The Power of Market Influencers in the Travel Industry

The travel industry is driven by aspiration and inspiration. People have aims and ambitions, destinations they want to see and things they want to do there. But all travel goals have to start somewhere. They all have to begin as inspiration, as moments of clarity that end in an eventual purchase or booking. So where do these moments come from? The answer is a range of places: family, friends, books, dreams, and TV shows – just to name a few.

But as travel bookings are increasingly made online and social media platforms continue to grow, our inspiration and aspiration to travel are influenced more and more through these platforms. This phenomenon has given rise to the age of the influencer, of individuals or organisations that can influence large audiences through a combination of delivery, information and inspiration. The rise of the influencer is arguably more pronounced in the travel industry than any other. As prospective travellers seek out inspiration online, they are coming across people just like them, who’ve seen it, done it, and can offer insight and information.

influencer marketing in the travel industry

Why is the travel industry harnessing the power of influencers?

Before we take a look at how your travel startup can harness the power of influencers effectively, let’s think about the why.

Influencers have reach

Whether it’s through Instagram, Twitter or a personal website, many travel influencers have a huge audience and a loyal, engaged following. Perception is everything, and sometimes people just want to be inspired. This targeted reach means that travel companies can tap straight into their target market, using a respected voice as their mouthpiece.

Travellers don’t do paid ads anymore

In case you haven’t noticed, the days of travel brochures and printed media are starting to fall away. Marketing is changing, and harnessing  the power of great content is now the best way to engage your audience.

Even online, standard banner ads are being subconsciously tuned out and ignored.  Simply put, market influencers offer the perfect way to reach your target market without annoying them.

Native advertising works

When travel companies target customers through market influencers, their products don’t interrupt the social experience but accompany it. It means that agencies can place themselves more easily within organic content on social media.

Two studies have shown that the way customers react to advertising is changing. MDG Advertising state that 70 percent of internet users would rather learn about a product through content, while Dedicated Media found that purchase intent is 53 percent higher for native ads.

Using influencers boosts your SEO

It’s boring and tedious, but SEO matters, especially in a travel industry dominated by major players who hog the majority of organic search traffic.

Getting mentioned on established blogs and influencer websites is a sure way to boost your search engine rankings. Essentially, the more times you are mentioned online in the right places, the more relevant you are deemed, and the more easily people will be able to find you. It’s a snowball effect.

Building a huge following across social media channels is a lot easier if influencers with an established presence engage with your content. Google knows.

The power of social can’t be underestimated

It doesn’t matter what you’re buying: shoes, a new car, cheese or a holiday – The general rule is that if you receive a recommendation from someone you trust, someone who knows what they’re talking about, you’re going to take it into account when making a purchasing decision. A study by McKinsey found that “marketing-induced consumer-to-consumer word of mouth generates more than twice the sales of paid advertising.”

Harnessing the power of influencers in the travel industry is an obvious way to take word-of-mouth recommendations to a global level.

Instagram is a great platform for travel influencers

Instagram is a great platform for travel influencers

How can your travel company harness the power of market influencers?

As we’ve seen, the potential power of market influencers in the travel industry is undeniable. But how can you get them on board? If you want to read into this further, Hubspot offers a great guide on influencer marketing. But here are four simple ideas to get you started.

Mention them

Well this first one is pretty obvious. If you’re going to communicate with influencers in the travel industry, a good start os to simply mention them on your social media channels. Offer them a read of your latest blog post, or comment on something of theirs that relates to your business.

If you want to form positive relationships with influencers and get noticed, you’re going to need to start up that initial conversation. Twitter is a great platform for this kind of outreach. If you think something you offer is relevant to an influencer and their audience, put it out there!

Sponsor an influencer

Of course, if you don’t want to mess around with all the usual subtleties of social media communication, you could just get in touch with an influencer directly and work out a sponsorship arrangement. Usually, this would involve paying a certain amount per post on Twitter, Instagram etc, and they would then share your content or products with their audience. If an influencer’s audience is simply too good to miss out on, then this might be the way to go – but most travel startups are hindered by budgets and will simply have to create content that’s good enough to get publicised for free.

Give them a platform

This tactic is best employed in two scenarios. 1. The influencer you have in mind is on their way to becoming a big name in the industry but isn’t quite there yet. And 2. You are an established company that can offer relevant exposure.

This strategy involves giving your chosen influencer a platform to reach out to your audience, in exchange for them doing the same for you. You might let them write a blog post for your website, or host a Q&A on Twitter or Periscope. If there is a mutual gain to be made, then go out there and make it happen!

Include them in your commentaries

This is slightly different to simply mentioning them on social media. If you’re really looking to become an established thought leader in your field, then you’ll be writing regular commentaries on what’s going on in your travel sector. Why not include the thoughts of influencers you admire in these pieces, and then share them with the people mentioned?

As well as being good for your SEO (linking to established sources is a great way to let Google and the like know of your legitimacy), influencers will be much more inclined to share your content if their own thoughts appear within it.

