Blog, Case Studies, Customers

How UGC is Changing The Way We Look at Travel & Tourism

After a difficult couple of years, the global travel and tourism industry is back in growth mode. Data from Statista shows a 9.7% projected increase in growth for 2023 versus 2019; a strong indicator of good health for a sector that struggled so massively during the pandemic.

With the world open for business and ready to welcome visitors again, it follows that competition for share of consumer wallet is heating up, too. And over the course of the past six months, those green shoots of revenue growth have encouraged a flurry of trends within the marketing departments of travel and tourism companies.

Ordinarily, you’d expect us to mention “influencers” here. And undoubtedly, brand ambassadors picked from the top percentile of social media follower league tables are doing fantastic things to increase awareness for travel boards and tourism organisations globally. But under the radar, the role being played by the “influenced” in helping travel companies to win attention and nurture it to conversion is becoming increasingly noteworthy. It’s a quiet revolution, and it wants you to get involved…

Too cryptic? Let’s try again.

User-generated Content is changing the way travel and tourism brands engage with their customers, and that might be the fastest-growing trend in the travel industry right now. 


What is UGC in travel? 

The broadest definition available to us for User-generated Content is that UGC describes imagery and video that’s been created by people (rather than brands), and then shared on their personal social media accounts. UGC – which you can think of as the digital equivalent of “word of mouth” – is an example of social proof marketing.

Social proof content is seriously impactful, too:

  • In recent research done by the IMRG, we learned that the perceived authenticity and trustworthiness of a brand are crucially important factors to consumers when deciding what to buy: 91% of respondents said that they are more likely to remain loyal to a brand (i.e. buy from them again) that they find trustworthy and authentic.
  • 73% of respondents said that User-generated Content (imagery shared on social media, customer reviews, etc.) has directly influenced their purchase decision-making.
  • User-generated Content is most influential amongst Gen Z and millennial shoppers. In fact, for members of Gen Z, UGC is the single most important factor when making a purchase decision on a brand site.

It’s no surprise that the travel and tourism industry – a sector that can rely on an ardent cohort of enthusiastic content creators for an ever-refreshed pipeline of authentic imagery and video; have we even been on holiday until we’ve shared an update on social media? – is alert to the opportunity provided by UGC.

But while it’s one thing to know that the UGC is out there, it’s quite another to know what to do with it. Finding a home for customer-created content in their marketing ecosystem – and reaping the benefits of authentic content for their digital engagement strategy – can be as simple as sharing, though. An example from Royal Caribbean, a brand leading the way in their UGC strategy, is illustrative…

Royal Caribbean (Australia and NZ)  

Royal Caribbean International has been delivering innovation at sea for more than 50 years. Each successive class of ships is an architectural marvel that features the latest technology and guest experiences for today’s adventurous travellers. The cruise line continues to revolutionise holidays with itineraries to 240 destinations in 61 countries on six continents (first setting sail from Australia in the summer of 2008).

First-at-sea innovations such as the FlowRider® surf simulator, the North Star® observation capsule with 360-degree views, 91 metres above sea level and the RipCord by iFLY® skydiving simulator, really show that when you cruise from Australia with Royal Caribbean “you’ll experience more than a single holiday. You’ll holiday in every way.”

Given the plethora of holiday experiences on offer, Royal Caribbean’s customers are keenly sharing their experiences on social – tagging the brand and using brand hashtags, often accompanied by an appreciative note of thanks to the company and its crew.

To celebrate their customers’ experiences – and extend the reach of powerful testimonial content to Royal Caribbean Australia & NZ’s 230,000+ Instagram followers – the team at Royal Caribbean AUNZ is resharing authentic, customer-created UGC to their Instagram channel.

Through StoryStream, the team can identify, and request rights for (top UGC tip: always request the right to reshare content from a user explicitly and keep an audit trail of permissions to hand), and then reshare content created by customers.

To date the team have gathered and gained the rights for over 220 pieces of UGC, giving them plenty of additional content to fuel their social media content calendar.

And Royal Caribbean’s followers are loving what they’re seeing…

Example of User-generated Content from Royal Caribbean

A recent post from Bossdogsjax (taken from onboard a cruise ship, mid-holiday) has attracted 1000 likes, with Royal Caribbean’s resharing of their content 10X-ing the engagement rate – and celebrating a valued customer’s positive experience in the process.

Getting Started with UGC

When it comes to establishing a UGC strategy for your travel and tourism brand, the first place to start is reviewing your tagged content. Getting a sense of what’s already out there – and the types of content your customers are comfortable sharing – will help your brand establish the right approach. (In situations where you’re not seeing many – or any – examples of strong UGC being proactively shared, you may want to consider developing a mechanic to encourage users to tag your brand into posts; read our tips for taking that approach in our complete UGC Strategy Guide).

For example, if you’re seeing users share plenty of content about a specific part of your product offering (e.g. quality of rooms/cabins, quality of service or amenities) then you’ll want to consider whether surfacing that content on your website is the optimum approach. Including UGC on web pages can deliver fantastic uplifts across site behavioural metrics – time on page, pages per session, and even site conversion (read our eCommerce Content Trends Report for more information on the power of User-generated Content for customer engagement).

If the UGC being created covers a range of subjects, then creating a dedicated “Inspiration” page may represent the ideal approach. With a platform like StoryStream, your brand is able to tag and sort content into a range of criteria, which can then be displayed in a social gallery on either a dedicated page or across a range of pages (or both!).

Another great way to start using your UGC: the link in bio. For too long, the link in bio experience has been constrained to a flat “list of links” – effective enough for signposting, but far from the most engaging (or inspiring) experience for users. As an industry that thrives on rich, enticing imagery and video content, stocking your link in bio with jaw-dropping User-generated Content represents a huge opportunity for travel brands. (You can read more about StoryStream’s LinkStream solution for link in bio here.)

And, of course, there’s always the option of taking a leaf from Royal Caribbean’s book – resharing customer-created content across your owned social presences and increasing the exposure of that essential social proof content accordingly. A great way to top-up content primed and ready for your social publishing calendar, all while elevating and celebrating your customers.

However you decide to go about it, there’s never been a better time to establish a User-generated Content strategy. And with TikTok and Instagram Reels now supported in the StoryStream platform, there have never been more sources of fantastic UGC available to your brand too. If you’d like to see why global brands like Royal Caribbean choose StoryStream, contact us to arrange a platform demo.