoying whatever it is that they’re posting about. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This is like gold dust for marketers.

The travel & tourism industry happens to have a little more of this gold dust than other sectors. 

We love to share, and whether we like to admit it or not, many of us like to show off. Of course that’s not a bad thing in moderation as it’s those users who do want to show off that you’ll often get the best user-generated content (UGC) from.

So, what is UGC?

At its core, user-generated content (UGC) is anything created by a consumer, brand advocate or fan, in the form of tweets, comments, photos, video and reviews. And that’s just a few examples.

Popular holiday emojis

Popular vacation emojis

UGC flips the concept of corporate marketing on it’s head and pulls content directly from consumers, rather than a website full of stock photos or a senior marketing meeting that is often out-of-touch with its demographic. It aims to harness valuable, trustworthy, high-quality content from real people into something that a brand can use in its marketing arsenal. 

Instead of creating more content, why don’t we expose content that’s already been created for us?

Does UGC work with the travel industry?

Absolutely! I could leave it here, but I’ll elaborate.      

Over 95 million photographs are posted on Instagram every day. How many of those are travel photographs? I don’t know either, but there’s 110+ million posts with the #travel hashtag alone.

To give you a little more insight, there’s 79,216 #hotdogsorlegs posts on the platform at the time I’m writing this. Nearly 80,000 posts of vacationers legs, looking like hot dogs. Let that sink in for a second.

Hot dogs or legs?

The hashtag #hotdogsorlegs on Instagram

What I’m trying to get at is that users are generating travel content consistently, whether satirical or serious, high-quality or spur of the moment; and travel marketing is definitely understanding the fact that this type of content will help inbound traffic, brand trust, sales and ROI from relatively uncomplicated marketing efforts.

User-generated content performs well in pretty much every industry that you can conjure up, but it really takes off in travel.

The aspirational nature of the sector means consumers want to look at photographs of your hotel. They want to watch videos of thrilling activities you offer at your resort. And ultimately, they’ll want to visit or try out what you’re showcasing when they trust you enough.

But it helps if that content comes from real people.

Why does UGC work so well?

We’re human beings and we’re emotional beings. We make decisions, form opinions and allow ourselves to be influenced by the things that evoke emotion inside of us. Content from friends, family and those you trust stirs up far more of an emotional reaction than a stock photograph from a hotel’s anonymous Facebook Page. 

When I speak about emotion, I don’t mean getting upset or overly-excited. I mean pleasure, envy and even fear of missing out (FOMO)

Don’t try and tell me you aren’t the tiniest bit envious of your best friends backpacking trip through Thailand or your mum’s mouth-watering French breakfast. These are the emotions that as marketers, we should be aiming to draw out of consumers. And the best way to get those emotions for your brand? Use your mum’s French breakfast photographs to show off what visiting that hotel is really like!

How trusted is UGC?

Would you trust your mum’s recommendation for a holiday destination? Of course you would! She’s been and knows what it’s like. She posted those delicious breakfast photographs! And the hotel reposted them! It must be good.

 And you’re not alone. 92% of consumers say that they trust recommendations from friends and family above all over forms of advertising. 

Neilsen consumer trust statistics for user-generated content

Source: Nielsen

So the question is, what if you transform those emotional-based recommendations and frivolous social media updates into a form of advertising that works for your brand?

That’s where you can make a real impact on your marketing strategy with UGC.

Has UGC already made an impact in travel?

Another yes! Numerous travel brands, hotels, flight operators and local tourism businesses are making use of user-generated content; some of them I’ve listed below:

Australia’s ‘Best Jobs in the World’

Australia's best jobs in the world

A successful UGC campaign for Tourism Queensland

I remember this campaign like it was yesterday, even though I was just 14 at the time! Back in 2009, I wasn’t aware that Tourism Queensland’s ‘Best Jobs in the World’ campaign laid the foundation for incredible UGC, but it all makes sense now.

As mentioned, Tourism Queensland wanted to showcase the whole of Australia with a single campaign, and as such, they offered six incredible job opportunities across the country, dubbed as the ‘best jobs in the world’.

Wouldn’t you want to be a caretaker on Hamilton Island, just a shell’s throw from the Great Barrier Reef?

You probably said yes, and so did 40,000 other people who entered video submissions for the roles. And that’s 40,000 out of 330,000 who showed interest! 

The campaign was a huge success and generated an unthinkable amount of content, discussion and promotion of Australia internationally. The country still uses user-generated content on their official Instagram account today.

Four Seasons Ongoing UGC Campaign

Four Seasons Instagram Account

Four Seasons Instagram account uses UGC consistently

We’ve all heard of the Four Seasons, right? The chances are you’ve seen photographs floating around from their gorgeous resorts and hotels on one social platform or another.

The brand have firmly embraced the concept of letting the customer do the talking as all twelve of the first images on their Instagram feed are sourced from users, sharing their experiences from resorts around the world.

In fact, a quick scroll tells me that they’ve only posted a smattering of original content on Instagram in the past month. And engagement on those original posts is down on average ⅓ compared to the user-generated content. 

With nearly 300,000 followers, they’re certainly doing something right.

Cavendish’s Early Vine Adoption

Cavendish Valentine's Campaign

Cavendish used Vine for their UGC campaign

Back in 2013, The Cavendish London hotel adopted—then new—Vine to generate content for their Valentine’s marketing campaign. The premise was simple, couples had to upload a romantic six-second clip to the platform for the chance to win a special stay at the hotel over the Valentine’s period. 

Cavendish did a few things right with this campaign:

  • Firstly, they offered an incentive (the hotel stay) to generate the content. 
  • Secondly, they required the Vine clip to be relevant to the prize they were offering, making users more inclined to take part. 
  • And finally, they adopted a new social network to trial the campaign and it paid off.

Neil Braude, General Manager of The Cavendish London at the time, told The Drum that they "wanted to be an early adopter with Vine and for our social media supporters to have some fun with an app that is free, easy to use and creative."

Trying a new platform, or one you hadn’t considered previously is something to bear in mind when putting together a campaign for your brand, depending on where your demographic is currently hanging out.

Final Thoughts

You should start implementing a method to start utilising user-generated content into your marketing plan, right now!

It doesn’t matter how you go about it, whether it’s setting up a competition with prize in return for content, starting your own hashtag from which you’ll share posts, or even just searching your name across the social-sphere and asking for permission to repost; you’re bound to find some content that you can use somewhere, and this is just the beginning! 


Are you in the travel industry? Do you use user-generated content to enhance your marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments below!

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