How to use video for travel marketing

19th October 2015

Video is a powerful way for travel and tourism brands to show off the experiences they offer and take their audiences “right there”. Travel purchases are emotional decisions, and video marketing helps brands to tell stories which will resonate, build brand trust and ultimately result in a conversion.

Travel content views have increased 118% year over year since 2012, and travel videos are consumed around the clock across devices (YouTube data). Two out of three U.S. consumers watch online travel videos when they’re thinking about taking a trip (Google/Ipsos MediaCT). Despite the opportunities video offers, 74% of hoteliers are not sure how to go about creating video content, and then host, distribute and optimise this kind of content (according to We’ve recently been filming for Fred Olsen cruises, which inspired us to share some tips on how to use video in your travel marketing strategy looking at mobile and omniscreening, storytelling, user-generated content, social video and virtual reality.

Mobile and sales funnel in travel marketing

For those working in travel and tourism marketing, you need to be thinking mobile. 30% of online travel bookings by value will be made on mobile devices by 2017 (Euromonitor). There has been a 50% increase in mobile use across business and leisure travellers, with 30% relying purely on their mobiles to make last-minute bookings. (BuzzCity).  In this omniscreening environment, it’s important to create brand stories for viewers, not only at different stages of the buying cycle but also to be viewed via various devices and in a range of contexts.

Let’s think about the different stages of the buying cycle or sales funnel; from last-minute trips with a short sales cycle to far-flung trips with longer cycles. It can take 80-plus days for the average consumer to make just two travel decisions. Travellers visit 22 different sites over an average of 9.5 sessions before booking (Google/Ipsos MediaCT). You need to be engaging with your potential customers at every stage from awareness to consideration to conversion and understand their motivations.

In order to raise awareness, create content which is genuinely useful for your audience (or will make them smile); at this stage avoid being too salesy or pushy but you should include a call to action. For instance a series of Vines celebrating a particular place or a video detailing reasons to visit a destination this summer. Focus on inspiring your audience in a broad sense, and then follow this with more specific content later.

At the next stage, you can use customer testimonials and curated UGC to offer reassurance before purchase as well as brand videos to tell your unique story. There could be the chance to upsell with video tips about the destination from tours to local customs. The relationship could be developed by encouraging feedback and more user-generated content.

Telling targeted holiday stories

Airbnb is a great example of effective brand storytelling at the different stages of the sales funnel and across channels and devices. Research firm Altimeter Group stated that a consumer “desire for community” was one of the key reasons for the success of this brand.  Airbnb’s “belong anywhere campaign” taps into this and creates content to meet the needs of its target audience. 

Here’s another example from British Airways and Tourism Australia, which again focuses on human, emotional stories. As part of this campaign, Tourism Australia put a post on its Facebook page asking fans to tell them which family members they were missing most who had moved down under. In just one day, they received 16,000 likes and almost 2,000 comments. Eight year old, Esme’s parents moved to Australia three years ago – she loves it but misses her grandparents. Her grandparents are surprised when they go to the cinema to see a film starring their granddaughter. Watch their reactions:

This campaign works because it connects with its audience and plugs into genuine human stories that anyone can relate to.

Brands can also create stunts which resonate. Lee Thompson, founder of The Flash Pack – travel agents specialising in remarkable and life-enhancing holidays – was the first person ever, to climb inside the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio and snap a selfie at the top. The results were impressive. Within one week, he had almost one million hits on YouTube, 50 million engagements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and 2 million hits on their website.

When telling your stories, ensure that they reinforce your brand values, pack an emotional punch, and that they speak to your target audience’s motivations.

Social video and live streaming

Live streaming apps such as Meerkat and Periscope can be used effectively by the travel industry to show behind the scenes, tours, new product/destination launches, q & as with consumers, locals and experts, and events. You could also ask influencers to scope from one of your destinations or hotels. It is a great way to take your customers on a journey with you and encourage them to go in ‘real life’ too. Skyscanner did this well with a 24 hour Periscope taking viewers round the world.

Social media video shared on Vine or Instagram are popular with travellers, for instance, the #6secondpostcard. This offers an opportunity for travel brands to create short content to raise awareness and engage their fans. Behind the scenes, content could work well here. Here’s an example from STA USA.

If your audience is skewed towards a younger demographic, it could be worth considering Snapchat video too. Topdeck, a UK travel company, used Snapchat to deliver a travel show with YouTube star, James Hill. This campaign uses Snapchat’s Stories section, which allows users to tell their stories through photos and videos available to their friends for 24 hours.

