The next generation of travel buyers – Millennials (ages 26-41) and Gen Zs (ages 10-25) – is gaining marketplace power, and the best way to reach them is through social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
Over the past decade, the social media revolution has transformed how consumers plan trips and make travel decisions, from getting ideas on where to travel, to finding a travel advisor, and even using social platforms as their primary means of communication instead of email.
Video, reels, TikToks, and memes
We all know that videos, reels, TikToks, and memes have taken over the world of travel marketing.
Kelli Bertram, travel advisor at Come and See Travel said: “I post a lot on social media. The majority of my referrals come from Instagram and TikTok. I post daily on my stories talking about what I am doing for the day, behind the scenes of my work or my life. I also utilize reels and TikTok videos. I am 28 and most people my age and younger are really into short-form videos these days, for example, reels and TikToks. I will post at least four reels a week, but usually one reel a day. I will post three TikToks a day as well. These short videos are a mix between informational, entertainment, inspiration, and trending.”
Alyssa Dial, brand manager & lead romance expert, at LovinAway, elaborated on her use of visual content: “Younger generations prefer to receive information in a more visual and concise manner than older generations. For example, memes are heavily used throughout Millennial and Gen Z communication. If a particular meme is trending across social media platforms, LovinAway will use that graphic to create a unique meme that ties our brand to the trend. In addition to memes, reels are gaining more traction on Instagram and Facebook than static photos. Therefore, our agents are gathering more video content in destination to market to our target audience.”
Ashley Bennington, a travel advisor at JCo Travel, also uses TikTok to keep up on trends in travel. “Then I take and tailor my own social media content to match what is trending, whether it’s a viral song or a destination that seems to be really hot at the moment.”
The most important consideration when using social media to market a travel business is to be authentic, to have a personal brand that people can relate to and trust.
“I am a huge believer in personal branding for travel advisors,” said Will Medina, president, Destination Weddings Expert, LLC. “In an industry of tech giants like OTAs, connecting at a personal level and building trust is the only way to compete. We use our profiles to educate and nurture our followers/fans with relevant content to our niche, which is destination weddings. Our approach is to show up authentically and unfiltered and to build authority by showing them that we have firsthand experience to help them plan and book their group trip to Mexico and the Caribbean.”
Bertram advised: “Literally just be yourself. I tell people all the time, the reason why people are following me and booking with me is because it’s me. I create content that makes me relatable. I don’t try to be super fancy or perfect, and people have told me that they can trust me. I look at other travel accounts to get inspiration and ideas, but I am always making my content fit me and fit my ideal client. The second that I try too hard, and try to be something I am not, is when my audience calls my bluff and stops trusting me.”
‘Being real’ is also key to Bennington: “My brand has to be real. I am a mom of four kids, and also have a full-time job as a nurse outside of travel. While I do make travel look glamorous on my social media, I am also very real about problems that people can face when traveling and also my own crazy life. Being real on social media is not as common as it should be, and people really seem to relate to it.”
Bennington also pointed out, “You aren’t selling travel. You are developing a relationship with your clients. Clients want to get to know you and trust you. Once that happens, the booking travel part comes easy.”
What not to post
Sometimes knowing what you should not do is a good approach to take. As Bennington explained: “Don’t constantly post sales or calls to action. I try to post content to show people different destinations and tips, as well as educate them on the benefits of using a travel advisor. I don’t post sales unless they are a deeper-than-usual discount or would apply to a large amount of my client base.”
Medina learned “not to waste virtual real estate with deals and travel promos. In my niche, pricing is very dynamic, and my ideal client wants to work with someone they trust to have their back and who knows how to manage group contracts, not get the cheapest deal.”
Both Betram, and Tyler Stiscak, a travel advisor at CS Elements Travel, also discovered that paying for sponsored ads on social media was not worth the expense, because it did not generate enough conversions.
The travel advisors we interviewed gave details about their best-performing social media posts, all of which can be used as fodder for brainstorming a list of your own post ideas.
“As of right now, my most viral TikTok is a tour of a resort in Cabo. I recorded b-roll of the resort and then I did a voiceover explaining the resort and why I like it,” said Bertram. “My most viral Instagram reel right now is an inspirational video with a trending sound. This video has a bunch of b-roll of me in Europe and the trending sound with text is over the video.”
Similarly, Bennington’s No. 1 post was one “that I made on the way home from my most recent trip to Mexico using a viral TikTok sound. It got pulled into the algorithm and did about five times better than most of my other posts.”
Medina’s post with the highest views “came from a 30-second reel doing my infamous ‘walk down the aisle’ at one of the resort’s gazebos in Punta Cana.”
Stiscak explained that some of their best posts were “of the aerial footage of our trip to the Maldives! We stayed at six different resorts with over-water bungalows, transported in seaplanes, and stayed on a private yacht for three nights. Many of our highest views were from that trip.”
What about Facebook?
Has Facebook had its heyday? It really depends on your agency’s target market.
“I use Instagram and TikTok the most,” said Bertram. “I have my Instagram connected to my Facebook, so when I post a photo to Instagram, it will automatically post to my Facebook business page. In my opinion, people my age  and younger are not using Facebook anymore. We keep it for family, but we are not engaging there like we are on Instagram and TikTok. I still want to keep my older audience and clients, which is why I still have a Facebook page.”
At Medina’s agency, “Our primary platforms are Instagram and Facebook (in particular private Facebook groups),” he said. “I prefer to leverage these two because that is where my ideal client (still) hangs out. While TikTok is a strong player right now, we have not seen a decline in our couples migrating to it in a way that makes us want to jump ship. Although we have a presence on TikTok, it’s important to have a clear strategy and a niche. At this time, Facebook and Instagram are still the two drivers in my niche.”
It can be daunting to maintain a consistent presence on social media. Perhaps you already promote your travel brand on Facebook and Instagram, and now it’s time to consider expanding to TikTok. Whichever platform(s) you decide to use, Stiscak has this advice: “Always remember to be thoughtful. Try to post music/content that is fun and always in good taste -- and have fun doing it! You can tell when it's ‘forced’ versus when people can see you are passionate about your business.”
ALG Vacations led the pack this year as they launched their “ Ask a Travel Advisor” annual campaign. This campaign opened the doors for Travel Advisors across the U.S., giving them customer leads, driving traffic to their businesses, and showcasing the true value a Travel Advisor brings to consumers everywhere. The strength in this campaign centered on social media, travel and celebrity influencers, and the launch of multiple trending social handles. So, get social and find engaging shareable posts, talk travel with prospective customers, and be inspired to create your own content when you follow ALG Vacations® @AskATravelAdvisorALGV on Facebook and TikTok. You can also tune into our ALGV ‘Travel Beat’ Podcast with fresh travel tips shared weekly. Download from your favorite store today!