How Travelshift helps you harness the power of influencer marketing

We do things differently at Travelshift. Our community-driven marketplace doesn’t just allow you to bring in influencers, it helps you to create your own. That’s right. Our unique blogging platform is packed with SEO features that help you build up a trusted community of bloggers and thought leaders, so you can tailor all associated content to suit your travel industry niche.

Sound good? Get in touch with us today to see if we can work something out.

Gap in the Market Volume 7 – Food Tourism

As part of our ‘Gap in the Market’ series, we’ve been taking a closer look at different sectors of the travel industry. Each post outlines a potential niche that might be ripe for a new marketplace, crunches some of the numbers, and looks ahead to what could be in store for the future. Today we’re delving into the wonderful world of food tourism…

food tourism

Foodie travel has become big business, and cuisine is quickly becoming a key driver for food-conscious (no, not couscous) tourists. And as the culinary-curious continue to flock to tasty destinations around the world, whole markets are beginning to develop to cater for their every desire: Wine tastings, street food tours, morning market expeditions, cookery classes, fine dining in the home of your favourite chef – the list goes on and on. And so do the potential business opportunities.

When you think about it, the rise of food tourism makes a lot of sense. In a travel industry where many tourists venture thousands of miles and end up with all the same old home comforts, food and drink offer inescapable and total authenticity. It’s a way to truly connect with a destination and its culture, not just a fantastic way to spend an evening!

Perhaps more so than other sectors in the travel industry, food tourism has that extra ability to entice. Indeed, one thing fuelling its rapid rise is the wave of social media content that gives so many food tourism operators free publicity. (I’ll take your tweet of tapas in Manchester and raise you an Instagram of paella lovingly stirred by a Michelin-starred chef in the heart of Valencia – or something like that…) As Skift’s 2015 report on the subject pointed out:

Every traveller today has the ability to digitally share their culinary experiences with friends and strangers around the world, fuelling a veritable social media arms race to determine who has the most unique food and beverage experiences.

It’s an arms race! Who can post the most appetising Crème brûlée?

This notion that social media is having a tangible impact on the food tourism market is more easily understood alongside another trend concerning the kind of trips that the next generation, those pesky millennials, want to go on. As well as being the most active generation on social media, millennials have a special relationship with food and drink – even more so going forwards. This is arguably for three reasons:

They crave authenticity

Young people today are all about being real. The closer they can get to the source of something, the more comfortable they are with buying into it. So when it comes to food, they want to know how it was produced and who by – two cravings that are easily satisfied by many food tour companies promoting local produce.

In theory, taking a look at millennial travelers’ preferences today should give us an indication of what will become mass-market trends five years from now. Those millennials have totally embraced the sharing economy and online bookings, and standard hotels for independent accommodation – so why expect any different as their tourism is increasingly determined by food glorious food?

Millennials’ purchasing power is on the up

Boom. Purchasing power. According to Skift’s research report “The Rise of the Millennial Traveler,” the purchasing power of millennials is $170 billion per year and growing. And what drives this spending? According to Skift’s research, it’s “happiness, passion, diversity, sharing and discovery”. Croissant, anyone?…

They want to go deeper

This is pretty similar to the authenticity point, but perhaps takes it one step further.

As well as getting an authentic taste of a destination, immersive travel experiences are becoming all the rage. Plenty of travellers now want to live, eat and drink like a local. Websites such as EatWith offer opportunities to do exactly that. It’s kind of like AirBnB, but you drink wine and eat with strangers as they tell you about their city. You’re like the long-lost relative they never knew they had. But for one night only!

This idea of going deeper also links nicely with the social media furore around food tourism. Travellers want to share their experiences more than ever, especially when those experiences illustrate what a place is really like. Food manages to unlock that door.

There’s more to the food tourism wave than hungry millennials

Aside from the millennial-driven hunt for authenticity, it’s also a fact that our attitude towards food is changing more generally.

A report by the American Journal of Tourism Management released in 2013 argued that the growth of food tourism is because people are looking at food more as a pleasure than a necessity. “People spend much less time cooking, but choose to pursue their interest in food as part of a leisure experience,” they said. In countries such as Italy and Spain where food tours are increasingly popular, dining experiences have always been about social interaction just as much as what’s on the plate. Maybe the rest of us are just starting to catch up?

But although millennials will undoubtedly have a big say on food tourism going forwards, at the moment the market is dominated by those who are a little bit older. Take a look at Foodie&Tours’ (more on them later) infographic below.

Food tourism market

An infographic on the food tour industry from Foodie&Tours

Plenty of interesting points to be taken from those statistics. First of all, our theory that social media has a big part to play is confirmed by the fact that last year, 63% of foodie travellers took and shared photos of their edible conquests.

Second, only 22% of food tourism was marketed online. That’s a whopping 78% that wasn’t, and a huge amount of potential for online marketplaces untapped as a result.

In conversation with Hugo Palomar, founder of Foodie&Tours

In a move away from the norm, this week we’ve been speaking to a man who has plenty of experience in food tourism, having set up his own food tour marketplace in Barcelona, Spain. Hugo Palomar is the founder and CEO of Foodie&Tours, which now offers tasty food and drink-focused tours in five countries across Europe. The company is planning a global expansion to offer tours in over 40 destinations worldwide, so it’s fair to say that they are on the up.