“Snapchat really taps into the ethos of our trips. As with Topdeck Travel, Snapchat is designed for personal, unguarded and free-flowing experiences — the perfect platform to explore for our latest campaign.” Hazel McGuire, the marketing manager for Topdeck Travels, U.K. and Europe in Digiday.

It is always important to think strategically with social media channels. We’ve noticed that there are many hotel and travel brands with Vine channels and no content. Remember to think about which channels will work most effectively for your target audience and your internal resources and stick to that. Experiments with new channels and formats can really give your brand an edge but a neglected channel does you no favours.

High quality visuals

To bring destinations to life, there is a need for high quality content and footage alongside more lo-fi UGC to show the brand off in its best light. Fred Olsen wanted to update its archive of footage and came to us to film its ship, Braemar, over 14 days on a Baltics cruise. We filmed with models in each of the locations and also around the ship featuring nearly all the spaces on board. We shot at 4k, delivering nearly 6 hours of graded B-roll, which gives the brand content which can be used in their promo videos as well as sharing with travel agents.

Travel agents can then use high quality footage across their marketing mix. For instance, with email marketing, just using the word “video” in a subject line can boost opens by 19%, click-through by 65% and reduce unsubscribes by 26%. (Get more amazing video stats in our blog about why video should lead your content strategy…)

Reviews: turning bad press into brand advocacy

Customer testimonials really come alive through video. You can create these in-house and also ask for user generated reviews. Ensure that you have a strategy in place for negative comments on social media sites and YouTube. If you reply with an authentic response, you could turn that critic into a brand fan. Video FAQs can also be useful to field customer service enquiries.

Puerto Rico Tourism teamed up with Tripadvisor to create videos inspired by reviews which were narrated by Puerto Rican celebrities.

User generated travel stories

With consumers increasingly sharing their holiday highlights via social media and living their social lives digitally, it’s important for brands to tap into this by encouraging and curating user generated content. Airbnb successfully created a winner here by editing Vines together.

Brands could also run contests to encourage user generated content. For instance, Cosmos Holidays ran a competition asking consumers to share their #selfiestories with a chance to win a holiday.

We advise that brands think more like publishers rather than advertisers, and this means entering a dialogue with your customers. As well as encouraging their content, ask them questions and solicit feedback, which will build trust in your brand and also increase your understanding of the audience.

Drawing on the power of influencers

84% of consumers make purchases after reading about a product or service on a blog. (Research Now). The power of influencers decreases the older consumers get but not by much; for those between 18 and 34, blogs were the most important, for 35-54, the second most behind friends, family and colleagues, and for those over 55 it was third after friends and editorial articles. Travellers enjoy watching real-life stories – nearly 50% of the travel subscriptions are to vlogs that feature personal travel experiences (Google/Ipsos MediaCT).

STA Travel has created a series of videos “Find your State of Play” featuring bloggers and vloggers who present their travel adventures.

Royal Caribbean also make good use of bloggers through this campaign, which is a good way to target a younger demographic for cruises:

Virtual Reality and 360 degree video

By 2020, projections see the VR and augmented reality markets reaching $150 billion (tech advisor Digi-Capital) With advances in VR and 360 degree video, travel brands have the opportunity to take their consumers anywhere in the world and into any hotel, so they can experience it for themselves before they buy.

Marriott Hotels have been using Oculus Rift developer versions to sell honeymoon destinations. With its “Teleporter”, it offered newly married couples in New York the experience of immediately travelling to Marriott honeymoon destinations such as London and Hawaii. The hotel chain has also released a VR postcard series, taking consumers to destinations around the world.

Earlier this year, VisitBritain launched 360 interactive tours showcasing attractions and allowing users to experience them before they arrive. Marketing Director at VisitBritain, Joss Croft said “Not only will this immersive experience allow potential visitors to snoop around some of our greatest tourism attractions before they arrive, but it will inspire and motivate more travel across the country.”

Thomas Cook is running a VR direct mail campaign. This August it sent 5,000 brochures with a $24 Google Cardboard headset to potential customers. Recipients will be able to download an app and get a VR experience using their smartphones at home.

We hope we’ve given you some ideas to kickstart your travel and leisure video marketing campaign. If you put your audience first and create content catered for their needs rather than overtly sales content, you’ll start to build a long-term relationship with them wherever they are hanging out online.

We’ve published a white paper to help you create such content – download your copy here. If you’d like to chat further about our work with Fred Olsen or travel marketing more generally, get in touch.

Share this page:

Fancy working together?

If you've got a project in mind, or just want to have a chat, please get in touch.

Contact us