Author: Joe Abi Mansour
Editor: Mehr Hussain
Two years of limited travel opportunities and shifting priorities helped differentiate the strongest and most resilient players in the travel and tourism industry. Hospitality businesses are now competing with worthier adversaries, on a level playing field. And winning brands, that are driving disproportionate results, are the ones who understand that the very fabric of destinations has changed.
The new generation of online platforms has turned consumers into creative storytellers and avid story consumers. Products and destinations are no longer the end goal; they have morphed into enablers of self-expression, props and backdrops for personal stories.
In travel and tourism, a destination is no longer a set of claims, offerings and amenities. Today's destinations are the set of stories that are told through them. The key offering becomes the supporting character on unique journeys, where visitors and content creators are the protagonists. In this paradigm shift, travel & tourism is no longer an outside-in experience, where visitors come to consume what the destination has to offer. It has become an inside-out form of expression where visitors enrich the destination with personal stories they leave at the foot of landmarks, at the tables of restaurants, in hotel lobbies and even in airline cabins.
TikTok's algorithm, listed by MIT's Technology Review as one of the 10 Breakthrough Technologies in 2021, sifts through the ever-increasing library of content, and delivers every story to the users it's most relevant to. An athletic mom who's a business executive and enjoys baking and camping will be served content that fits all these different layers of her hyphenated personality. As she constantly pops in and out of communities and subcultures, winning brands are ones that seamlessly blend-in and play an active role within these communities.
For travel and tourism brands, this means the forest of content created by the community gets organised into unique journeys that build brand relevance at a 1-to-1 level as opposed to the 1-to many (or worse, 1-to-all) approach that's typically deployed on platforms of the previous decade. The role of hospitality businesses becomes to lean into key communities and interest groups to act as a catalyst of storytelling, but also explore new interests and subcultures that can drive relevance among completely new cohorts.
Brands that understand this new reality are reaping immeasurable benefits in both effectiveness and efficiency. For instance, it was through native creator-led content introducing their new region TROJENA, that NEOM cracked creative on TikTok, outperforming their own generic ads by 2x in terms of VTR and CPV.
Visit Saudi is another example of brands that pioneered such efforts, leveraging creators as the main creative route for their 1st and 2nd international brand campaigns, once again outperforming their generic ads by ~5x in terms of VTR6". It's one thing to see ads telling you to visit a destination, it's another to interact with familiar faces and relevant content that natively showcase a destination and inspire you to visit it.