Gone are the days when the travel industry relied solely upon printed words and pictures to sell their holidays. In 2017, innovative storytelling, 'behind the scenes' anecdotes and immersive advertising have become powerful marketing tools...
Here are five ways storytelling has revolutionised our travels.
1. Augmented or virtual reality
The ever-changing technological landscape is having a huge effect on how stories are told and that’s certainly true for the travel industry. In an article for Travel Weekly, Gordon Meyer, director of virtual reality company YouVisit, says VR is a form of storytelling that has come about through a natural "evolution of marketing platforms". And last year, the Jersey tourist board was the first UK tourist board to embrace this technology with a 360-degree VR campaign.
Titled #TheIslandBreak, VR headsets were sent out to bloggers and vloggers across the UK, taking users on a virtual flight over the picturesque island. As part of this project, a group of influencers were invited to watch a live-streaming of a Jersey sunset from a London venue which received 185,000 views on Facebook. Adam Caerlewy-Smith, the tourist board’s Head of Marketing, says it was one of their most successful campaigns yet.
"We are lucky in Jersey; we have so many beautiful and iconic locations that need to be seen to be believed," he says. "VR is a fun, innovative format that allowed us to create powerful and immersive experiences that really engage potential visitors with our destination."
2. Live streaming
When Virgin Holidays broadcasted live footage of their customers on holiday, it was a pioneering move for the travel industry. During a primetime Saturday night TV slot, the holiday company’s 'Seize the Holiday Campaign' live streamed customers in 18 destinations, meeting Mickey at Walt Disney World, taking a helicopter ride over New York and snorkelling in Barbados.
Meanwhile, companies like Skyscanner, Hilton Hotels and Royal Caribbean have all been known to stream video content through platforms such as Periscope and Facebook Live to highlight their brand.
"When Periscope burst on to the scene in 2015, we knew that live technology was going to be the future of travel marketing," says Lee Thompson, co-founder of Flash Pack. "We’ve tried everything from capturing snowmobile adventures on 360 cameras to interviewing our customers about how it feels to travel alone in your 30s. You just can’t beat the sort of marketing that tells a real story."
3. User-generated content
Before you visit a restaurant or book a hotel, are you influenced by stories you read on user review sites? One in four of us are, apparently. User-generated content, or UGC as it’s known, completely turned the tables when it emerged over ten years ago. And amazingly, 84 per cent of us trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from a colleague or friend.
While 'warts and all' reviewing may have once had hotels and travel companies quaking in their boots, businesses are now using sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Glassdoor to their advantage. By encouraging customer story-telling, it’s opening up communication streams and allowing the travel industry to be more transparent. In turn, it’s encouraging travel companies, tour groups and hotels to strive to be the best they can.
4. Real life case studies
In the same way that travel companies are embracing UGC sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, some tour groups are taking things one step further by showcasing independent customer reviews on their own websites. Cue companies like Responsible Travel, which features 7,000 independent, unedited reviews on its site by real travellers.
Tim Williamson, Director of Content and Marketing for the site says this storytelling tool has had a huge effect on how customers view their brand.
"We want to inspire people to live their dreams through authentic, life-enriching adventures and there is no better way to inspire our customers than to share unedited reviews of the people who are doing just that. By sharing real people’s stories, we’ve really built our company into a trustworthy and authentic brand."
In the same way, ambassador storytelling can encourage us to buy into a travel product, so can the rise of influencers - a buzz word that is dominating the marketing world right now. Bloggers, instagrammers and YouTubers sharing their travel stories worldwide are all contributing to the influencer phenomenon. And it’s claimed it could be most powerful in the travel industry. But why is someone’s Instagram post about a spa in Bali, so influential?
"Social media is about trust," says Nik Hewitt, head of social at digital PR agency Tank. "We trust our friends, family, peers and the influencers who we’ve been following and developed relationships with. So, if we see people have genuine experiences and genuine opinions, we’re much more likely to listen and appreciate what they have to show us than a travel brand which can sometimes appear faceless. This is gold for travel, which is very much a visual experience."
He adds: "Instagram now has 600 million monthly active users, and storytelling through this platform can connect a brand to an existing audience - visually, with style, grace and credibility. It’s no wonder it’s become so popular."