Leveraging Influencers Can Enhance Travel Agency Brands

by Richard D'Ambrosio
Leveraging Influencers Can Enhance Travel Agency Brands


Fiji Vacations/Fiji Travel, Costa Mesa, CA, just wrapped up a two-week influencer marketing campaign in which it leveraged the “Bucket List Family,” a popular social media family it paid $60,000 to visit four of its resorts over about three weeks in January and February. The family posted photos and comments on its YouTube and Instagram pages, tagging @fijivacations so its posts also showed up on Fiji Vacations’ social media platforms.

“It feels like an authentic endorsement without being too salesy,” said Fiji Vacations/Fiji Travel CEO Melissa Pomeroy. “It’s extremely powerful.”

The use of influencers like the Bucket List Family to promote products appears to be a growing trend, inside the travel industry and out. According to a new global research study by Altimeter Group, 43% of brands (including 55% of B2C companies) are experimenting with influencer marketing.

In a January 2017 National Geographic article, writer Carrie Miller noted that between 2009 and 2014, visitors to Trolltunga, Norway , increased from 500 to 40,000 due to social media marketing, and the alpine town of Wanaka, New Zealand, credits social media influencers with helping launch a 14% increase in tourist visits.

The Maldives look to the high end
The Maldives recently launched an “ambassador” program using social influencers to reach ultra-high-net worth individuals.

“This audience is famously hard to reach with traditional marketing campaigns,” said Tim Potter, director of NeueHouse, a New York-based marketing firm that represents Lifestyle Capital Partners (LCP), the company managing “The Maldives Ambassador Program.”

In phase one of the program, 10 individuals in key markets are hosting “small intimate group events.” Potter described the “Ambassadors” as “ultra-high-net worth” individuals “who already have a deep love for the Maldives due to frequent visits, or are very influential in the appropriate circles and whom we feel should be introduced to the Maldives at topmost levels.”

LCP founder and managing partner Lynn Villadolid said, “What we look for is someone who is very extroverted and viral who is willing to reach out and do direct marketing to their network and friends. Secondly, we look for an individual who is already an advocate, someone who is already keen on Maldives or a frequent repeater of a resort or a series of resorts. The third group is celebrities or business persona who naturally attract a lot of attention by their works. These are the people who would naturally draw press and attention.”

Villadolid advised business owners to look for signs that something captures an influencer’s “imagination, hearts, minds and intellect” to ensure success. “They will willingly advocate something they are passionate about, regardless of whether they are compensated for it.  Somebody who really loves a place will be willing to open their own rolodex or email their database or host an event because they absolutely want to share something that gives them great pride and joy.”

Back to Fiji
At Fiji Travel, meanwhile, the Fiji Vacations Facebook page had about 56,000 followers when the campaign began; today, it has nearly 59,000, an increase of more than 5%. Fiji Vacations’ Instagram handle had 12,700 followers (compared with the Bucket List Family’s 500,000) at the beginning of the campaign; today it has 14,400.

Fiji Vacations chose to work with the Bucket List Family because of the dialogue it has with its fans. “When you choose an influencer, you want to make sure their audience isn’t just large, but engaged as well,” Pomeroy said.

The Bucket List Family created and posted three YouTube videos for this campaign.

Because the Bucket Family’s social media posts were linked to Fiji Vacations’ pages, “our customers could dive deeper into our landing page and explore our offerings.” Pomeroy feels the campaign was more relevant than even some Google AdWords campaigns.

Indeed, travel agents may want to begin to leverage Instagram more. More than 500 million active Instagram users share an average of 80 million photos a day, and experts say these users engage with the website and app 10 times more than they do with Facebook

Celebrity social media partners can be expensive, though. Fiji Vacations spent $60,000 on the Bucket List Family campaign.

“I realize that a regular, home-based agent can’t spend like we did. So agents need to be creative. Find someone in your community who is relevant to your target customer base and interested in the destinations and types of travel you sell,” Pomeroy said.

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