Earlier this year, Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app exceeded 1 billion users. It is estimated that the Facebook-owned social platform now generates $5.5 billion in advertising revenue, up 70 percent on 2017 figures.
Travel - alongside food, drink and fitness - is one of the most popular categories of content on Instagram. Between those on holiday, to couples and families enjoying city breaks or weekends in the countryside, to serious travelers, there are hundreds of hashtags used to support images, videos and Stories.
Travel companies need to take notice of this trend and incorporate travel storytelling into their business strategies. As younger customers exert more buying power, how a travel brand appears and is portrayed online is going to have more of an impact on revenue and repeat bookings. Digital storytelling tools can be of great help for reaching and engaging your travel audience.
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What do travel customers want?
TripAdvisor surveyed over 40,000 "connected travelers" - those who are more likely to search and book journeys using a smartphone - to find out what influences their choices. The survey found that ratings on review sites (59%), word of mouth recommendations (49%), accommodation facilities (44%) and discounts (39%) were the most important factors when booking a trip.
Many of those surveyed will have some serious air mile points accumulated, which means they're going to explore destinations digitally before booking. Using Instagram, Facebook, Google, YouTube and travel apps, potential customers are going to explore where to go, what to see, what to eat, and how to get around before booking.
Reviews are always going to play an important role; but as we are seeing, they're no longer the only way people explore new destinations. Hotels, airlines, resorts, restaurants and tourist attractions all need to take note.
More often than not, before booking a trip, people want to see videos, or watch as someone also on holiday shares a Story or Live moment on Instagram. Interactive content is powerful and opinions of traveling storytellers can have a decisive impact on other travelers. An interactive storytelling app can play a valuable role in your marketing efforts, encouraging customers to book direct, therefore generating improved margins compared to those who book through OTAs (online travel agents).
Digital storytelling is the way forward. Customers generate an enormous amount of content themselves. Travel brands can benefit from this. At the same time, marketing teams and travel agents can create and use content to show off what your business offers guests.
Related article: How to Build a Travel App That Wins Customer Loyalty
How do we integrate interactive storytelling?
One of the simplest ways, to start with, is to integrate images, videos and live content from Instagram. Re-post this content, with the permission of the person who created the content (a polite message and tagging them in the content is often sufficient) and ensures your brand's Instagram feed is prominent on your website and mobile app.
Integrate and share this content across other platforms too, including Facebook and travel websites, such as TripAdvisor.
Another way, if you want to take this to the next level, is to ensure staff are creating interactive content on a regular basis. Working with trusted web and app development partners, you can customize an area of your website/app, to ensure potential customers can experience your brand before booking. Digital storytelling apps bring people far closer to the real experience than reviews and stock images ever can.
Use this opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Gear up for next year's bookings with videos, real-time stories, user-generated content (UGC), blogs and reviews - a combination of everything that shows your brand in the best possible light. When those who are looking now experience your services, they will create more digital stories online that can be used in future marketing efforts.
Drive forward bookings and revenue with interactive storytelling!