User-generated content is vital to the tourism industry. In fact, 83% of travelers make booking decisions based in part on reviews from travelers like themselves.
But there’s another reason why user-generated tourism content is so important, and it’s unique to the tourism and travel industries.
Have you ever heard the saying “Money can’t buy you happiness?” Science has proven this statement is correct, with a pretty big caveat: Money CAN buy you happiness IF that money is spent on EXPERIENCES. If money is spent on products, the satisfaction you have with the purchase typically is at its peak at the moment of purchase, and it continues to fall over the lifetime of the product as its usefulness fades.
Yet when money is spent on experiences, such as when traveling, the opposite occurs. Because those experiences become memories and those memories are shared with the people who traveled with you, and with others. This is why user-generated tourism content is so important; it’s a wonderful selling tool for your destination or attraction.
Let’s explore proven ways travel brands can effectively source, showcase, and maximize the impact of user-generated tourism content:
Strategically Sourcing Relevant UGC
The first step is developing ongoing streams of authentically created, relevant user-generated tourism content you can pull from. Some key sourcing tactics include:
- Actively encourage visitors to share photos and experiences during their trip through prompts, signage, and incentives. This captures UGC directly. Along with this, regularly survey your visitors about their activities at your destination in order to uncover where visitors are creating content organically. For instance, if your visitors are telling you that they frequently stop to take a picture at a particular point, add a prompt or sign to encourage this behavior.
- Monitor traveler review sites, Instagram hashtags, Facebook groups, etc. to identify photos, videos, testimonials to potentially feature. This allows you find UGC directly, but it can also give you ideas about the type of content that travelers are creating. Also, it can help you identify potential travel ambassadors that your attraction or destination could work with.
- Run UGC contests and campaigns where travelers submit entries for prizes. This incentivizes volume and quality. The tourism case study More Fun in the Phillipines is a classic example of utilizing UGC from travelers, as well as locals.
- Contact recent visitors who created stellar content for permission to feature their posts. Seek varied perspectives. Never assume that because a traveler posts content that you can grab it and use it as you wish. You can’t, but this will likely lead to huge online backlash against your attraction or destination if you use someone’s content without permission. Always contact visitors about any user-generated tourism content, and you may actually begin a working relationship with that traveler!
- Source user-generated tourism content tied to your unique selling points – ex. family-focused for resorts, honeymooners for tropical locales, adventure for outdoor spots. This helps you stand out from the pack. You can also brand your destination to particular groups. Such as how Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism is promoting Alabama’s white sand beaches to females for a ‘girl’s getaway’. I think this is a great example of tailoring your destination to a specific audience. (Disc – I have spoken at a Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism conference on tourism marketing before).
The wider the content sourcing net, the more diverse and engaging user-generated tourism content you’ll have to leverage across all your channels.
Showcase UGC Prominently Across Touchpoints
Now that you have a library of user-generated tourism content to choose from, amplify it where travelers are engaging and converting:
- Create website galleries and testimonial sections to build credibility and expectations during research. Let your best salespeople, your happy visitors, sell for you.
- Feature photos and stories from recent visitors in your email newsletter. This is a great way to effectively promote your destination and create more content as well.
- Paid social posts should heavily utilize UGC rather than purely polished ads. Real photos from real people are shown to drive higher levels of engagement.
- Retargeting campaigns reminding potential customers of real traveler perspectives. Consider promoting the testimonials or other UGC in your website galleries as mentioned earlier. This makes a past visitor to your site aware of new content, coming from visitors instead of the destination itself.
- Local display ads featuring UGC paired with special offers target nearby travelers. This can be particularly effective if paired with UGC or a testimonial from a local traveler who would be known in that area. This can create additional word of mouth for their inclusion in the ad.
The more platforms where you feature user-generated tourism content, the greater the exposure and impact.
Optimize UGC for Maximum Discoverability
Making your user-generated tourism content more discoverable in organic search and on social media enables broader reach and engagement.
- Add UGC galleries and sections optimized with relevant titles, URLs, metadata, alt text. Pro tip: Publish blog posts that focus on these relevant keywords and phrases, married to the corresponding UGC that has the same focus.
- Encourage travelers to use your unique hashtags when sharing on Instagram, Facebook, etc. to associate the content with your destination or attraction. Sharing content that includes your hashtags also encourages other travelers and visitors to use your hashtag organically with their content.
- Syndicate UGC on travel info sites optimizing with keywords travelers are searching for.
- Ensure experiential UGC is easily shareable to encourage word-of-mouth.
- Leverage geotags and location categories so UGC appears in relevant results.
Precision optimization makes your user-generated tourism content work harder as travelers often search destinations, attractions, experiences, and more. Taking into account visitor behavior and tailoring your UGC for the traveler’s needs is simply smart strategy.
Motivate Referrals and Loyalty with UGC
The benefits of user-generated tourism content extend beyond the initial prospect. UGC also fuels referrals from happy past visitors and nurtures their loyalty.
Some ways to maximize lifetime value include:
- Contacting recent visitors to thank them for UGC contributions and encourage sharing with networks. Reward the behavior you want to encourage. Simply saying ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
- Featuring UGC from loyalty program members to make them feel recognized. Additionally, if a particular ambassador or member of your loyalty program excels in content creation, acknowledge them for their content. But also, point out why their content is exceptional. This makes the member feel appreciated, but it also communicates to the other members how to create better content. When the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association sends out a ‘welcome pack’ for its ambassadors, it includes instructions on how to better create content and post on social media.
- Sharing visitor content contributions when announcing new offerings, events, etc. as social proof. This can serve to remind your followers and subscribers about your destination or attraction, but it also attaches content from your best salespeople to your new offerings.
- Reward repeat UGC contributions with loyalty perks, profile badges, and recognition. Also, vet these contributors as candidates for your ongoing brand ambassador or advocacy program.
- Repurpose visitor content across multiple channels and touchpoints to reinforce memory of positive experiences. Visual content such as photos or videos can perform better on social media sites like Instagram and Twitter, while a long-form story or testimonial is perfect for a blog post or an issue of your email newsletter.
The more you spotlight satisfied travelers in ongoing communications and marketing, the deeper their engagement becomes while spreading positive word-of-mouth among current and potential visitors.
UGC is the Authentic Storytelling Today’s Traveler Craves
At the end of the day, user-generated tourism content is your destination’s best marketing. Leveraging real stories, stunning visuals, and genuine advocacy directly from past visitors forges an emotional bond and credibility that your brand alone cannot manufacture. Smart tourism marketers understand this, and are willing to cede some communication control to their visitors, in order to realize more revenue in return.
With abundant sources and creative presentation formats, user-generated tourism content provides a foundational ingredient to engage and convert audiences across multiple online touchpoints covering the entire travel journey. Are you leveraging UGC to inspire travelers and build visitor loyalty? The rewards make the strategy well worth the effort.