You’ve probably seen a plethora of influencers posing in serene, deep blue water as a waterfall crashes down behind them. Maybe your best friend has even been kind enough to crouch down in the dirt to capture just the right angle so you, too, can have the perfect photo from your trip to Bali for your Instagram feed.
The use of influencer marketing has increased tremendously over the past few years as gorgeous photos of unique travel destinations continue to grasp the attention of social media users. Merriam-Webster defines an influencer as “a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media.” According to a survey by Schofields, more than 40% of millennials aged 18-33 consider “Instagrammability” when selecting their next travel destination so there is no doubt that influencers are vital to the travel and tourism PR industry.
Millennials and Gen Z spend a significant amount of their time scrolling through social media, dreaming of visiting the far-off places they see on their feeds and, as a result, they draw travel inspiration from platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. According to an Expedia Group Media Solutions poll, 90% of millennials and Gen Z say their travel planning comes from social media.
Using influencers allows public relations professionals to connect with more targeted audiences, therefore making a greater impact for the destinations and companies they represent. For millennials and Gen Z, it’s a lot easier to picture themselves sailing around the Greek Islands or eating gelato while strolling through the cobblestone streets of Rome if they see an influencer doing it first.
Not only do influencers continue to bring tourists to popular destinations like Greece and Italy but they also have the ability to put new travel destinations on the map. Tourism companies from lesser-known countries often invite influencers to their properties to experience new places. Influencers connect well with their audiences because they are usually of the same generation, making the things they do seem more realistic than the things the Kardashians do on Instagram. This connection then provides a more authentic perspective on new places to their followers.
The Blonde Abroad, named by Forbes as one of the top 10 travel influencers in 2017, works with Crystal Cruise Lines to promote the brand to her 556,000 Instagram followers. Audiences can get a feel for what it’s like to be aboard a Crystal Cruise by following along with her photos and Instagram story videos. Brands like Crystal are smart to utilize the connection influencers have built with their audiences to start a relationship with younger consumers in the millennial and Gen Z generations.
Utilizing influencers is no longer an option — it’s practically a requirement for public relations professionals working in the travel and tourism industries. They must continue to work with influencers to grab the attention of audiences on social media.
Heather Griffith is a sophomore at The University of Alabama studying public relations and international studies. She currently serves as the vice president for her school’s PRSSA Chapter. Connect with Heather on Twitter and LinkedIn.