Hospitality Marketing, Social Media 7 mins read

The Power of UGC: Harnessing Authenticity in Tourism Marketing

The Importance of Authenticity in Tourism Marketing

The root of planning a destination vacation is this: you’re spending a lot of money going somewhere you most often have never been and are completely unfamiliar with, and feel compelled to plan out activities that will precisely fill every minute. 

Airline tickets, passports, and a travel itinerary ready for a trip

When planning a trip to an unfamiliar place, today’s consumers usually rely on word-of-mouth from friends and family, influencers they follow, and content shared by the destinations themselves. Authenticity in tourism marketing is crucial because it gives travel planners an idea of the experience they can expect in a place they’ve never been. When that experience aligns with what they want their vacation to be like, it’s much easier for them to make a booking decision, site unseen.

Benefits of UGC for Tourism Marketing

User-generated content (UGC) is the sweet spot of tourism marketing. UGC is shared by users who have had a genuine experience with an attraction, destination, or activity. This content is often shared in an aesthetically pleasing way, shows how the experience went and is accompanied by a glowing caption describing how it made the person feel.

UGC can be reposted by destination social media accounts or cached for later sharing. Additionally, sharing UGC posted by someone else is a great way to plug a link for specific attractions or services based on what the content shares, without it seeming like a blatant sales attempt.

Social Proof and Tourism UGC

There are psychological and sociological reasons why UGC is such an effective content type for tourism companies. When people see their peers or people they long to be like sharing experiences, it creates an emotional connection that usually doesn’t stem from sales-forward content. 

An influencer holds a GoPro camera in front of him while waving from a tourist destination

Social proof is the main phenomenon behind why influencer marketing campaigns can be so effective. Real-world exposure to experiences can greatly influence a person to make a booking decision. By witnessing the influencer’s firsthand encounter with a destination or attraction, potential travelers feel reassured and motivated to embark on a similar journey, knowing that they are likely to have an authentic and enjoyable experience themselves.

UGC vs. Yelp or TripAdvisor Reviews

Social proof can be demonstrated in written reviews as well, such as those found on Yelp or TripAdvisor. The problem with online reviews is people are usually only compelled to take the time to write them when they have great experiences or really poor experiences. This means that negative reviews can overshadow positive reviews, deterring someone from making a booking decision.

User-generated content on social media, however, is almost always a positive representation of an experience. This could be driven by a desire for influencers to be offered tourism partnerships at discounts or for free while they build their travel brand, or could be a factor of people preferring to depict only the positive aspects of their life on social media.

Where to Post UGC for Tourist Destinations

Tourism UGC is most often shared on Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. 

Results for things to do Charlotte_ on Pinterest. Includes listicles such as _28 things to do in Charlotte,_ Nashville Getaways Top the Charts, etc

Pinterest is an idea-sharing platform that is often the first stop for many people when they begin planning their travel. Sharing UGC on Pinterest or using this platform to advertise your destination will increase exposure to people in the early stages of planning.

Screenshots from the Instagram account HouseOfHensen showing Charlotte area attractions

Instagram is a popular platform for travel bloggers to share their trips and experiences. UGC can be shared on Instagram as single image posts, carousel image posts, and short-form video Reels. Often bloggers will share their experiences using a variety of formats, further increasing UGC opportunities for tourism brands. UGC is just one of several tricks that can turn your Instagram followers into paying customers.

TikTok videos related to planning a trip to Disneyworld in 2023

TikTok has emerged as a popular platform for sharing tourism experiences and researching destinations during the planning process. In fact, many Gen Zers and Millennials are using TikTok as a search engine, making UGC on this platform all the more valuable.

How to Develop a Strong Social Media Presence

Generating user-generated content for your destination starts by developing your social media presence. Increase your following by posting frequently and engaging with your audience. Track hashtags and mentions (we use Sprout Social’s Social Listening tool to do this!) and interact with users when they post content relevant to you.

Collaborating with the right micro-influencers can also help encourage high-quality UGC about your brand. Micro-influencers have followings ranging from 10,000 to 100,000 people who value their recommendations and opinions. Authenticity is at the heart of micro-influencer content, making them strong candidates for your brand’s UGC. 

Tourism UGC: Where to Begin?

You may be ready to embark on your UGC journey and find that it’s not that easy to get started. Hiring a digital marketing agency to coordinate campaigns and strategies is the first step to establishing a plan that will result in increased UGC and more bookings.

Our team can help coordinate with influencers, direct content pillars, write content that complements social media UGC, and more. 

Reach out to us for ways we can get people engaging with your tourist destination. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Should tourist attractions use social media?

Social media is a fantastic channel for tourist attractions to distribute content through. This content will give potential visitors an idea of what they can expect with an experience at your attraction. Additionally, a strong social media presence will encourage visitors, travel bloggers, and influencers to share their experiences on social media (UGC), which your brand can reshare on its own channels.

Which social media platforms are best for sharing UGC in tourism marketing?

The best social media platforms for UGC in tourism marketing are Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. YouTube is a platform that could be used to distribute long-form trip or tourism experiences as “vlogs.”

What type of influencer should I use for my tourist attraction?

The ideal type of influencer to partner with as a tourism brand is a micro-influencer, with a social following of between 10k and 100k users. Micro-influencers are usually well-trusted by their audience, often share niched information that is relevant to their followers, and they are usually affordable for brands with limited budgets.

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