First up, I asked Hugo about the motivation behind his food tour marketplace. “The project began because we detected that there was a market opportunity in the travel industry,” he said. “There was no reference for gastronomic tourism online. Two of my great passions are travel and gastronomy, and we believed we could create a successful platform.”

food tourism tours travel industry

Foodie&Tours offer a variety of gastronomic trips throughout Europe

Hugo and his team are striving to become a global leader in the field of gastronomic tourism, and although that’s now a realistic prospect, there have been challenges along the way.

“The biggest challenge,” says Hugo, “has been to create a technological platform and a team with very limited resources.” Like any startup, “We need dreamers, as well as investors who believe in the project to finance us. Part of the strategy of the company is to grow in terms of resources without jeopardizing our future viability. Taking forward steps is complicated because our company needs a big sales volume to expand, but gradually we are getting there.”

When you create a company like ours and realise that your competitor is a global monster, you have to adapt your strategy.” – Hugo Palomar, Founder of Foodie&Tours

It’s clear that sometimes it’s important to take things slowly and progress at a steady rate, instead of reaching beyond your limits. Palomar says that the main factor to affect the growth of Foodie&Tours has been dealing with limited resources, not to mention the fact that his company is competing with Trip Advisor, which he describes, fairly, we’d suggest, as “a global monster.”

“The main factors [affecting growth] are the resources that are dedicated to the growth of the company. The second is the ability to grow in destinations when competing on channels to attract traffic and sales with the likes of Trip Advisor. When you create a company like ours and you realise that your competitor is a global monster, you have to adapt your strategy.”

Foodie tourism food travel

Tapas in San Sebastian

After a strong start in the food tourism market, is there anything that Hugo would do differently if given the chance again? He points out that the lessons learned on the journey can be just as important as growth itself. “We did a lot of things at the beginning that we would not do now,” he says. “But the important thing is not so much what we would do, but that we have learned to realise this, and how the team reacts. This is a project that only succeeds with highly-motivated people working together – this is the key!”

Looking forwards, the future looks bright for Foodie&Tours, along with any other startups that decide to aggregate food tourism providers across national borders.

“I sincerely believe that foodie tourism is a market with a high growth,” he says. People and travellers want to live real experiences, and there is nothing better than to live those experiences through food, drink, traditions and customs of the land.”

Hugo predicts that more and more local operators will start to spring up and offer food-related activities. He also suggests that larger, umbrella companies with the right technology will be able to build franchise systems connecting thousands of entrepreneurs together. One thing’s for sure: food tourism is here to stay, and Foodie&Tours are well ahead of most of the competition.

If all this talk of culinary delights has given you an appetite, check out the Foodie&Tours website to find a food tour near you.

Thinking about starting your own marketplace for food tourism?

That’s pretty much what we do. Having successfully built Iceland’s leading travel marketplace, we’re offering up our software solution to ambitious entrepreneurs with a passion for tourism. Our marketplace solution is packed with features to help you get up and running in no time at all, and you’ll be backed the whole way by our knowledgeable and experienced team.

Travelshift software offers a community-driven platform that allows you to manage your sellers, their inventory, content marketing, and all transactions in a single, easy-to-use solution. All you have to do is choose your travel niche, attract vendors to your marketplace and go. Interested? Get in touch with us today to find out more.

In the meantime, here are a few insider tips for making an impact in food tourism

 

Work with a local network to create experiences that will sell

Once you’ve established a local network of operators, co-create new experiences to fill the gaps and make the most out of the destination. Meals, tastings, cooking classes, educational trips and entertainment can all be combined with accommodation to build up a series of dynamic products that will appeal to a wide range of visitors. 

Social media promotions go a long way, especially when combined with different sectors

As we’ve already seen, social media is particularly powerful in an evocative travel sector such as food tourism. Expanding an already extensive reach can be done by simply scheduling tours that cover more than one base. Why not combine food with culture, appealing to a larger audience that wouldn’t necessarily choose to do one excursion exclusively.  Reaching beyond the die-hard foodie type is vital if you want to see real growth.

Engage and inspire with quality imagery

Pictures say a thousand words, but they can also taste good. Your food tour business will live and die by how appealing your products are to browsing customers. Promotional campaigns have to be immersive and inspiring, with bold and professional photography. This kind of content is a sure way to encourage organic engagement.

Social Trends in the Travel Industry

social trends in the travel industry

There’s something about travel that appeals to our deepest desires and natural instincts. Seeing a friend’s Instagram photo of a trip to Paris is a bit like watching someone devour an ice cream on a hot day. You see it, you want it. That basic tendency is at the heart of what’s driving social trends in the travel agency today. A shared experience is a step closer to an experience that’s all your own. So maybe that’s why we love to window shop for holidays more than any other type of expenditure.

In a recent article in Marketing Land, the incredible amount of social travel data out there online was put under the microscope. Marketer Chris Kerns drew three separate conclusions from the findings of his research. We’re going to look through his analysis and suggest how travel brands might adapt to meet the changing needs and behaviour of their customers.

Read more