When we travel, the journey begins long before the time of departure. It starts when we look for inspiration on the web, on social networks, on forums, on dedicated portals, on the travel blogs we love the most. It starts when we begin thinking about the destinations we want to see with our own eyes, the experiences we don’t want to miss.
The journey continues as we deepen our research, comparing the different options and costs of essential elements of our journey such as transportation, accommodation, restaurants, attractions, and activities. And it continues still as we finally choose and book our choices. Likewise, the trip, likewise, ends not just once we have returned home and unpacked our bags, but long after.
This long span of time is the breeding ground for storytelling, a fact that those involved in marketing and customer care in the Travel & Tourism sector know very well.
Telling stories to communicate is part of the human experience, since the time that our ancestors decided to draw hunting scenes in the caves where they lived. We could say that telling stories, communicating, is what makes us human beings, the secret of our evolutionary success as a species.
Telling stories, finally, is also one of the secrets of successful trade. Today, however, the role of storytelling has become even more central and effective, thanks to the new tools that digital transformation has made available to marketers.
Now, consider all this, and apply it to the tourism industry: a large, constantly growing and evolving sector, which is based, in the end, on another fundamental characteristic of the human being: to get out of one’s daily life, to make new experiences or simply to pull the plug from one’s ordinary world. In short, we want to enter into “new worlds”, and we want to share those experiences before, during, and after.
But in such a crowded industry, how can a brand make its voice heard distinctly? How can a brand differentiate and tell stories about itself and its “world,” in a way that is convincing, credible, captivating? And how can you ensure that your brand identity remains solid and effective, in a market where the customer is anything but a passive user? The customer, in a nutshell, is increasingly the real center of the business.
The customer has turned into “prosumer”, an active agent of the narrative, a person who, in a few clicks (or taps), can share their travel experience with thousands of other people and write reviews that will affect the choices of other travelers, as well as the reputation of a hotel, restaurant, attraction, or business.
Of course, there is no universal recipe that works for everyone. But, equally certainly, there are some trends to follow, some winning strategies and some tools of great effectiveness that can help companies ensure that the storytelling of their brand has the maximum impact.
Let’s start by taking a look at some striking data, which how healthy the Travel & Tourism Industry is, and how, within this, the “product” itself is less and less important and the “experience” more and more important.
A sector in great health, which lives more and more on “experiences”
According to 2017 data from the World Travel and Tourism Council, the tourism industry contributes as much as 10.4% to the international Gross Domestic Product; and provides a tenth of jobs worldwide. These numbers could be enough to give an idea of the size and importance of this sector.
Let’s also take into consideration other data, which shows how healthy the industry is and how it’s growing. Let us start with the past: In 2017 alone, the number of tourists in the world increased, on an annual basis, by 7%, reaching a record 1.4 billion; in 2010 it was “only” 900 million, in 1990 it was “only” 400 million (according to the latest data from the UNWTO).
And now let’s look at the estimates for the future: If the annual expenditure on tourist flows, in Europe alone, was around €450 billion in 2017, the forecasts for 2027 are around €532 billion (data from Ninja Marketing).
But, within the tourism sector, what is the trend of greatest growth? Also, in this case, the data provides us with some answers:
- On Tripadvisor, in 2017 alone, operators added 30,000 new “experiences” to the portal, thus increasing its total number by about 50% (see here).
- According to data provided by Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, three out of four millennials say that they prefer to buy an experience rather than a physical asset (see here).
- Mark Okerstrom, CEO of Expedia Group, revealed that the company has generated more than $500 million, in 2017, only through its “Things to do” and “Local Expert” sections; translated: $500 million dollars a year for ”experiences” (see here).
- Finally, let’s turn to high-end hotels. Here the attention to the quality of the experience is always at the maximum. In recent years, however, more and more hotels of this type have been using in-house specialists to offer guests tailor-made experiences (see here).
In short, it is clear that the trend showing the most disruptive growth is that of the so-called “experience.” It is also clear that it is the one that, more than any other, feeds mainly on storytelling. Before, during, and after.
The traveller, in fact, wants a precise and thorough idea of the activities and experiences that they can have in a destination before they book or commit. During the experience, then, a well-targeted story amplifies those feelings. And then, when you return home (but – increasingly – also during the trip) comes the moment of sharing: another moment of storytelling, this time generated by the user, which thus becomes the first (and perhaps most effective) marketing agent.
The power of storytelling and personalized videos
Talking about storytelling today in the Travel & Tourism industry is above all talking about a struggle for attention that is increasingly difficult and very complicated. There are many players in the industry, and all users are constantly bombarded with information, at any time of day or night, on all their devices.
If we do not approach communication through visual storytelling, narration through images, the struggle for attention could be lost at the beginning. And when it comes to storytelling video, by far, is the most effective tool. For example:
- 55% of people pay more attention to videos than any other type of content (source: OmniKick).
- When viewing a video, the average user retains 95% of the message contained in it; if we talk about texts, this percentage drops to 10% (source: Wirebuzz).
- Every day, over a billion hours of video are watched on Youtube.
- 78% of online users watch at least one video every week. And 55% watch one every day (source: HubSpot).
- By 2020, video will account for more than 80% of total online traffic (source: Cisco).
The data on the effectiveness of the video tool is clear. But in this daily crowd of views, the problem of attention remains open.
How to make your brand’s voice heard in the midst of this uproar? The answer is the oldest in the world, but today it has become absolutely avant-garde thanks to digital transformation: turning to one person at a time, creating messages that are personalized and crafted in a one-to-one perspective. The answer, to put it in a word, is personalization.
It is no coincidence that Forbes defines personalized videos as “the definitive marketing breakthrough that brands need.”
The travel sector is healthy and with wide margins for improvement. It is a sector, above all, that is in continuous growth, and one that has undergone radical changes in recent years, especially on the wave of digital transformation, which has revolutionized the habits of travellers and operators in the sector at all levels.
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