Millennials are swiftly becoming one of the largest traveling demographics in the travel world. They are often looking for unique and special experiences that are not typical tourist experiences. They are looking for inspiration. They find this inspiration in a variety of places but one of the single largest places for young people to find their trip inspiration is in user-generated content. User-generated content is when individuals who have traveled to a given area post about it on social media like their Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest accounts, and also simply by referral. This kind of user-generated content can become a huge boon to the travel industry if it can learn how to utilize its potential power correctly.
Gone are the days of the long slideshows that nobody wanted to see; nowadays with social media we can see exactly just what we want to see. When friends or family go on life-changing experience-driven trips and post the pictures on their social media accounts, the most popular pictures and discussions always make it to the top of the list. This allows the cream of the crop of each and every trip to be the one that everyone sees. This kind of personal link with user-generated content (UGC) is the way that most young people nowadays decide on places or trips they would like to go on. Travel agencies need to learn how to be able to use the earned content and visual user-generated content to be able to help promote trips.
Visual user-generated content
What is visual user-generated content? It is content that is made by people who went on the actual trips. It is their pictures, their videos, anything that has a visual appeal related to the trip they went on. The uptick in smartphone usage is massively changing the entire way that people view and consider trips. They don’t just look at what a website says about what a place is like; they look at what their friends said when they went there, what their pictures showed, and what stories they heard about the time that they had there. With this visual user-generated content, they are able to get a more accurate “man on the street view” of any place they are considering going. Because of this, these visual referrals are far more important than a good advertising campaign.
People go onto Facebook to get trip inspiration for places they intend to go. If somebody is considering going to Cancun, they are not as likely to go to the city of Cancun’s website and see what the website says, they are far more likely to type in Cancun and see what people on Facebook actually thought. They can see what they did there, what their impressions were, and what pictures they took. This is also true of Instagram or Pinterest as well. What this does is create trip inspiration: when user-generated content inspires people to go on a trip or go to a certain location in an area that they previously would not have considered. It’s the modern-day version of word of mouth.
How can travel agents use this content to help facilitate inspiration for new travelers?
The possibilities are endless… Many travel agents are utilizing the UGC from previous clients or associates to be able to get inspiration themselves about places to offer their clients. These travel agencies understand that the best way to be able to offer content people want is to find it in the same way their clients do. By researching it, they can become aware of what is buzzworthy and learn how they can use user-generated content to help facilitate trip creation.
One way that travel agents help facilitate personalized trips is by talking with individuals who create the user-generated content and get them to provide them with high-quality content. This type of word of mouth inspiration is a driving force behind modern travel agencies. By being able to show personalized reports from people who were actually there at the location, it helps with trip inspiration for people who are considering going there as well. Instead of platitudes and stock photos, you are showing what real people really thought of the real place.
Something for travel agencies to be mindful of is that traditional word of mouth referrals are still far more important than any visual user-generated content. Word of mouth is the single most important user-generated content available to a travel agent. Having this special kind of user-generated content is critical to the success of travel agencies as it provides living links and honest opinions about the services received. Thus it is in the best interest of travel agents to provide special kinds of trips that generate this type of content, because these are the experiential based ones.
Not only is this kind of sustainable tourism impactful to the communities it goes to, it is the type of trips that are most popular with millennials. They want to have enriched content, they want to have a culturally fulfilling experience, and they want to have something that will help them grow as a person as well as make a difference in the place where they went. Trips like this are the ones that are the most likely to generate word-of-mouth user-generated content. They will not be able to stop talking about all of the people they met or helped, the family that they helped plant the field for, some of the children that they help teach English to, or even the locations that they went on a ecotourism trip. It will have such an impression upon them that they will then relay that impression to everyone who will listen. The social media buzz created this by having users who went on these life-changing trips. It provides the agencies with some of the best promotional tools by showing pictures as well as relaying their experiences to other clients.
What does the future hold?
The future is user-generated content. If travel agents can learn to use the new power of social media that has expanded dramatically word of mouth UGC, then travel agents will be able to provide their travelers not only with trips but also with culturally enriching experiences that can help others and help to grow them as individuals. And, of course, this impact they wil have on their clients lives will in return possitively impact their businesses through referrals and UGC.
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