Guest Post: Instagram vs Reality - How travel companies win over Gen Z consumers

Guest Post: Instagram vs Reality - How travel companies win over Gen Z consumers

by Jacqueline Bourke, senior director of creative, EMEA of Getty Images, breaks down data to see the rise of video in travel content

Social media has changed the way we visualise travel. From crafted travel selfies to over-the shoulder shots of picture-perfect destinations, photo dumps and other social media trends are having an impact on younger generations’ travel decision-making.

Insights from our VisualGPS research show that 1 in 3 Gen Zs are turning to social media posts to get some form of travel inspiration as they plan their trip. When asked what type of visuals are most likely to influence their decision to book a holiday, half of British Gen Z respondents stated that they would prefer to see images that show casual and affordable travel experiences over luxury travel. With today’s cost of living crisis, British travel consumers are now engaging with content that focuses on budget-friendly choices, staycations and city breaks instead of bucket-list destinations.

This evolution from the Instagrammable to the Impulsive is essential for travel marketers to take note of when promoting their products and services to the Gen Z audience. We are already starting to see this shift with recent campaigns from Flix, HotelTonight and Marriott inviting travellers to plan less and embrace the unexpected. This attitude is spurred by consumers’ increasingly flexible working environments and tight budgets. But what other considerations do travel operators and destinations need to ponder?

Ditch the Gen Z travel cliches

Firstly, businesses should think about how to move past the traditional travel cliches on social media. When creating campaigns aimed at younger travellers, prioritise spontaneity, in-the-moment discoveries and emotions. Remember, the best travel memories are often unplanned. Consider how you can showcase casual and relatable moments over luxury and aspiration in your storytelling. Include off-the-season and off-the-beaten-track trips, accessible and informal experiences, relaxed visual styling and unfiltered travel moments.

However, do not just limit your marketing strategy to imagery alone. Gen Zs use platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube as search engines, so it is important to recognise the power of video to connect with this demographic. Our data suggests that British Gen Zs consume short-form videos on social media more than any other generation, with 72% of respondents using the medium to get inspired and learn new things. Incorporating more immersive video techniques such as selfie perspectives, very tight shots, or even unsteady camera moments, can resemble user-generated videos native to social media, which will go a long way in making your service or destination more appealing to this audience.

Elevate your creativity

According to VisualGPS, 56% of British Gen Z consumers prefer to see images of people who look like them, their family, or friends enjoying the destination. You can incorporate these elements during the content ideation process by including people from a diverse range of backgrounds such as ages, ethnicities, hair colours and body types in your marketing. This ensures that your campaign resonates with a wide audience and depicts the unique activities that consumers see themselves doing while they are on holiday.

I wanted to share some examples of how you can enhance your visual storytelling based on the approaches we took for our creative content shoots last summer in Italy’s Almafi Coast, the South of France and Copenhagen. Make sure that your campaigns are tailored to be budget focused and relevant to each destination. Opt for scenery that depict local accommodations and Airbnb rentals as opposed to upscale hotels, savouring local cuisine and street food rather than fine dining, and exploring local free attractions and excursions. These choices visually signify an authentic local experience instead of a premium, tourist-oriented trip, as well as capturing the beauty and authenticity of affordable travel in a candid yet elevated way.

Building trust in the age of AI

In this new era of AI, tour operators and travel brands are under increasing pressure to maintain credibility and trust in their marketing. Amid the rise of deepfakes and AI-generated imagery on people’s social media feeds, 62% of British Gen Z consumers say that they no longer trust social media to be real or accurate. The travel and hospitality sectors are more likely to suffer a backlash from their customers if AI content is being used in a way that takes away their trust, given the high levels of regulation and expectations associated with these businesses.

The same survey found that 97% of British Gen Zs agree that ‘authentic’ images and videos are vital in establishing trust. So, if you are looking to tell real stories of real people experiencing real-life destinations, opt for imagery and videos which have either been created by or show the audiences you are trying to appeal to. Consumers do not want to feel like they are being duped nor are they going to engage with ads and promotions that look out of place on their social media feeds.