Statistics documenting the growth in online video are staggering. About one-third of our activity on the internet is watching video, with more than 500 million hours of video watched on YouTube alone, each day.
For travel advisors, the popularity of video can be daunting, but also potentially lucrative. While Facebook Live videos and Instagram Stories may be easy to produce using simple equipment, it can be hard to tap into the power of storytelling through these platforms.
That’s one of the reasons why Stu Siegal, who worked in television and advertising for 30 years, founded a company called Page 28. He believes there is an opportunity to produce high-quality, short-form videos that can help destinations, suppliers and travel advisors attract clients – particularly high-end vacationers.
“Travel has always been an interest, especially luxury travel,” Siegal said. “I found that there is not a lot of video out there that spoke to this audience. So, I formulated the idea and said, ‘Let’s create some.’”
Siegal, who has spent the bulk of his career developing non-scripted programming and now digital storytelling, recently launched Page 28 from his office in Boston, working with three established travel advisors: Silvana Frappier, founder of NS Destinations, in Manchester, New Hampshire; Kristin Chambers, founder of Boston-based DA Luxury Travel; and Lauren Raps, founder of Travel Prospect, in Southport, Connecticut.
Accompanying these advisors on trips to destinations they specialize in, Siegal uses his expertise and storytelling skills as he follows the advisors along, letting them immerse the viewer in places and experiences — and the videos are unlike most social media videos posted by travel agents.
Becoming an influencer
Prior to meeting Siegal through a mutual friend, Frappier had shot some personal videos for her social media handles, but hadn’t had any aspirations to be a travel influencer, and she had no real professional on-camera experience.
“I was doing what everyone else was doing. Selfies. Immature videos. Those are great for your social followers to get to know you as an agency owner. They’re not a professional way to present the properties, the destinations, the tours you are trying to sell to a luxury audience,” said Frappier, an Italian born in Brazil who also has German/Portuguese heritage.
“Silvana really jumped out through the strength of her personality,” Siegal said. “She’s great on camera and is such a great storyteller.”
Frappier has owned her agency for three years, and has traveled extensively through the Americas and Europe her whole life. With a passion for Italy, Frappier shot her first 13 videos in Puglia and Basilicata.
Featured on a Page 28 site entitled Luxe Less Known, the series documents Frappier’s travels earlier this year with her husband and agency co-owner, Marc. They drive a vintage Alfa Romeo, visit with an artisanal cheese master, and celebrate Marc’s birthday in a 25,000-year-old cave, among other luxe experiences.
“We have gotten amazing positive feedback from our customers about the videos,” Frappier said, calling them “a great sales tool, not just for Italy, but for me as an adviser, as they help customers get to know me and my style, and to trust me.”
“In just a couple of weeks, the videos have generated literally hundreds of qualified leads,” Frappier said. And based on her videos, her agency has decided to offer a small group tour of the region.
The next series to be published for Frappier are scenes from a recent trip to Thailand. Frappier, meanwhile, is looking to use the highly polished videos to market to a variety of clients seeking the same kinds of activities that she and her husband experienced.
Chambers, who has been featured on The Travel Channel, visits Santorini in her series, including a stop in a local winery, trips to six of her favorite luxury properties, and time spent at a small mountaintop restaurant with one of the oldest ceiling frescoes in the region.
Raps, who specializes in family travel, shot her premiere episode in Nicaragua in February of 2018. Unfortunately, since then, political strife has impacted interest to the country.
Focus on telling great stories
Unlike the typical, self-produced travel agent social media videos, Page 28 videos are replete with elegant drone shots, interviews with locals, and scenes that depict a romantic and immersive visit. The editing is smooth, as the stories of each agent’s visit unfold before you like scenes out of a reality television show.
The cost to produce these kinds of higher-quality videos — including a professional camera and sound person, equipment (e.g. drones, special lighting, etc.) — make high-production-value video impractical for most advisors, Siegal said.
But that shouldn’t prevent agents from producing video, especially since it is the best marketing tool in a digital world. “Great marketing ultimately is about being a good storyteller. Be your authentic self and produce the kind of videos you would want to watch as a travel advisor,” said Siegal. “Don’t be distracted by the equipment.”
Frappier agreed. “Just be your original self. Don’t try to copy anyone else,” she said, especially the travel personalities of influencers. “Some people call me an advisor/influencer. Influencers are great and all, but they are not involved in the industry the way we agents are, serving the consumer when they are ready to book. Agents should have confidence making videos because we do what we do for a living.”
That said, Frappier believes agents should ask themselves just how comfortable they feel in front of a camera before embarking on a video series of their own.
“That is very, very important. If you don’t like being in front of a camera, you won’t do well,” Frappier said. “The second most important thing is, do what you really have passion for. Most travel advisors will say, ’I sell anything in the world.’ But we all know what our passion is. For some, its food. For others, its wine travel. If you’re going to do a video, start with that passion niche.”
Additionally, Siegal recommends, when possible, to “tell stories set in environments that you'll have the most control over. Visit the location in advance of shooting with your camera and block out your shots, so that on shoot day you can focus on the performances in front of the camera.”
As audio quality is important to the storytelling, he also recommends that advisors shooting on their own invest in a good camera-mounted microphone, and test before shooting, so that you know its range and capabilities. “Bad audio is very difficult to fix in post-production,” he said.
“And most importantly, leave yourself at least twice as much time as you think you'll need to shoot; video production in an uncontrolled environment is a very time-consuming process,” Siegal said.
While Siegal chose not to discuss his plans to leverage the video for income, he does foresee future collaboration with suppliers and destinations to help with production costs. “It’s fair to say that we will be able to develop business relationships with advisors and the brands on the ground, like hotels and tours,” he said.